How I Cut My Finger

The small cut on my left index finger is hardly noticeable, especially when I have it covered with a flesh-toned band aid strip. However, to me this was a major crisis, both physically and mentally.

I am not good about blood, especially my own. I have fainted during blood tests and over the years I routinely had Linda handle the inevitable cuts and scrapes that occurred to my children. So, when I get injured I tend to over-react.

Saturday, February 2, 2008, was a big day. Our band, the Six Foot Poles, had been planning our Groundhog’s Day Concert for months. We were scheduled to play at the Arbor Brewing Company in downtown Ann Arbor and we had sent emails out to everyone on our list and posted the concert on MySpace and at our offices where we worked. We were expecting a good turnout and a great time.

The plan was for the band to show up at my house at 4 o’clock to pick up the equipment, so that we could begin setting up at the annex by six. We were scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and play until midnight. This was going to be fun.

At about 1 o’clock I was fixing myself some lunch, just some tomato soup with rice, when I noticed that one of the bottles in our recycle bin had a plastic ring around the neck. I regularly remove excess plastic and metal from bottles that I recycle. Usually, I just work the tip of a sharp knife under the ring and twist the handle of the knife. This usually is enough to snap the ring so it can be removed. Linda had just been using our good chef’s knife for cutting vegetables and it was lying on the cutting board, so I picked it up and put the tip underneath the plastic ring and twisted the blade. The ring did not split. I pushed a little on the blade and twisted again. This time the ring split, but the blade also continued on and jabbed itself firmly and deeply into my left index finger.

I knew it was bad right away, since I was using this huge chef’s knife that was very sharp and, of course, there was blood. I applied pressure and rinsed my finger off in the sink. Linda came in and assessed the damage. I could not look at it. She suggested right away that we head for the urgent care center to have them stitch me up. While she gathered her stuff together, I sat in a chair with my finger wrapped in a paper towel and tried to relax. It didn’t work. By the time I was in the car headed for the hospital, I was having a hard time keeping conscious. It was interesting to have the world around me grow so fuzzy and then to struggle back to clarity. I was able to walk into the emergency entrance and explain to the triage people why I was there and then wait for them to get the chance to look at my problem.

It is weird to hang around in an emergency room waiting. You keep thinking that someone should come and take a look at your problem right away, but you have to keep reminding yourself that some really serious problems may be demanding their undivided attention. So, you just wait until they call your name. The wait was not long, and nearly the first thing they did was take my blood pressure. The reading was 70 over 45. They took it again just to make sure. After that they didn’t let me walk around anymore and I got a wheelchair. When the doctor asked me what happened, I initially told him that Smeagol bit me. I was impressed that he got the joke. I got four stitches, but I managed to miss the tendons and I still had feeling in my fingertip. I’d be fine in a few weeks.

A few weeks! I had to play guitar that very night! My finger had swollen so that I couldn’t even bend it. The band would be at my doorstep in an hour to begin packing the equipment! What should I do?

When I arrived back home, the other members of the band were very understanding. Instead of kicking me out of the band for being so very stupid and wrecking their Groundhog Day gig, they quickly called around to all of the local guitar heroes to see if someone could help us out for tonight. (Eric Clapton was busy.) It looked pretty grim, until finally we got Brian (the great guitar guy from the local band Misconduct) to agree to sit in for me, at least for some of the night. That was good enough for me. I kept thinking we will make this show work somehow.

We had the band equipment all set up at the Arbor Brewing Company annex by 8 o’clock, but Brian couldn’t make it there right away. I was really relieved to see him finally arrive. His band, Misconduct, actually plays several songs that we do as well and, like most musicians, Brian has many songs in his background as well. We were able to identify lots of songs on our list that he felt he could cover reasonably well. We all kept telling him to relax, but he seemed very nervous. This was certainly understandable, playing with a different bunch of musicians doing songs he barely knew in front of an audience.

Although I couldn’t play anything on guitar, I was onstage to do backup vocals. We had “music” sheets that showed the chord changes and the lyrics to help and I would sometimes show him where the chord changes went when he was struggling with some songs. I felt a little strange being up there, so sometimes I would just put on my guitar to at least look like I belonged up there. On several songs, I play bass guitar, so I actually did play those songs. Bass guitar only has four strings and I don’t have to play chords, so I was able to carefully use my other fingers to make the notes (nothing fancy). Brian can be a really hot guitar player and it was amazing what he was able to do on such short notice with no preparation.

There was a really good crowd and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. We eventually ran out of songs that Brian knew, but it was already after 11 p.m. and it was time for him to go anyway. After Brian left (with much heartfelt thanks), we did a couple of songs without him and ended the music around midnight. We had done it. We had somehow managed to put on the show, despite my stupid knife tricks.

Well, it’s been two weeks and the stitches came out on Thursday. Linda is still mad at me for using her good chef’s knife to cut plastic off of bottles. My finger is still too swelled to do me much good, but it doesn’t hurt really. The doctor says that it will be at least another two weeks before things start getting back to normal. I can’t remember another time in my life where I haven’t played guitar for this long of a time period. It will be such a blessing to get back to it and I feel very, very lucky to have the chance to play again.

So, the cut on my finger looks very small and to most people (who probably don’t think about it much) losing a finger for a few months is not such a big deal. But to me, this has been a traumatic experience. What if the gig had to have been cancelled? What if my injury had made it impossible for me to ever play guitar again? I have been very lucky. But even more, I am lucky to have friends and family to help me deal with the little disasters that life dishes up now and then. Thanks to Linda. Thanks to my fellow band mates. Thanks to Brian. Thanks to our fans. Thanks to you all.

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David Brzezinski

David Brzezinski

Retired mechanical engineer living in Michigan, where I grew up. I've been a Boy Scout & played in a rock band. I love the outdoors & I fish. Married two sons.