Even as I’ve adapted to my “revised” hands a year post-surgery, sometimes they still spring a surprise on me. I was working on a sewing project on Sunday, feeling quite pleased with myself that I could manipulate the fabric, stitch with great accuracy on my sewing machine, serge precisely to finish raw edges, iron and steam as I went along to get the right finish.
Then I noticed some red stuff on the handle of my iron. At first I thought it was just some shmutz from the fabric, which is a reddish brown and tends to shed. Then I looked at my right hand. Sure enough, without realizing it, I had cut the tip on my right ring finger.
Now, this can happen to anyone, I suppose, but for me the issue was that I didn’t feel the cut at all. This is one of my fingers that was partially amputated last fall due to ulcers gone wild, and the nerves at the tip are no longer as sensitive as they once were. Fortunately, the cut was only superficial, and I hadn’t dripped any blood on my project, which would have been a mess. But it was disturbing.
How could I have missed it? As I cleaned and bandaged the finger, I reviewed what I’d been doing in the past hour or so. Then it dawned on me: I have a lot of trouble manipulating pins for this project, because some of the fabric is densely woven and my fingers are now too short to leverage even a long, glass-head pin through all the layers. So I had tried using small binder clips, instead, to hold the pieces together. But I couldn’t pry them open far enough (again, an issue of finger strength), so I used a pair of pliers—and the clip snapped away from the pliers and nipped my finger. Ouch. It smarted, but eased up, so I didn’t think I’d really hurt myself. Apparently, however, that’s what did the damage.
I was able to keep sewing after I took care of the cut (and wiped the blood off the iron handle). I’m very happy with my slow but steady progress. But I realized that I have to be more vigilant when I’m using sharp tools. I may have learned how to use my hands again, but they are simply more fragile than they used to be, and I must pay closer attention to any pain sensations, even muted. Nerves are a first line of defense, to warn us when we’re endangering ourselves—but the sentinels in my fingertips are no longer operating at full strength. Time to call in the reserves.