We were standing behind my friend Andre’s store in Isiro, Zaire, waiting for Andre to finish receiving some orders so we could sit down for some tea, or may be some beer, and do a little black market trading.

A big truck with a canvas top stretched over an iron frame was backing up to the loading dock. These loading docks had solid concrete bases set at the approximate height of a freight truck’s bed, and with a large concrete and steel canopy over the top to provide shade and protection from the rain. All this concrete and steal is normal for the region: Most houses are made of either wattle and daub or steal reinforced concrete slabbery, with nothing in between.

As it backed up, one of the workers who came along with the truck casually held the iron frame with one hand as he signaled the driver via the side view mirror to keep going, going, slower, slower, going, and just as he was about to signal for the driver to stop, the iron frame contacted the concrete overhang at exactly the point where the man’s middle finger rested.

When he looked at his hand, that finger was gone. When the truck lurched forward with the break set, the finger fell from where it was squished above him and he caught it.

He stepped off the truck onto the loading dock, down the nearby concrete steps and onto the street, and wandered, looking at his finger in his cupped hand and spewing small bits of blood, in circles.

My colleague and I spent the next several minutes doing the Bazungu thing … being efficient, concerned, active Americans among the slower moving seemingly uninterested locals. As everyone else stood virtually still, we got a bandage, got pressure on the wound, got ice (which was no small accomplishment, and in fact, I still can’t believe we managed that), and got the man a ride, sending him, and his finger (on ice) off to the clinic.

Then, we sat down and did our business with Andre.

A month later, we were back. Again, we visited Andre, and sat with him sipping some Greek coffee (and beer) and doing our usual black market stuff.

We inquired about the man with the finger. Andre had few details, but he called for one of his assistants who would know since he had accompanied the de-fingered chap to the clinic.

“So, did they sew his finger back on?”

“Sew his finger back on?”

“Yes, the finger. It was on ice. What did they do with it when you go to the clinic?”

“Oh, that! Yes, they took the finger and dropped it into the dust bin, and thanked us for the ice.”

Well, that’s how that particular finger-losing story went. Now, have a look at this one:

After running inside from a rainstorm one Friday evening last January, Deepa Kulkarni leaned against the doorway with her right hand to take off her boots. Then, in an effort to make sure the dog didn’t get out, someone slammed the door hard, and it landed right on her pinky.

Kulkarni thought the door had only bruised her finger, but then she looked down and saw the tip of her pinky lying on the floor.

“I swooped down and picked it up before the dog got it,” she remembers. “At first I was fine, but then I saw the blood — there was so much blood — and I felt woozy.”

Her husband, Ajit, called an ambulance, and as soon as his parents arrived to take care of their two young children, Kulkarni retrieved her pinky tip from the freezer …

Check out: Woman’s persistence pays off in regenerated fingertip

Comments

  1. #1 jdhuey
    September 10, 2010

    Obviously, the staff at the clinic did not have capability of sewing the finger back on but what would have been required for them to have had the capability?

  2. #2 Ahmed
    September 10, 2010

    There is a simple version that has a low but non zero success rate that involves basically sewing the finger back on. Putting in ice was the trick.

  3. #3 Monado
    September 10, 2010

    Ice or cold milk. Apparently milk is good because it’s a buffering solution and isotonically more similar to blood and so doesn’t suck out the blood plasma.

    I knew a woman who had had her finger cut off when someone accidentally slammed a door on it. She and her friends put it into a baggie, with ice, and went to the hospital. Surgeons re-attached the finger. It was about 1 cm shorter than the corresponding finger on the other hand, but was functional. You’d never notice unless she told you.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    September 10, 2010

    Milk? That would have been one order of magnitude more difficult to find than ice! I suppose Nido would have worked, though.

  5. #5 MadScientist
    September 11, 2010

    The natives treated us kindly and invited us to dine on yams and clams and human hands and vintage coconut wine …

    Sorry, “Poor Uncle Harry” just seemed appropriate at the time.

  6. #6 NP
    September 12, 2010

    Reminds me a scene from Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.

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