It’s amazing what can change in a few short seconds.
I was sitting at my desk reading the February issue of Sweeping that had arrived. On page 23 was a picture of someone with their arm bandage. The headline read, “Unable to work due to Injury or Illness. The article was written by a supporter of this industry and someone I would call a friend, Brian Noe. We were introduced to him at a Mix meeting. I hate to be the “poster boy” for this article, but I thought I would share what proceeded to happen minutes after I read the article.
Monday, March 3, 2014, we had record temperatures all across the Midwest, and it was minus 13 in Fairfield. We had turned the new condensation furnace in our pole barn that contains our chimney lab and extra tools that we do not use every day to OFF. We did this when propane reached over $5.00 a gallon in January because if we are not working in that building, there is no sense of heating it!! WRONG, a high efficiency, a condensing furnace is full of condensate. It freezes if you turn it off and won’t’ work- DUH. As I waited for the furnace guy to come and help thaw out the furnace, I went back to the office. Esther, (my wife) went to fix lunch and left me at my desk reading emails, getting ready to call a customer, and thinking about our booth at the upcoming convention.
We all get interruptions throughout our days, but I need to prioritize better. An employee mentioned that we needed some special pieces of plastic cut for a unit. I don’t like “the girls” to use the table saw, so I jumped up to cut them quickly while lunch was getting ready. Of course, the table saw is in the “cold” building. So, I couldn’t wait for the furnace to thaw (so I thought). It’s COLD, so I left my gloves on, not thin tight-fitting gloves, but the insulated ones I used to chuck wood into the outside furnace.
It happened so fast. It was the last piece to cut, and the saw blade simply grabbed the edge of the leather and pulled my thumb into the blade. I’m a very fortunate man. 1. It only cut the end of my thumb on my predominate hand. 2. The intense cold did not allow my hand to bleed. (Esther was glad not to have to clean that mess up. As I left the building, I had my wits about me to go back and turn the saw off.
I didn’t go back into our shop; I didn’t want to interrupt the employees. I know at least one would have fainted at the sight of the blood. I got into our home and called to Esther, “Get your coat.” Where are we going? To the hospital. OMG. She was cooking lunch and was not pleased to turn the burners off halfway thru. After delivering me to the emergency room, Esther called Shelley, explained where we were, and made sure everything was turned off!!
The E.R. is less than 7 miles away, mostly 4 lanes. (We live in the country, but the bypass is nearby)
X-rays showed that the bone between the knuckles was shattered, 3 breaks, and the pad was minced back to the first knuckle. Now, if it had been another finger, we may have opted to amputate. Even if it had been the left hand, maybe…. but since I’m right-handed, the doctor had a plan.
Side note, who knew that our small town of 10,000 would have an orthopedic surgeon with his office at our hospital? He is also a leader in the procedure I’m about to describe. We are so grateful that we did not have to travel to the University Hospital 70 miles away.
After evaluating, Dr. Ivan scheduled surgery for 3:30 in the afternoon. After putting 4 pins in the bones to hold the thumb together, he cut a flap in my abdomen and pulled the flap up around the wound, and secured it in place. He placed another “stitch” using a 100-pound test line to secure my wrist to my side so that the arm/hand did not move. They wrapped me up with two six-inch-wide ace bandages to hold my arm to my body. I finally got to a room about 6:45. Pain meds kept me pretty drowsy, and the doctor said that we would know after 24 hours if the “flap” would survive. The next day, by the Grace of God, when they changed the dressing, all were pink and looking like the Doctor wanted. They sent me home with antibiotics and pain meds.
The doctor was impressed that at the age of 59, my blood pressure was good, no diabetes, and I was a nonsmoker (except maybe a cigar when Shelley was born 26 years ago). He said I was in good shape for the shape I was in. And that the little bit of belly fat was a great place for my thumb to heal. So instead of the original ER timeline of 3 weeks, we should be able to unhook the thumb so that I can go to Columbus for the convention.
