Hitting the nail on the nail

**WARNING — this post contains graphic details of home medical treatment. Squeamish people may want to skip this one.

Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer?

Have you ever hit your thumb with a screw gun (you know, a drill with a screw bit on it for screwing in screws)?

Until this month I could say that throughout this whole Hammond Forever House renovation I had done neither.

Now I have done both. And I have some advice (brace yourself).

If you see blood under your nail, you’re probably going to have to puncture the nail somehow to let the blood out and relieve the pressure. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Sometimes photos get flipped for some reason, so I don’t know if you are seeing this right side up or upside down. The thumb with the single red dot is my left, the one with the more impressive blood-under-the-nail effect is my right.

About a month ago I was squeezing a stud with my right hand against another stud so that when I screwed them together with my left hand they would fit nice and snug. (Okay, I know that sounds dirty but I’m talking about the vertical 2X4s that are in the wall, not the other kind of stud. Please note that I was doing this to reinforce the wall where the glass of the new shower wall is going to attach, so I could have added, “in the shower” but I didn’t. You can thank me now.)

Anyway, I was pushing hard on the screw gun and it slipped and the bit jammed into my right thumb. If you have ever done this, you’ll know that it really hurts.

Fortunately, the kids were home so I could go downstairs and grump at them for not doing chores while I put ice on my thumb and felt stupid. Neither action really made me feel better and by the time Leanne came home, I had decided that I would need to puncture my nail to relieve the pressure.

The screw bit had hit high up on the nail, just under the cuticle, so it wasn’t too hard to push a sewing needle through. We sterilized a needle with a match, Leanne held my iced thumb steady and I pushed the needle with a thimble. A drop of blood formed and we knew we had gotten through. After the pain of the “operation” had subsided, I knew I had done the right thing because the pain caused by the trapped blood was much less.

It didn’t look nice though, with a large blood stain under the nail. People said my nail would “die”, but it didn’t. A couple of weeks later–you can see in the photo–fresh nail was growing out and the top surface was flaking off, revealing new nail underneath.

That’s when I smacked my other thumb with a hammer.

I was putting finishing nails in the tongue-in-groove ceiling on the top floor (photos in a future post). Just a light tap and I instantly felt like the stupidest guy in the world. I could see the little spot of blood under the nail.

“Here we go again.”

This time I thought I could ice it fast enough that I wouldn’t need to puncture the nail. We even took some time out when Leanne got home to have a picnic at a local playground until I realised that another home operation was unavoidable. It was hurting too much. The kids were upset, but we went home.

I went straight to the bathroom with the sewing kit as before, but this broken blood vessel was under harder nail than last time. I couldn’t force the needle through and it was painful to push so hard.

So I did what you would do and got the drill.

I have a really nice tiny drill bit that would have been perfect, but my cordless drill can’t grip it. It’s too small. So I had to use a slightly larger bit–still very small, but…

This time I didn’t ask Leanne for help. Nobody came in the bathroom until I made that little macho pain sound. It’s kind of a grunt, like a cross between “Oh!” and “Ugh!”.

Then Leanne and our daughter came in and saw the drill on the counter with a drill bit, blackened from the match, with blood on the tip and nice little balloon of blood sitting on my thumb nail.

“Wow.” said my daughter.

“Your dad is a badass.” said Leanne.

The moral of the story can be gleaned from the photo. My left thumb is healing nicely with a small hole in it. My right thumb is also healing but it looks like a nightmare. I don’t think the needle hole allowed enough blood to escape. Next time I’m just going to get the drill right away.

“Or,” my daughter said, “you could quit hitting your thumbs!”

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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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