Bloody Stumps

Or, “The Information Highway”

It happened like this: Joshua was sending a tiny piece of molding through the saw, pushing it with a push-block (a brilliantly named invention designed to keep a woodworker’s fingers away from the saw blade when cutting a very small piece of wood). The piece of molding bound (the woodworker’s way of saying that it stopped going through and started to kick back), Josh grabbed for it to keep it from shooting off (which sounds very funny, but which it turns out can be as dangerous as launching knives at random from a cannon), and it pulled his hand into the saw blade. He remembers not realizing that he’d hurt himself, turning off the saw, then seeing the blood. His boss’s wife had just come to the front of the shop for some reason. He said her name in what he remembers as a calm voice, although reports differ varying on who you ask. What doesn’t differ from one witness to another and what makes his version of events slightly less reliable is the fact that everyone remembers his boss’s wife sprinting to him as soon as he “said” her name.

While this was transpiring, Oak and I were getting up from a restful midmorning nap and starting some delicious pasta salad for lunch. I was just draining the pasta and vegetables when my phone started ringing. It was my mother-in-law. That’s odd, I thought. She’s in Kansas City until Thursday [Often in anecdotes, I find I think in exposition.], but maybe she wants to know what size pants or something Oak is wearing these days so she can buy him something. And so, with my free hand, I answered.

eden: Hello?
Mother-in-Law: [obviously crying and a little hysteric] Oh God, just tell me what happened!
[I admit, I wasn’t prepared for that.]
e: Um…what are you talking about?
ML: Oh no! I’m sorry! I thought you knew!
[I’m fairly certain she was going to hang up without telling me.]
e: Well, you can’t not tell me now.
ML: [crying harder] Joshua! He got caught in the saw!
[And now I’m thinking that my husband is either dead or dying or one-handed. He just sent me a text message an hour ago that said, “I love you!” but because I was taking a nap, I didn’t respond. How ironic will that make the story SLEEP that I wrote sophomore year? I think this as I finish draining the pasta.]
ML: My Tom said {Josh’s boss} just came into the restaurant and said {Josh’s boss’s wife} is taking him to the emergency room. He didn’t know how bad it was because he got there just as she and Josh were leaving.

Some hope returned at that point. Josh was walking, so at the worst, he was one-handed. I did my best to calm my mother-in-law down and told her I would find out what happened and call her when I knew. Until we knew for sure what happened there was no reason to get all worked up. I remember thinking how strangely calm I felt the whole time we were on the phone. I imagine it’s easier to feel calm in high-stress situations when someone else is panicking.

Because I didn’t have any of the numbers for Josh’s work or his boss’s phone or his boss’s wife’s phone, I called Josh’s phone. It just stood to reason that he’d have it with him. At that time, my father-in-law knocked on the door. He said he would have called, but he didn’t have my right number. He was much calmer in repeating the story of Josh’s boss coming to the restaurant to tell him that Josh was on the way to the ER. I told my father-in-law that Oak and I were leaving for the hospital as soon as we called to find out what exactly the doctors knew so far. I did and then we did.

While all of these conversations were lighting up the cell phone towers and people were driving crazily around Missouri to get to the hospital or notify other people whose phone numbers they didn’t have, I was packing some pasta salad in a traveling dish for Oak, getting him and myself dressed, and trying to find someone to watch him while I went to the ER. I actually got a surprising amount accomplished. Only the last task was still unfinished when I left the house, and that was resolved when my sister (who lives near the hospital) called me back as I was getting to town.

I dropped Oak off and went to the hospital to find my husband lying in a trauma room, much like the one he was in the night of his wreck, except this time Josh had bloody gauze over his hand. (Strangely, you really do think about these parallels when you find yourself in these situations.) Josh’s boss and boss’s wife left to fill out paperwork then and I got caught up on all that had happened and got to look under the bloody gauze as well as field the frantic calls that were coming to his cell phone and mine.

Here is the result of Tuesday: Josh is not one-handed and he still has ten fingers. Although there are sawtooth marks running in a diagonal pattern up the first two fingers of his left hand, only the tips of those two fingers were cut off. He even has most of his fingernail left on each one. An x-ray determined that he hadn’t hit the bone, so there was no need for surgery. There really wasn’t anything to stitch back into place, so they just cleaned and bandaged up the stumps. Apparently, fingertip injuries are desirable compared to the other sorts you can get from a table saw. And we might as well just come out and say it: Considering that the saw grabbed lower down on Josh’s fingers first, it’s a miracle he has any of them left. Thank God for that and for Worker’s Comp.

One comment

  1. Ronny

    I can't help but notice how riveting a story can be when the character is as real to the reader as Josh is to me… which is to say very real in my head but I'm not quite sure if I made him up. But probably real.

    And I'm also glad he's ok, if he's ok.
    Hope you're ok


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