Life is Good!
Life is Harsh!
This is one of my favorite photos of my husband Scott. It was taken on our wedding day, and yes, that is the judges actual seat and gavel in the actual courtroom where we were married.
Those are also Scott's actual fingers holding that gavel, the fingers that were all amputated after his burn injury. The fingers he took for granted, would always be there.
This lens is about real life, and all those little things we take for granted, those little things we don't even remember to be grateful for from day to day. Yes, life can be terribly harsh and hard, but we wouldn't grow very much as humans if everything was simple and easy.
If life didn't have hard times, we wouldn't be able to recognize and appreciate life's good times. Thanks to all of life's challenges, we are able to grow and feel and laugh and cry and really be alive!
A Word from Bambi
Most of the content on this lens was written by my husband Scott. I'm just the one making the lens. I will be putting (by: Bambi or by: Scott) in the sub-title area, just so you the reader knows who wrote what.
Towards the bottom of this lens, right above the guestbook, you will find links to other lenses about Scott, including the story of his burn injury accident. We are making this lens in the hope that it can help other people going through challenges in their lives.
On August 6th 2002, my husband Scott was severely burned in a flash fire explosion. During the first week of his hospitalization, the doctors informed me that his fingers would most likely have tp be amputated. More than a month later, I was the one who had to sign the surgery authorization for the doctors to amputate. Signing that paper was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Intellectually, you know it has to be done, that if they don't amputate the fingers, he could lose the whole hands. Still, emotionally you feel almost responsible, it's almost as if you are cutting them off yourself.
Before the accident Scott was a very tactile person. An artist who made amazing creations out of wood like the picture frame in the photo. Scott used his hands for everything, even more so than the average person.
Scott loves the outdoors, and spent most of every summer canoeing the Upper St. Croix River. Fishing and camping, often for months at a time. He also spent a lot of time at his parents cabin, cutting down dead trees, doing building improvements and painting.
Scott was very physical, doing all kinds of manly-man stuff like chainsaw art, and riding his motorcycles. His profession reflected this, Scott was a painting contractor and also did a lot of building, home repair and maintenance type work. All very hands on and get your fingers dirty kind of work.
Our fingers and hands are so much a part of daily life for most of us, that we rarely even think about them, let alone imagine life without them.
Scott's life before the accidentClick thumbnail to view full-size
By: Scott Watson
Hi, I'm Scott and on August 6th 2002 I was burned over 85% of my body in a flash fire explosion. Due to the severity of my burn I lost all of my fingers. Both of my pinkies are completely gone, my three middle fingers are marble size nubs and each of my thumbs are about an inch long. The doctors inserted pins into each of my fingers to keep them from contracting backwards as they healed.
There were some strong emotions that I had about losing my fingers. My first emotion was anger. I don't remember this because I was still intubated and on a lot of morphine.
The Harsh Reality
I guess I knew on some level that my hands were in pretty bad shape. When my wife, Bambi would visit me in the hospital I would wave my hands at her and try to get her to tell me about them. When she would try to change the subject, I would start grunting and waving more frantically. After she finally told me that they would probably have to amputate my fingers, I got so mad that when she would try to look at me I would turn my head the other way. When she went to the other side of the bed, I'd turn my head the other way.
That was the only time I was really angry about losing my fingers. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't have time to be angry. I needed to focus my energy on making my hands work again, as well as the rest of my body. Another emotion that I didn't have time for was self-pity, or as my friend Burt puts it "the boo-hoo's." No one was going to do this for me. Sure I had help from some great therapists, doctors, nurses and my family, but ultimately it was up to me if I ever wanted to use my hands again in any capacity.
From Mourning to Acceptance
My first real emotion was disbelief, and it was strong. I was coming out of a drug-induced coma and becoming aware of reality. Was this real? How could it be? It was real. Bambi and I both felt like we were stuck in the same nightmare and that we'd eventually wake up and say "Wow! That was scary." Surreal is the word that best describes how we felt. There was also sadness, not to be confused with self-pity. It's totally okay to mourn the loss of something as important as your fingers or any other body part that you've lost.
It's okay to cry. I know it's not macho or whatever the "code" is, but it sure made me feel better at the time. After that, for me at least, came acceptance. I said to myself, "alright, I'm burned, my fingers are gone and they're not going to grow back and I'm gonna have to live with it." This didn't happen overnight. I knew deep down inside that my fingers weren't coming back, but on the surface I still thought that they might. Lizards grow their tails back. I was always telling my therapists, friends and family that maybe if I soaked them in Miracle-grow plant food, you know it says, "Miracle and Grow," who knows? I figured they just needed time to grow back. I mean, it took 38 years for them to grow as long as they were before.
Humor! This may not be for everyone, but it worked for me. I won't go into details, but I can find humor in some pretty strange places, I'm pretty warped.
Determination finally set in after dealing with all those other feelings. It was time to make my new hands work. The doctors inserted pins into each of my fingers to keep them from contracting backwards as they healed. My therapists gave me stretching exercises to do. The exercises seemed small and silly at the time, but I had to believe that my therapists knew what they were talking about.
