Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thanks, Dad ... & Super Glue

I was an accident prone kid. I had well over a couple hundred stitches before I started school. Really. (That's counting a major eye injury as well as "normal" dermal sutures.)

My Dad was a carpenter and a pragmatist. He was always getting injured -- from minor to seriously minor. He never went to a doctor. It didn't help that we were chronically uninsured. Doctor visits were reserved for life-altering moments. Blood loss and strong illness were not necessarily those sorts of moments in his regard.

Much to the chagrin of my Mom, Dad would tape flaps of skin back onto fingers using duct tape. For infections he was not unknown to patronize the local pet store and purchase tetracycline. He dabbled in poultices occasionally and generous doses of alcohol were part of the prescription. His pain care regimen was old school -- like teeth clenched against a stick.

I used to think he was a total hard ass. I cut myself mowing the lawn once during my teenage years. While pushing up a hill in our backyard, my footing slipped and I came down on my knee which fatefully planted onto a shard of glass. He met Mom and me in the emergency room as the doc was numbing me up for sutures. "Next time wear blue jeans," was his advice. Then he left to return to work. No matter it was late July in Tennessee -- "Blue jeans, you fucker?!" I mused. Being sixteen, I suppose I would have thought him a jerk no matter what he said.

(I want to insert a caveat that we have taken our kids for all recommended and necessary care, as well as the frivolous visit or two [in retrospect] because we were paranoid. However, in terms of my own personal injuries I have adopted a more liberal policy of professional attention that I owe in no small part to my father.)

Not long after starting college about 20 years ago, I embarked upon a serious interest in rock climbing. Like everything I take on, I read lots to supplement the actual practice of the craft. I learned knots and studied stories of climbs. That's when I first learned that cyanoacrylate -- Super Glue -- can be used to seal wounds in place of sutures. Sounds painful but cool. Like many things any of us read that information was filed into the cabinet of my twenty-something brain.

Being that I have a shop space (and more than a few lacerations occur in my shop courtesy of edge tools), I've had reason to recall that knowledge. I have Super Glue on my adhesive shelf anyway. In addition, I recently read an article about how to properly glue shut a laceration. I've tried it out. It works wonders.

(Let's pause a moment for another parenthetical paragraph. I'm not talking about injuries from powered blades or serious cuts that affect more than soft tissue [read: tendon, ligament or bone]. Rather I am referring to the deep cuts where one cannot quickly stop bleeding with pressure or a bandage so as to resume normal activity. If I retained a lawyer, s/he would thank you for reading that statement.)

Last Sunday morning I stopped by a friend's house before proceeding to the grocery store to get some grillable grub for dinner. I took a stupid spill in the alley hopping an obstacle. I landed on my left hand, elbow and ass. It hurt like hell, but like most accidents on a bike, I jumped up quickly and tried to walk off the pain. It wasn't until I grabbed my brake lever that I realized that wet, slippery grip meant I was bleeding a lot. I must have landed on some glass or something because my left palm was deeply gashed although it hurt nothing in comparison to my hip. Still, it needed attention.

I rolled home and applied first aid. April suggested, and I agreed, that it could use stitches. (One telltale clue is the depth and visibility of fatty tissue.) I told her I didn't want to spend four hours in urgent care on a Sunday and a few hundred dollars to mend something so minor. We have decent insurance, but I value my time. Besides, I've spent plenty of time in hospitals over the course of my life. They all smell the same.

The first application of glue peeled off yesterday. This evening I decided the wound was still flexible enough for another closure. I washed and dried it thoroughly and went to work:

The key, according to an MD whose article I recently read, is to gently hold the skin closed and glue across the laceration in criss-crossing strips. Let dry without gluing your uninjured hand's fingertips to the skin. Bingo!

My dressing consists of a Band-Aid smeared with Burt's Bees Rescue ointment applied over the laceration, and then tape holding the opposing sides of the wound closed (a band all the way around the knuckles). This is then supported by another band in an X configuration opposing any propensity for the cut to re-open, as well as the Band-Aid to peel off, with normal hand movement. Keep in mind this will only be in place for the next 12-18 hours. No need to leave it tightly bandaged longer than that since skin needs air.

Why am I sharing this? Honestly, I think it's good if we realize we don't have to rush off to the hospital at the sight of blood -- even flowing, dripping blood. Save your time. Don't forget the ER staff's time since they have fun stuff like trauma and gunshot wounds to deal with. By the way, hospitals use Super Glue all the time, so this isn't like some wacko application.

Please remember, I'm no doctor, so take everything you read on my blog with a grain of counterfeit French sea salt. That said, next I'm going to work on my skills at reducing dislocated digits. I've got a toe injury that still hurts from two years ago. Something tells me I didn't self diagnose that injury very well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More Great Press for Biking & Infrastructure

Stories like this often make my day -- NYT Economix: The Bicycle Dividend. You see, when cycling is part of one's everyday transportation equation it is often easy to get into a rut. This can be due to a number of factors: The emotional effects of dealing with belligerent drivers; the physical effects of riding a bike over distance in all types of weather; fielding off-base comments from non-cyclists who regard bike transportation as freakish; and generally concluding that society is not moving more in support of cycling, but simply polarizing the parties involved into more or less 'for' and 'against' positions.

But when an article like this comes along it reminds me of two things: 1) There are numbers, the result of more frequent study and analysis, that support the benefits of biking on many different fronts (health, environmental, economic) as well as the benefits of investing in bike infrastructure; 2) These articles are popping up more often on higher profile news outlets which signifies greater awareness and interest in the topic. The article is a short read and well worth the time.

I'm not expecting motorists to cheer me or stop and ask to shake my hand any time soon. However, I will bask in the glow I feel whenever I read one of these articles. While the pro-cycling message is agreable to me, that is not the biggest theme I take away from such press features. What really brings me hope is that Americans are beginning -- out of necessity and lack of legitimate counter-argument -- to examine the myriad destructive legacies of building our culture and shaping our daily lives around the automobile. Bike lanes and trails are good, but this realization is the source of truly profound change yet to come.

The article closes with this quote: "Hats (and helmets) off to the bicycle activists and policy makers who work to promote bicycle paths and lanes. They are spinning us all in a good direction." Agreed.

I'd like to take a couple revolutions backward, however, and tip my hat to the vigilant cyclists who have quietly maintained a road presence in the decades up to now, before cycling (specifically for transportation) was enjoying more frequent and positive PR. Many such individuals have been my role models and sources of inspiration. No matter their motivation for biking, they're visionaries all the same.