“It was around 2:00 in the afternoon on Veterans Day 2019. I was out driving in Lincoln, California. I’d only been driving for about a mile when I took my eye off the road to look at the radio,” Robin recalls. She veered slightly to the shoulder of the road and when she tried to correct her steering wheel, her dog Zeke panicked.
Robin described Zeke as a road dog. “He may be a little skittish at times, but he always just sat in his seat and looked around, never even poked his nose out the window,” she adds. That day, Zeke jumped out and in the process of trying to catch him, she lost control of her truck and drove off the road.
Robin found herself suddenly in a cow pasture and was told that her truck flipped three times before it came to a complete stop. Zeke, her best friend, did not survive the accident. The gentleman who was driving behind her saw everything and ran quickly toward her vehicle to help her get out of her seat. “I reached down with my left hand to unbuckle and was unable to do so,” explains Robin, “and that’s when I realized my fingers were gone.”
He wrapped her hand with a towel and immediately called 911. It didn’t take long before the ambulance arrived, but to Robin that short moment felt like a lifetime. The process of properly wrapping her hand and stabilizing her neck took about 45 minutes.
Upon arriving at the hospital, she went straight to get an x-ray and received all the necessary care and treatment prior to her impending surgery. Due to the holiday, the wait for an operating room and surgeon was longer than expected; she didn’t go into surgery until 9:00 in the evening, leaving her with five hours to process everything that happened.
Robin was able to return home the next day. She took a break from work to heal and did a combination of physical and occupational therapy (OT) that pushed her to consistently use her affected hand. “OT really helped! I went through a series of desensitization exercises using common household items such as rice, beans, and different fabrics,” says Robin.
Desensitization exercises play an integral role in an amputee’s recovery. The gradual increase in the roughness and pressure can help decrease the uncomfortable sensations that amputees experience upon contact with their residual limb(s).
Finding Prosthetic Intervention
The first time Robin saw her hand without the dressing, she knew that she needed something, anything, that would allow her to stay active and feel like herself again. After learning more about Naked Prosthetics from her occupational therapist, the decision to pursue prosthetic intervention came easily.
In April of 2020, just five months after her accident, Robin began the process of acquiring a prosthesis. Naked Prosthetics, like many other businesses, was navigating the new reality brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, NP was considered an essential business, allowing us to continue manufacturing devices. We were aware, while we were fortunate, many of our friends and peers in the orthotic and prosthetic industry had to close their clinics for several days, and even weeks in order to take the required precautions for their facilities. This caused some delays in getting devices to their owners and Robin was one of them. Robin received her device on June 23rd and she immediately shared the news to our support group (view video).
After receiving her device, Robin worked on desensitization exercises to address some sensitivity issues she was having, particularly when she held her keys or other metallic objects. She found that putting on rubber tips not only helped to diminish the sensitivity, but also allowed the rings to slide across her nubs more smoothly.
Robin joined the Finger and Partial Hand Amputee Peer + Support Group early into her recovery. “I watched and listened and read! At that time, I was still struggling to tell my story. The group was a huge step forward for me,” says Robin.
One thing is certain for Robin, losing Zeke was much harder than losing her three fingers. When she finally had the courage to share her journey, the overwhelming support she received from the other members showed us just how much a community like ours can help one person heal.
When asked what advice she would give someone who is currently going through their healing and recovery process, she answered, “It sounds cheesy and it really just takes time. You just have to see that it isn’t the end of the world. It could’ve been worse. Considering everything, it’s a small part of my life. I could’ve lost my hand, my arm. If you could see my truck, I don’t even know how I survived.”
Since we started the group almost two years ago, we have learned so much from our members and the biggest lesson we learned from Robin is that it is okay to open your heart again. Although nothing could ever replace the special relationship she had with Zeke, she showed us that it is okay to move forward, and to love again.
Robin’s strength and resilience has inspired us and her fellow amputees in so many ways. If you ever need a boost of motivation, her TikTok page is the place to go.
Interview with Robin Cummins
“Desensitization Exercises After Limb Amputation” Very Well Health February 9, 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/desensitization-exercises-2696171