Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hunter vs. Pruning Shears: A Lesson in Safety and First-Aid

Thick, hanging vines were everywhere making passing virtually impossible. Unfortunately, there was no other way around it. Chris and I began cutting the vines, breaking dead branches, and blazing a path. We were on a mission to hang some trail cameras and vines were not going to stand in our way.

Fifteen feet into the trail blazing, I made a very careless and painful mistake. I grabbed three vines, which were clinging to the forest floor, lifted them up and with a great deal of force cut into them...along with my index finger. The intense pain was quickly followed up with blood dripping all over the forest floor. Immediately, I knew I'd be making a trip to the ER later, but right now I needed to stop the bleeding. 

If you have a weak stomach or hate the sight of blood turn away now!
 
(L) Blurry photo due to high amount of adrenaline. (R) Fully wrapped and bleeding stopped.

My first-aid kit is in the same place of every Badlands pack I carry - the bottom, so I can unzip the easy access panel on the back support and dig it out right away. This was one of the times I would be very grateful for planning where it was stashed. With blood staining my 2200, I dug out the kit, unzipped it and pulled out the gauze. Wrapping half the small roll tightly around the laceration, I cut the remaining and then unzipped the small back pocket. On top is where I always keep a roll of medical tape. Four times around my finger was enough and the bleeding had stopped, but the throbbing had just begun.

Most people probably would have packed it in and headed to a hospital, but I knew I had plenty of time to get stitched up. The bleeding had stopped and we had cameras to hang. I knew I'd need a tetanus shot, but that could wait. Then, after getting bandaged up, Chris and I realized while our trail was good, but the area was not. We needed to move about a hundred yards from our location. So we packed up and beat feet to the new spot.

This time I let Chris do most of the cutting. We located two trees that would be ideal for setting up the trail cameras. As if I hadn't lost enough blood, the 'pterodactyl' mosquitoes, as Chris calls them, began their assault, Thank goodness for my ThermaCELL! In a few minutes we had the cameras up, tested them, and then started working our way back to the car.

After making the hour drive back home, I started unloading the car just as my wife was headed out. The explanation of my need to go to urgent care was a shock to her. I am normally very careful, but this time it was different. Figuring I would be in the emergency room for four hours or more, I did what any reasonable guy would do. I took a shower! I cleaned up and decided I should see if the cut indeed warrant a trip to the ER. As soon as the gauze was off, I saw the wound and the sink turned crimson.  A new bandage applied, I called my wife to let her know I was headed to see a doctor. Before I left the house, I grabbed my new issue of Elk Hunter magazine to read in the lobby. May as well have some good reading material!

Gruesome view of what sharp pruning shears can do to a finger.

Allow me to commend the Los Alamitos Hospital ER staff on being the best ER staff I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I have been in ERs before, for more than my share of stitches due to rugby mishaps and this visit was a gem. I waited less than ten minutes before I was able to see a nurse. Right after that, I met my other nurse, Mike. Mike was a super great nurse and took notice of my choice in magazine asking if I was a bowhunter. Had some great conversation and he thought my laceration was pretty gnarly. The doctor came in fully expecting to suture it, and honestly, that's what I figured on. She looked me in the eye and said she was very impressed with my first-aid skills. Not only had I stopped the bleeding, but I had closed the wound well. They irrigated it, bandaged me up and sent me on my way. Total ER time was around an hour and a half. That is a personal record for sure!

So what did I do wrong? First thing is I should have been wearing my leather work gloves. Second, I rushed and it cost me. The lesson in all of this is this? Have a first-aid kit on every trip to the woods, even if it is just to hang trail cameras. Know what is in the kit, too. I'll be hurting for a few days, but the lesson has been learned. All I can say is we had better catch a few animals on those trail cameras in the next two weeks!

6 comments:

  1. Al, I agree that one has to be cautious when cutting. I often wear gloves, but not all the time. Thanks for reminding me (and everyone) to be safe.

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    1. I'll be safer now, John. That's for sure! It has healed well, but gloves are definitely a must from now on.

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  2. Very informational posting, Al. This is a great blog about how to always be safe and not just assume nothing like that would happen. Sorry about the finger though!

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    1. Thanks, Brian. Fortunately, it was just a bad slice and not worse. I can only imagine doing something like this miles from home and no first-aid kit. Yikes!

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  3. Dang Al! You got that finger good! Good thing you were prepared with a first aid kit!

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    1. I can tell you this...I keep my pruners sharp, first aid kit stocked, and understand the need for gloves. It has healed well, thank the Lord!

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