Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Call me "Lefty"

I had another accident at work yesterday. At the end of the day, we have to dispose of the slicer blades, which are hoop blades. We've been told time and again to throw them into the skip outside. I've been moved to the new line, which uses a longer blade than the others - which I'm used to. Normally, I break the blade in several places so I don't have to worry about the natural spring in the blade, but because I'm not used to these blades, I thought I would be playing it safe to not break it - this usually leads to several small cuts. As I threw the blade into the skip, the longer than usual blade snagged in my shorter than usual jacket - those of us who come in contact with meat wear knee lenth jackets, but the only jackets available were the ones for the packing area, which are a few inches shorter. If it had been one of the usual blades or jackets, I would have gone home as usual after a relatively boring day, but instead, the blade snagged while my hand kept moving, and the blade went halfway through my little finger. Quite painful. My friend John, who I've known since my school days, was emptying bins, and came over to me straight away. My instinct was to walk straight home, because I had a bad experience with first aid there after my last cut, but I trust him, and let him lead me in to the first aid area. I have only good things to say about how the management acted; the manager wrapped my finger in gauze while the Health and Safety officer drove his car around. I changed out of my work clothes with relatively little assistance - I've lost the use of my arm through RSI a few times since I started there - I only needed help with the jacket because I was still in shock at the time. One the way to the doctors, the (outgoing - he's retiring soon) health and safety officer told me that he tells the line managers every week to tell people to not throw the blades into the skip, and every week he's ignored - injuries are all too common, and not just from disposal situations like mine - the guy who empties the skip has had more than his share. I went in to see the factory doctor. I unwrapped the gauze as he looked for something, accidentally wrapping it around my left hand (the nurse later took one look at my left hand and decided that was the injured hand :). He took a look at it: "Ah". He prodded the top to see if I could feel (no), and told me he was sending me to Cashel hospital. I went back out to the waiting room while the receptionist phoned Dew Valley, who arranged a taxi. Another patient asked what happened, and I told her. The rest looked to have been interested, and looked kind of relieved that I was cracking jokes. I went outside for a smoke and bumped into my cousin Justin, who lit it for me. His disbelief at my having two accidents in four weeks summed it all up. The taxi driver came, and gave me his card so he could arrange my way home. After a bit of a wait, behind people looking for x-rays, I was brought to the casualty area. A trainee nurse was sent to tend to me - they thought I was just a whinger who needed a plaster. After soaking off the bandage she gasped and asked the doctor to come over. Doctor: "Ah" Me: "Yeah, that's what the doctor who sent me here said" Doctor: "You're going to need several stitches" The doctor asked the trainee for some nylon thread. She gave a blank look, and told him she was a trainee. "Oh. You can assist me so". As he was dabbing on some iodine, she started rocking back and forth. "You can sit down for a few minutes if you're uncomfortable". The nurse who took her place started to reassure her. I looked over and said "hey, if anyone should be upset, it should be me". She came back over. The doctor told me he was going to use a local anaesthetic, like the dentist uses. The needle went in, stinging like usual. Not too bad. Then, when I wasn't expecting it, it went in again, and out the other side. And again. I had been gritting my teeth and digging my nails into my (other) hand with the throbs before this, but damn near drew blood then. He asked if I could straighten my finger, I did, and he gave me the shot, painlessly this time. So, he put in four stitches, and I only felt him pushing on my finger. But on the last stitch, I felt it clearly, and felt the thread running through "Ah... how long does this anaesthetic last?" "Yeah, yeah". He had to redo that, and the last of the anaesthetic was gone - I felt every bit of it, but held still so it wouldn't have to be done again. Then a nurse came over to dress my hand, and give me a tetanus shot. It was only as the curtain rolled back that I appreciated just how difficult it is to close a pants with just my left hand (I'm right handed). Joe had heard about it, and phoned later - people had had enough decency to stay around long enough to tell him. He dubbed me Lefty, asked if I could hold a plectrum :) and if I wanted to come to his house to drink. I declined, as I still smelled of bacon and couldn't shower (still have to figure out that one. I'll probably just tape a plastic bag over my hand), but mainly because if drinking is a bad idea after any of a) having a tetanus shot, b) taking painkillers or c) taking antibiotics, it must be a really bad idea after all three.

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