The Finger

I have been injured seriously enough to miss work twice in the last two decades.  Neither time was I injured on the job.  The first injury was playing softball on our ambulance team (back when we had one). I went from first to third on a single, and as the third base coach signaled me to slow, I stumbled coming into the bag, lost my balance, and landed on my outstretched hand, breaking a small bone in my wrist that required me to wear a cast for six weeks.  

A year or so earlier, I had broken the ring finger of my right hand at the top joint, playing basketball (going up for a rebound — the ball hit the tip of my outstretched finger), but never had to miss work, as I was able to wear a splint that only immobilized the top joint, and enabled me to to still do IVs, lift and carry.  My finger is still slightly bent to this day.

I stopped playing basketball (for fear of injury) after that until a few years ago when our company, which does standbys at the Civic Center, organized a basketball game between divisions to be played on the Civic Center court (albeit before 12,000 empty seats).  I was enticed to join the team thanks to my height (6-8).  While I enjoyed myself and did quite well, largely thanks to hustle (I was running half marathons at the time and could easily out run most of the other players), I took a head butt to the chest in a scramble for a ball, that knocked the wind out of me.  I was able to keep playing, but it left me unable to sit up in bed at night without using a pillow to splint myself and it prevented me from doing push ups as I felt like my chest was going to split in two.  My diagnosis — I think I cracked my sternum.  I never saw a doctor about it, but it was almost two months before I was pain free.  Still, I worked through it.  Never missing a day.

Recently I sustained another sports injury.  I mainly swim now for competition, and in the last event of my last meet, I slammed my hand into the electronic pad at the finish (I had been upset that in two earlier races, the electronic pad had me slower than the hand timers who had clocked me in personal records.  So I hit the pad a little harder than I should have.  I did not feel any pain, but soon noticed the last joint of my middle finger flexed, but could not extend.  I had what is called a Mallet finger — a ruptured tendon.  My initial splint immobilized the entire finger, leaving me unable to work for two days until I saw a specialist who fashioned a splint enabling me to work, as long as I tape it up well.  I can still do IVs and lift, but when I lift, I cannot use that finger which remains in a modified bird position.  I have to wear the splint for 6-12 weeks in hopes that the tendon will reattach.  If I move it too early, it is back to square one and another minimum of six weeks is required.  I have banged it a few times and had it squeezed twice in a wrestle with a patient, but for the most part I am hopeful it is healing.  Surgery is an option, but the splint method actually has a higher cure rate that the surgery.

At work, we have a time clock where when punch in or out, you put in your Kronos number, and then place a designated finger tip on the scan button.  When you first logged in to the new system, it let you choose which finger you wanted.  Most people chose their middle finger.  I thought about it, and while I appreciated the humor, I did not choose my middle finger.  I did the pointer finger instead.  And while I admit, there are days when I want to give the bird to work at the end of the day, I still maintain respect for the work.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite tales from the excellent American Folklore picture book I had was the story of Joe Magarac, the man of steel.  Joe was the best worker in the steel mill.  He could do the work of twenty men.  Then one day, there was talk of closing the mill, so Joe jumped into the vat and melted himself down into steel, and his steel was of such high quality that they built a new steel mill with his steel and everyone’s job was saved and the town prospered.

I am not saying that we should all sacrifice ourselves for our companies (neither should we give them the finger).  If we do sacrifice ourselves, it should be for the idea of work and the idea that work and caring about your work has value.  Caring — no matter what the object — is what brings value to our lives.


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