There was a slight hitch to our progress in clearing/cleaning the bungalow and putting up shelves and moving in here. My man (in the muscle-providing sense of the word – i.e. my brother rather than my other half, seeing as I have one of the former and lack one of the latter) went and put himself out of action for a week.
There we were, just tidying up in the kitchen after putting up a kitchen cabinet. On the worktop stood the drill, idle and waiting to be used on the next job. All of a sudden, probably getting bored of just standing there, it decided to tip over, bit first, with the full weight of the drill behind it. The tiny 3mm-diameter drill bit would have broken if it had hit the floor, but fortunately for the drill, it had a cushioned landing as my brother just happened to be nearby with his arm outstretched to reach something and the drill bit simply drove, point first, about three quarters of an inch into his forearm.
His reactions were good. My kitchen only partially changed colour before he stemmed the flow from the nicked artery. That’s one way to work out the route to A&E early in your move to a new area. I knew where it was, but not exactly how to get there, so it was good that we had a SatNav to take us there. Mind you, I spent a fortune in car parking fees that day, despite him going straight to the front of the queue at casualty.
They opened the wound a little to release the blood, put a stitch in, sent him home with it in a sling and told him to rest it… but also told him some symptoms to look out for which he must take seriously. So home we came. We cleaned up the blood (him one-handedly, though he insisted on helping), he went to wash his hands and said “Have you got your car keys handy, I think we’re going back” and showed me his arm.
He was developing compartment syndrome. The blood leaks into the muscle, can’t escape because of the design of the arm with the joints at elbow and wrist, and proceeds to increase rapidly in pressure until it kills the muscle off, which would have resulted in him losing the use of his arm completely (which would never do as he’s far too useful). His strong arm muscles came in useful – he had to hold his hand up over his head for hours.
The pain was such that they gave him morphine. They admitted him overnight. One arm was hooked up to a drip (No, not my brother, that would be too cruel to call him names …. 😉 ), one arm was elevated above his head, he was not allowed anything by mouth, and the nurses checked on him hourly in case he needed emergency surgery. The doctor explained that they would operate needlessly rather than take any chances, the effect of compartment syndrome being so quick and severe. If he’d not managed to hold his arm up for about three hours without a break then that would probably have been the case, but luckily the pressure dropped. Had they operated it would have been a case of opening his arm completely from elbow to wrist and leaving it open to bleed… then blood transfusion and plastic surgery to repair the damage. As it is, he ended up with an arm which literally was black and blue for a fortnight, unable to use it for well over a week, and a residual weakness in that arm.
I wish I had taken a photo of it when he was here today. All that can be seen on his arm three weeks later is a tiny scar like a little scratch mark on his forearm. When he got home from the hospital three weeks ago his arm looked like this: (It actually got worse before it got better).