I’m not really good with dates except my wife’s birthday, my wedding anniversary, and my kids’ birthdays, but a date I’m not likely to forget is April 2, 2017. That was the day I lost the majority of my right thumb in what I would consider a crush/amputation accident.
What started out as a good day cutting wood, ended up with an ambulance ride and eventual surgery that evening. My youngest daughter and son-in-law were building a new home on a flag log, and in order to get to the property, the contractor had to construct a driveway through a stand of trees where they pushed them off to the side of the driveway.
This particular Sunday afternoon, we decided to go out and cut up some of the downed trees. We each had chair saws and were working on opposite sides of the tree pile. What I was doing was cutting some logs and then setting my saw down and pulling the logs out and setting them aside. I came around the pile and was working close to my son-in-law and continued doing the same thing. I set my saw down and was reaching in pulling logs out at the same time he was cutting a big tree towards the stump end and when it cut through, the weight of that tree pushed another tree in the pile down on my thumb that was resting on another tree. So basically, I was trapped between two big trees by my thumb. I was within arm’s length of my son-in-law and after getting his attention, we were trying to lift this tree off my thumb. What I thought was my thumb coming out, was actually my thumb coming off.
So basically, I pulled my thumb off. As I quickly assessed the situation, we moved towards his truck and he drove me to a local volunteer fire department and met the EMTs who evacuated me by ambulance to the nearest hospital. While I was going to the hospital, my son-in law had to go back and cut my thumb out and bring it to the hospital. With it being a Sunday, the ER doctor had to call in a hand surgeon, boy did I luck out getting one of the best in the area who was on call!
That was the night of my first surgery. Unfortunately, they couldn’t save any of the thumb and what was left was about one-third of my thumb. A week later when they removed the dressing, I realized the pickle I was in. Over the course of the next month, the remaining skin over the stump didn’t survive so they had to do a second surgery for a skin graph operation. I had a great care team including my surgeon and his team, an awesome hand therapist, and super support nurse/wife taking care of me. I would eventually have two additional surgeries to release the scar on my palm (Z-plasty).
During all this time, I did a lot of research on what possible prosthetic options were out there. My hand therapist had attended a workshop and provided me with a flier discussing a beta study on a new prosthetic device that was being designed by Naked Prosthetics. Although I was only six weeks post-op from my second surgery, we submitted an application for consideration for the study. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be selected but it was worth a try. As it turned out I wasn’t selected, but I never stopped researching this new product. I attended a fitting by a guy, Matt Finney, who was selected and was able to try his on. For the next year I debated pursuing the device or not.
The more time passed, I realized I could do a lot more with the aid of a device like this one. During this time, the device had gone to full production. So after a little bit of an insurance process, I have been able to get my new Naked Prosthetics ThumbDriver. Even after just two weeks, I can see a big improvement in the number of tasks I can now do again with my right hand. I can grasp a water bottle, turn the key in a car and turn up the radio, and am working on throwing a baseball to my grandsons. I look forward to getting back to a new normal as much as possible. I am a 61-year-old retired Army Officer and am now a high school Army JROTC teacher in Ohio.