It has a blue carbon-fiber pattern, it’s made of metal with silicone pads, it makes up my joint and the tip of my thumb. I’ve named it Thumbelina and it is my prosthetic thumb.
Over the summer of 2018 I was going to live in Ellensburg, Washington with my good friend, Katie, to train and work for a high-level horse eventing trainer. This was a great opportunity to better my skills on and off my horse. During spring break, the three of us went to a small horse show. We had a great weekend and I learned a lot.
When we returned, we went to unload our horses from the trailer. Katie held the door open and I hopped in to unload my horse, something I have done a million times. My horse saw the daylight filtering in and took that as his cue to start backing out of the trailer. I realized as he began frantically pulling on the rope that the quick release knot was tightening to the point where he was going to hurt himself or not be able to get out. So without much thought, I attempted to push the knot through to allow the pressure to release.
In less than a second my thumb had slipped all the way through the knot, the rope tightened around the tip of my thumb and my horse was no longer attached to the trailer but to my thumb. He had been pulling so hard that when the pressure was released his 1,200-pound body fell out of the trailer like dead weight, instantly yanking my thumb off at the first knuckle.
My eyes went straight to my hand. At first, I thought maybe I had just broken it, but the second I saw the white of my bone, my body reacted without my brain. As my mind caught up, I knew I was screaming for help because Katie stood in shock. Her mom, Sally, came running.
Sally was a lifesaver. She is a physician’s assistant and knew exactly what to do. She drove us to the hospital with the hazards on, whipping through traffic. When we arrived I was still in shock, but began to feel the pain and the throbbing. I was put in a room with Sally while my mom frantically talked to doctors.
Meanwhile, Sally and I sat giggling with my nurse, Doug, as they tried to take my mind off the pain and scariness of the situation. We cracked joke after joke—a lot of dark humor was involved. Then I got my first IV.
When I was on pain meds I made Doug a song about how I couldn’t feel my thumb when I was with him. They took x-rays and when they grabbed my hand and tried to manipulate it, the pain was so excruciating they had to inject pain meds into the base of my thumb, which was not pleasant. Finally, I was on my way to Harborview in Seattle.
When I arrived, I had been in shock for so long that I was exhausted and just wanted to go home. I met my surgery team and as they talked me through the process, I only heard bits and pieces because I was drifting in and out of sleep. The last thing I remember was seeing the clear plastic tube being put over my mouth and nose, and hearing a man’s voice say, “She’s almost out.”
I woke up to someone quietly speaking my name, my mother and fathers faces appeared as the nurse politely asked if I would like some ice chips.
“How was the surgery Mai?” my mother spoke in a soft voice, I answered still holding on to some of the dark humor from before, “I give that surgery one and a half thumbs up.”
Following my surgery, there have been many appointments. I’ve had follow up appointments with my surgeon, occupational therapy appointments, wound care, strengthening, physical therapy appointments, and finally, appointments for a prosthetic device.
I recently received my prosthesis and I am incredibly thankful for the whole Naked Prosthetics team who helped build my one-of-a-kind thumb. I am so appreciative for my family and friends, and for all of those who have improved my use of my thumb.
Overall, I feel extremely lucky to have only lost one small part of myself, so much more could have gone wrong. I’ve met so many people who I would’ve never known if this hadn’t happened. I have learned from this experience in many ways, I have become more open and talkative with new people because we have an intriguing topic to discuss. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, and because of that, I am okay with losing part of my thumb.
Maile wrote this essay for an English assignment at school. It has been shared with permission and edited for length. At 15 years old, Maile is the youngest wearer of an NP Device. Her journey continues to bring awareness of ability difference to her high school peers.