I woke up this morning at 7am to my husband standing in the hallway dressed in his bathrobe, holding his left hand wrapped in bandages.
“Are you okay?” I was sleepy and it hadn’t yet registered that he’d had a very late hockey game the previous night and hadn’t come to bed.
“Got hit with a puck.”
I went to him. As I got closer I saw the bloody bandages. “Jamie, what happened?”
In his usual “it-not-a big-deal” kind of way he said, “I was holding my hockey stick and the puck hit my hand. It split open my finger.”
I remained calm. Maybe it was the pre-coffee stupor that numbed my response. Jamie had been through a number of hockey injuries over the years as he plays on a local league. He loosened the gauze to reveal his ring finger and blood oozed from the cuts and dripped onto the floor. The wounds were angry, swollen and deep.
“You need a doctor,” I said. My brain lit with adrenalin now, I shifted into high gear. Which doctor were we going to see? We had to get dressed quickly. Maybe we should go to the emergency room. No doctor was in until 9am.
Still standing in the hallway, he said, “Nah, it’s fine. I’ll wrap it up, use some of the stuff in the first aid kit.”
But it wasn’t fine. The cuts looked nasty, primed for infection. “No way.”
“Let’s go downstairs. I know we have gauze pads. We’ll wrap it up. Maybe put on Neosporin.” I stopped myself on the first step. “No, not Neosporin.” I envisioned Neosporin seeping into those deep cuts. I prattled on, my anxiety goosing my obsession with medical information.
As we made our way downstairs and into the kitchen, Jamie described how he’d come home at midnight and had iced his hand, wrapped it in gauze, and had slept in the guest room because he knew if he’d woken me up I’d have insisted that we go to the emergency room. The only thing Jamie hates almost as much as emergency rooms is my reaction when he crawls into bed stinking of beer and sweat, especially if he’s bleeding.
“Jamie,” I said, “next time, wake me up.”
In the kitchen now, we found the gauze pads and medical tape. I started to help him but I wasn’t doing any good. My nerves were getting the better of me.
“Let me do it,” he said. He wrapped his finger in fresh gauze. And then another. The blood just wouldn’t stop. I started to feel light headed.
“Dr. Pullen’s out of the office today. We’re going to an urgent care center.”
Jamie started to protest but I insisted.
I grabbed my laptop and began researching urgent care centers. I read reviews on Yelp, scared by some truly terrible reviews posted by dissatisfied patients. I then searched for urgent care centers that were attached to physicians’ offices, places that were members of The Urgent Care Association. Researching urgent care centers might not be something many would do but since I had written a chapter on them in my new book, The Take-Charge Patient, I knew that some were a lot better than others.
Brentview had a waiting room filled with patients. On the wall was a hockey stick signed by Wayne Gretsky. Jamie turned to me and said, “We’re in the right place.”
Of all places, we’d stumbled upon an urgent care center whose physicians loved hockey. It was kismet.
Dr. Darvish was great. He had in fact treated Wayne Gretsky many years ago and Jamie and he chatted about hockey and the Kings, L.A.’s hockey team. Jamie seemed calmer in the face of the doctor. Darvish explained that wounds like his needed to be stitched up quickly to keep the swelling and possible infection at bay.
Much to my relief, Dr. Darvish seemed to know what he was doing. After he cleaned and inspected the wound, apologizing to Jamie for causing pain, he explained that Jamie’s wedding band would have to come off because he’d have to inject his finger with anesthetic right where the ring was.
Jamie tried to pull the wedding band off but the swelling was a hefty gatekeeper.
Darvish said, “We’ll have to cut it. I’m sorry.”
A male nurse brought in a portable saw just for such a situation. But he didn’t know how to use it. Placed on a tray table, he fumbled with its parts, trying to get it to work.
Jamie looked at him and said, “First time?”
The nurse nodded.
“I can do it.” Jamie grabbed the machine.
Sure enough, my skilled husband put that device together and began sawing at the wedding ring I’d given him 25 years ago. Jamie has built motorcycles from scratch and knows his way around just about any type of machine.
Looking a bit sheepish, the nurse held the finger straight so Jamie could get at it. The scenario just made me laugh so I took a photo of it. Who would believe that a patient would take over with a mechanical device and saw his own ring off so the wound could be stitched?
11 stiches later, we were out of Brentview. The doctor had done a great job. As we left the exam room, he said he was sorry for us having to wait for so long as they were unexpectedly understaffed.
It was an easy healthcare experience. One doesn’t often say “easy” and “healthcare” in the same breath. Brentview was pleasant, the doctor was good, and Jamie is going to be okay.
But next time, he’s waking me up.