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That “Charlie Bit My Finger” Kid Has Nothing On Me

February 1, 2012

I was three.  I was waiting for my mom at my daycare center.  My left middle finger got closed in the hinge of a heavy door and was severed.  I remember the fun of being in an ambulance, with the sirens blaring.  I sat up front, in an EMT’s lap.  (That would not happen today for several reasons, but this was 1984.)  The first hospital or two turned us away, not having micro-surgeons on staff to reattach my poor little digit.  Then we found someone worthy of the task.

I remember him swirling cold iodine on my whole arm, and telling me it was ketchup and mustard, which, being a finicky eater, I thought was disgusting.  Thankfully I do not remember the procedure, I’m sure it was gnarly.  But I do remember emerging into the waiting area and seeing my family.  My grandma said I can have anything I wanted at Toys R Us for being so brave. Had I been a little smarter at that age, I could’ve taken advantage of this offer by picking out a Big Wheels or an expensive dollhouse, but I chose Betsy Wetsy, a dumb doll that pees her dumb pants.  Stupid three year old me.

I almost lost the finger.  The surgeon wasn’t sure if the finger would get enough circulation.  I had big bandages on it for weeks.  I liked to pretend to pick my mom’s nose with my enormous, gauzy finger – that joke never got old.

Today, it’s intact but misshapen.  The nail doesn’t grow and there’s scar tissue in the nailbed.  The tip looks perpetually  swollen and there’s a scar that runs halfway around it.  Everytime I’ve ever had a manicure, I get asked about it. If you ever want to see, I don’t mind, but be warned I have to flip you off to show you.

It comes in handy (bad pun intended!), actually.  I have trouble distinguishing left from right – my friend says I’m dysleftic.  But my scarred middle finger tells me it’s my left hand.  I’ve consulted it since I was five (which may explain why my brain never learned to tell the difference between left and right).  It also comes in handy for something outrageous to use when playing that lame “Two Truths and a Lie” icebreaker game – people swear I’m lying about cutting off a finger.  Fools!

My mom brought me a bag of my baby clothes right before I got married (hint hint nudge nudge someone wants a grandchild).  In the bag was a sweet little rainbow-colored puffy jacket with a hot air balloon on the back.  She said, “You picked that jacket out yourself at JC Penney.”  “Uh-huh,” I said, disinterested.  “You were wearing it when you cut your finger off.” And I snapped to attention.  I became a CSI:OC  investigator, looking for blood splatter, and morbidly, hoping to find some.  Not a drop.

The sleeves zip off so it turns into a vest. It's pretty fantastic.

The little basket of the balloon is also a pocket, perfect for storing severed fingers.

But I’m sure when I put that  jacket on my little girl someday (God willing), and see her push her fingers through the sleeve, it will break my heart a little to know how scared my mom must’ve been.  The first thing moms do is count their newborns’ fingers and toes.  There’s something about those tiny fingernails and the way little hands curl around your finger that is very sweet.  It’s like an innate maternal instinct to stare at tiny fingers.  But I do wonder sometimes, when she got the phone call that her daughter had an accident, and she asked, “Which one?!” in a panic, if she wasn’t secretly a little relieved it was me.

It says "Infants and Toddlers Outerwear JC PENNEY" Size 3T and my mom wrote my name, Kristin Taylor, in it. Also, a glimpse of the deformity.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hilary permalink
    February 1, 2012 5:26 pm

    Well. I never knew you got your finger severed off!

    Have to tell you – my daughter Susie got her left thumb-end severed off when she was 9 months old… so your mom and I have something in common. The phone call from the police to “come home, your daughter has had an accident” is something else…

    Thankfully, Susie’s microsurgeon (who looked just like Patch Adams) did a great job, and she has a fully functioning left thumb – but her nail grows in weird and you can see a slight scar, so I guess she’ll always win those two truth and a lie games too. 🙂

    Unfortunately, however, no one in my lineage has ever had such a great jacket.

    • February 1, 2012 5:49 pm

      Oh my goodness! Poor little Susie. I can’t imagine how frightening that was. The way her thumb healed sounds a lot like my finger. I’m glad Patch Adams was able to successfully reattach it for her. It would be SO much worse to go through life without a thumb than a middle finger. I hope you got that sweet girl a Betsy Wetsy! She earned it.

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