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Rated: ASR · Other · Medical · #1553335
A true story. I delivered a body part to ER in a paper bag.
         It sounds a bit bizarre; however this event was a true event in my young adult life. It's old news to me now, but it was freaky for years.

         Some remodeling was being done to the large retailer where I worked. The ones in charge were a crew traveling from location to location with this chain to assure consistency on every job site. The laborers were local temps. The temps were only tools used by the construction leaders. No warmth, comradery, or personal respect existed between the two groups.

         As one of the temps was working on a construction assignment, he sliced off the end of his thumb right at the knuckle with a jig saw. No news of this had filtered up to my area, so I was shocked when confronted by one of the crew leaders.

         I was the head cashier of this large store. The crew leader came up to me with a small bag folded over at the top and stapled several times. He calmly said to me, "Have one of your spare cashiers drive this to the hospital emergency room. It's this guy's thumb and they're waiting for it. Tell whoever you send not to look in the bag." He handed me the bag, like it was no big deal, and he didn't care about the outcome, and walked away.

         I looked around and knew instantly I didn't have a spare cashier, but I did have someone who could fill in for me instead of stocking. I couldn't ask anyone else to do this. In fact that guy should have done it himself, instead of pawning it off on a woman, no doubt a less important person in his eyes.

         I went upstairs to my locker to get my car keys and told a couple of people I wouldn't be long. They later told me I was white as a ghost and were worried about me. Note that not one said, "Here, let me do it."

         As I went through town at the fastest legal speed, maybe faster, I did stop at red lights, but I could feel my wrists getting tight and sore as I gripped the steering wheel. Then it occurred to me, what if this guy is playing a joke on me? Maybe there's nothing in this bag. I didn't see anybody get hurt. There was no rescue squad. No one had said anything. So at the stop light, I cautiously opened the bag.

Slowly I pulled it apart at the staples, then unfolded the top. I peeked in to see--a wad of paper towels! I wanted to do this before I got all the way to the hospital. At the next light, I unrolled the paper towel, only to find--

         It really was a thumb. I wanted to puke. It had a short dirty thumbnail. There was no blood. I wouldn't touch it, I just rolled it back up, quickly but gingerly. I put it back in the bag, folded it over. Then I hit the gas. If a cop stopped me, I'd let him look, and maybe he'd give me an escort or just deliver it himself, lights flashing, siren wailing.

         I pulled right up to the emergency room door like an ambulance. I jumped out and ran up to the automatic doors. A man in scrubs met me before I got through the first door. With people standing all aroiund watching us, he says, "Is this the thumb?"

         "Yes," I said. He grabbed the bag and ran.

         I turned and walked to my car, once more a mellow person, but shaken.

         On the return drive, I concentrated on breathing deeply and slowly. When I got back to work, word had gotten around, so every free employee came up to me to ask for details, except the construction guys. I told how I raced and looked in the bag to be sure I wasn't going to be a fool. The pharmacist--yes, we had a pharmacist and an ice machine, but no one had thought to use either--told me that it should have been packed in ice before removal from the building. He would have packed it for them. When he heard about it, he wondered why they hadn't consulted with him. I didn't get the whole story until the assistant manager, Mike, came back to work.

         There hadn't been a rescue squad. Mike had driven the man to the hospital himself in his old Chevy. I mean old, like 20 years old or more. The doctor told him he could reattach it, if the thumb could be found and delivered quickly. He had called back, asking for the lead contractor and told him to look for the thumb, with no instructions on how to handle it. Mike saw me pull up in my car, and told the doctor that the thumb was there. That's how the stranger in scrubs knew what I had in the bag.

         I heard the operation was a success, but we never saw the temp again. Maybe it reconnected okay, maybe not. I assume he got workman's comp and that his expenses were paid. But even if it worked, I bet he got arthritis evenutally in it. I have arthritis in every joint I've ever hurt.

         At times like these, you wish you had paid more attention in first aid class. We should have called the rescue squad instead of putting the man in a car. The pharmacist could have helped. Ice was on the premises. I didn't come into the picture until late in events, but I could have insisted on ice instead of relying on another's judgment. It was a learning moment at someone else's expense.
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