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Doug's Diggings: Stupidity injury offers teachable moment

I suffered a stupidity injury on Valentine's Day. I somehow got into a fight with my snow blower -- guess who won.

The result was an injured finger and a three-hour stint in the emergency room at Hudson Hospital on Valentine's evening.

The reason I consider it a stupidity injury is that I've had a snow blower for 25 or more years. I know the dangers, I know the list of "do not's," and I am generally a very cautious individual. Yet there I was, thinking I could safely push out the clog of heavy wet snow from the snow blower's shoot.

It all happened very quickly, but I knew right away something was amiss. I was hoping it wasn't my finger that was missing! When I got the snow blower put away, I took off my glove and discovered the damage. My fingernail had been ripped from the finger, the finger was cut and bleeding and I later discovered the bone was broken.

In many ways, however, I was a lucky victim. I still had the finger and it looks like it will heal pretty well. When my hand was being x-rayed, the technician said he's seen worse -- often people mangle or lose three or four fingers. He said the worst ones are people who tangle with skill saws. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better, because pretty soon I was thinking "this could be a lot worse!"

The staff at the emergency room did an excellent job of making repairs and they were sympathetic to my condition -- much more than my wife! She was not happy with my "stupidity," but neither was I.

So now I am playing the waiting game. A broken middle finger is not convenient for someone who makes a living using a keyboard. Oddly enough, however, typing seems to come pretty naturally, even with one finger out of the game. My biggest problem is trying to write with a pen or pencil. It is difficult to hold a writing utensil with any authority; my handwriting has become very "shaky." It reminds me of my late mother's handwriting when she was older and suffering from illnesses that made her writing weak and "shaky."

Then I realized that I could not wear a glove on that hand. When I go outdoors I have to wrap a scarf around my hand to keep it warm. Most things, for me anyway, are now merely inconveniences. I am, however, using my left hand much more than any time in my life!

At first I was embarrassed to tell anybody about my injury, but it's pretty hard to disguise a big wrap around the middle finger on your right hand. I soon realized that the truth had to be told. Among the first to hear the news were my sons. I wanted to warn them not to repeat dad's mistake. Both have snow blowers. My youngest son is an orchestra teacher and plays pretty much all stringed instruments. This sort of injury would be much more devastating to him.

But, the reason I decided to write about this in my column was to warn others who use snow blowers. It is amazing how many people have told me that they do exactly what I was doing that evening -- clearing the snow blower path with their hand. Like many other things, a person can get any with it for months and years -- but all it takes is that one time when the finger slips into the cylinder and one finds himself or herself on the way to the emergency room. So, with the bit of winter we have left, learn from my mistake and save yourself, pain, embarrassment and money. It is never a good feeling to be sitting in the emergency room, second-guessing your decision and wishing you could relive that moment. After clearing your driveway of snow, spend the evening in the warmth of your living room. It can always be that way if you use a little common sense!