We’ve all cringed at the freaky accident that occurred in the opening weeks of the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
At an exhibit designed to see how high visitors can jump, a man leapt up and somehow caught his wedding ring on the display. His finger was severed in the tragic accident.
What’s astounding is that the accident really wasn’t so freaky at all. Ring injuries of that sort are actually pretty common.
The injury is common enough to have a specific medical name — “ring avulsion.” And I had to go to the dictionary to learn that “avulsion” means “a separation by force.”
Yikes. “Avulsion” — it rhymes with “revulsion.”
Granted, this is gruesome stuff. Perhaps that’s why the science museum was so determined to keep the nature of the accident a secret. But there is an important safety lesson here.
As a matter of public service, Dr. Paul R. Ellis III was downright eager to talk to me about the subject. “A lot of people don’t know that it happens,” the hand surgeon said.
Ellis is a partner in the Lankford Hand Surgery Association at Baylor University Medical Center. And ring avulsions are a pretty regular part of their business.
He said he is always struck by how a devastating injury can occur during the most routine activity. One of his patients was a truck driver who caught his ring on the handle of his 18-wheeler as he hopped down from the cab. Another was a ranch woman going over a barbed wire fence. Another was a man coming down from his attic.
“These are things you don’t expect, but it just happens,” Ellis said.
His most memorable case involved a man who was playing basketball in the driveway with his young son. He had lowered the rim to 8 feet. “The man jumped up to dunk the ball. His ring caught on the net hooks. He came down and his finger stayed up there.”
Gives you the willies, doesn’t it?
Danny Green was just walking out of a convenience store in Longview early one morning about four years ago. “There was an ice machine there with the grate pulled back. I tripped on it and reached out for the handle. It caught my wedding ring and just peeled everything back,” he said.
The finger stayed attached but was stripped to the bone. “It wasn’t a pretty sight,” said the 59-year-old electrician in great understatement.
Doctors thought they would have no choice but to finish amputating the finger. Instead, he was transported to Parkland, where Amirlak and a team worked for nine hours to reconnect nerves, tendons and blood vessels.
“I can’t say enough good about Dr. Amirlak. I’ve got probably close to 90 percent use of the finger,” Green said.
That makes him a lucky one. Unlike the clean cut of a knife, a ring avulsion creates such damage that the finger often can’t be saved or reattached. That was the case with the man injured at the science museum.
After treating his first few ring avulsions, Ellis quit wearing his wedding ring. His wife approved, he said. “She understands that I just can’t afford any sort of hand injury.”
Amirlak doesn’t generally wear a ring for the same reason. “I do have rings and sometimes wear them, but only for special occasions.”
Both doctors said they wouldn’t flatly tell people never to wear rings. But they agreed that rings should never be worn during sports, outdoor work or any other physical activity, no matter how routine it may seem.
And just for the record, rings are not the greatest threat to your fingers. By far, the doctors said, that would be power saws and lawn mowers.
Be careful out there.
Repost of article from the Dallas Morning News written by Steve Blow