Now to make a long story short, about ten days later, we plan to “unhook” my thumb and wrist from my side. Then another 4-6 weeks for the pad to grow and heal. Then, another surgery to reshape the thumb and healing starts again.
This procedure is very old; the countries of India and Saudi Arabia pioneered these hundreds of years ago, according to the doctor. They would use big biting ants to secure the flap. They would make the ant mad, make it bite, then tear the body away and let the bug secure it. I’m sure animal rights groups would not be happy about that these days.
The body is amazing and can heal itself with a little help. I appreciated all the calls, comments, prayers, words of encouragement, good vibes, white light, etc. I can feel the good vibrations and thoughts for my family and me. Remember; take care of yourself, good food, and exercise. We all work hard, and it’s easy to pick up fast food and be too tired to work out. But my fast healing tells me it’s worthwhile to eat healthily and take daily walks, bike rides, etc., before or after work. Nobody can do that for you. Be good to yourself!!
So, to get back to Brian’s article, make sure you have the insurance you need to keep you and your family going when an accident happens. If you don’t’ think you can afford it, raise your prices. It’s not IF an accident will happen, but WHEN. Side note; as an S-Corporation, Esther and I could have opted out of paying for workman’s comp on ourselves, but we didn’t. The battle now will be between blue cross and blue shield and workman’s comp as to who will be the hospital bills.
Make sure that you take time for a vacation and get rested so that your mind is clear. It’s no time to ”multi-task” when working around power tools. I think I can convince Esther to buy me that new table saw that shuts off automatically if skin comes in contact. We saw it at the “New Yankee Workshop” a few years ago. The $2500.00 price tag would have been much less than these hospital bills!!
I’m also blessed to have great employees. We have worked for years, thanks to Dave Pomeroy (God rest his soul) for getting us started and other business coaches to have our “S.O.G.’s” standard operating guidelines in place so that our business can continue without my daily input.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your company. No one expects you to have all the answers. You may know chimneys, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you are open yourself and your company to review. The Mix meetings have helped many understand that. The convention is coming soon; take that time to talk with other companies and be open to other options. Just because you have done something for years the same way doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. You are not the same person you were when you started your business.
Laughter is the best medicine, so they say! So let the jokes begin.
*I’m thumbing thru the same “Sweeping” again, and I see an article from Jerry Isenhour’s “The Coach’s Corner,” titled “Fire in the Belly.” Who knew?... signs everywhere.
*Did you hear about the butcher, who backed into his saw? He got a little behind in his work!
*Part of the healing process requires changing the dressing on the wound and keeping the “flap” area moist. Sort of like the Thanksgiving turkey; we don’t want to let any of the areas dry out. So, a cousin called and wondered if it was time to go baste Tom!!!
*At Ash Wednesday’s Mass, Esther came home to tell the readings were spot on. As we begin our yearly Lenten practice of prayer and fasting, Jesus especially calls us to give to others without expecting a return and to give to others without letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing. Tom thinks he can easily handle that one. Our priest, Father Nick, visited the sick last night and smiled when he saw how appropriate that reading was.
*Of course, many have suggested that I find a better way to “give up doing dishes” for Lent.
*A card from family arrived today wanting to make sure we had followed our mother’s daily orders of making sure we changed our underwear in case we had an accident!!
*My sister and brother-in-law have been sharing funny thoughts from Arizona to help lighten up the situation.
*At least the chimney sweep did not have a chimney fire!!
*For a while now, friends have encouraged me to write more, i.e., articles, blogs, etc. So, thanks for reading to the end; I will try to follow that good advice. And yes, Tom Thumb will be ready to give his talk on Wednesday after lunch in Columbus. Be there or be square. After reading this, you won’t have to ask why my thumb is all bandaged.
Next time, be careful and keep scanning those chimneys, Tom Urban, Scanman.
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Tom Urban has worked in the Chimney and Hearth industry for 40 years. He's been an inventor and manufacturer for 35+ of those years.