Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Thumbs are a tremendously important appendage, just in case you didn't know.  I had the unfortunate experience of nearly slicing mine in half this week.  Sunday night I was cutting up a hubbard squash (it's a kind of winter squash with a hard outer rind, similar to a pumpkin).  I decided to try pairing off the rind, because that of course is what you should do, right?  Wrong.  The pairing idea would not have been half so bad if I hadn't chose to try it with a chef knife.  My big, 7 inch santoku Wusthof knife that I had sharpened 2 months ago to be specific.  Oh yeah, I'd honed it before using it too.  As I'm attempting to pair the rind off the first piece of squash, I thought to myself, "This is a really stupid idea.  I should get a smaller knife or just cut off the rind like I usually do."  No sooner had those thoughts crossed my mind then the knife went at full speed into my left thumb.  I stood there for a moment in shock.  Then the blood started flowing.  I grabbed a paper towel & started putting pressure on the wound.  I learned something in my wound care classes in PT school!  As I watched the ever-reddening paper towel, I started debating whether or not to drive myself to urgent care.  After much deliberation, I waited for Nic to get home from her walk, and continued hacking up hubbard squash with my right hand.  This time I cut off the rind instead of pairing it.  The blessing of having a hospice care nurse as a roommate means that I have medical advice at my disposal pretty easily.  As well as wound care supplies.  I couldn't look at the wound (deep cuts on my own hands give me the willies!), so Nic had to take a look.  We decided that urgent care would clean it out, put some steri-strips on it & send me home.  So we decided to do that on our own since Nic had the supplies in the car.  After my thumb stopped bleeding profusely, Nic put some steri-strips across it to keep it closed, & wrapped it with some gauze & coban.  My thumb still looks like something out of a cartoon and just about every patient family I've had this week has asked what's happened.
Now for the lesson about how important your thumb is for daily activities.  I never realized this until now.  Your thumb does something very important - a movement called opposition.  This means that you can bring your thumb across & touch all the other fingers on your hand with it.  You can't do that with your other fingers, just in case you were wondering.  Here are some examples, from experience, that you need this very vital ability to oppose your thumb:
1. Tying shoes.
2. Flossing teeth.
3. Tying drawstrings on scrub pants.
4.  Stabilizing your grapefruit in order to eat it.
5. Opening the dishwasher.
6. Holding your kindle to read.
7. Putting in earrings.
8. Holding your fork or knife for cutting.
9. Picking up small children having tantrums on the floor.
10. Washing your hair.
There are a myriad of other activities that require this movement, but these are a few of the more noticeable ones in my daily routine.
Please cherish & take care of your thumb in my honor!  Don't spite it by attempting to do silly things with sharp knives.  While it's healing, I think I'm going to go find a knife handling class....