So when they would tell me to do ten repetitions of something, I would NEVER do less than eleven. When the stretching would get painful, that's when I knew it was working and I wouldn't stop until it was excruciatingly painful. Once the pain subsided, I would start all over again. I would stretch until I was exhausted. I couldn't pinch my thumb and pointer nubs together when I started, but after a couple of weeks I was able to pick up little pieces of foam and drop them in a cup. This was great progress and very exciting!
I was doing the foam rubber exercises while strapped to this contraption called a tilt table. Besides losing my fingers, I also couldn't walk because of a condition called drop-foot. One day while I was strapped to the table and playing the pick-up game, I asked the therapist for a pen and paper so I could try to write. It took some doing, but I finally managed to grip the pen. Every time I would touch the pen to the paper, the pressure would make me drop the pen. I was learning what would be the strongest and most lasting emotion, FRUSTRATION!
I'm not sure how long it took, but I managed to scribble out a barely legible love note to Bambi. It was just two short lines and a signature, but it was a gigantic accomplishment.
One of my biggest challenges while in the hospital was learning to feed myself. I didn't much like doing it. Patty, my main therapist, made me a Velcro strap that went around my right hand that a fork or spoon could be slid into a little slot. At first Patty would put the cuff, as it was called, on for me and sit and coach me on how to use the new device. It was horrible! If I could manage to scoop or poke some food and lift it off the plate, the chances of me getting it into my mouth before it fell off were slim to none.
At first when Patty realized she was missing her own lunch break, she would get impatient and just feed me. I liked that! She soon saw through that though and started putting on my cuff, positioning my milk with a straw in it so I could drink and then she'd leave so I had to feed myself or go hungry. Sometimes I did really well, other times it was a mess. Sometimes I could finagle a nurse or PCA into feeding me and sometimes I just gave up and didn't eat. After a lot of practice, I was usually able to finish my meal before it got too cold. Hospital food is bad enough hot.
Getting Better All The Time - The Road to RecoveryClick thumbnail to view full-size
It was pretty exciting when I learned how to get the wrapper off the drinking straw, but what really blew me away was the day I opened a pack of crackers by myself, I told everybody!
The problem at the time was that even though I was getting better at feeding myself, I still didn't like doing it. I'd feed myself lunch because Bambi wasn't there, but I would get her to feed me breakfast and dinner. Patty was pretty upset with me for not feeding myself.
Then one day Bambi brought in Chinese food for dinner. She got all of the boxes set up and got me into my wheelchair and pushed me up to the table. She was getting ready to start feeding me when this feeling of extreme guilt came over me. I hated being taken care of by everybody! I was supposed to be learning to feed myself, why shouldn't Bambi be able to eat her meal in peace?
So I asked her to put my cuff on me and put a spoon in it because I was having soup. She asked me if I was sure, I said yes and ate like a champ! It felt so good to see Bambi across the table from me eating her own food instead of feeding me. It was the best meal I had in a long time. The best part though was the next day when I saw Patty. There was no guilt and I bragged about how good I had fed myself the night before.
Scott The Artist - Things Scott has created since losing his fingersClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Learning Process
It just got better from then on. Now, I can make and eat my own sandwiches. I can use a knife and fork to cut my own steak without a cuff. I can eat pizza and chicken with my hands, yeah I've come a long way!
I've got a hundred stories like the learning to eat one. There's not one single thing that I didn't have to learn to do again. Brushing my teeth, learning to smoke, using my power tools, especially the sawzall. Driving, spending money, even wiping my butt, I really mean everything! Re-learning how to do it all again was and still is frustrating. I drop things, can't pick certain things up, need help with some stuff and everything takes longer to do now.
A Different Life
Yes, frustration is a major emotion, I get mad, smash things, kick things, grunt, yell and swear, but I'm also very grateful. Feeling grateful came to me very early after coming out of my coma. How could someone all burned up and missing all of his fingers be grateful? At first I wasn't all that excited about still being alive, but since I was I started to count my blessings. I was grateful that I could still see. I was grateful that the doctors didn't have to amputate more than just my fingers. For a while they thought I might lose my left foot. I was grateful that my wife and sons didn't abandon me. I was grateful that I would eventually walk again, not easily, but I would.
I was grateful that my hair would grow back, there's just too much to list, but I was and still am very grateful. I must say that now I am very happy to be alive. My life has changed a lot, but isn't that what life is about? Now I'm involved with helping other burn survivors through the SOAR volunteer program. I enjoy visiting the doctors, nurses and therapists at Regions Burn Center and volunteered to work at the burn injury information booth at the State Fair. I was actually surprised at how many people were interested in my story. I do woodworking again now and have even built and donated some birdhouses for burn fundraisers. I could just go on and on, but basically my life is different now without my fingers, I've had to find new ways to do a lot of things and I'm clumsier and slower than I was before, but I can pretty much do everything I did before my accident again now, and all in all life is good.
Things Scott can no longer do since his accident
1.) Pick his nose
2.) Wipe himself in the bathroom without a stick
3.) Fishing & putting hooks on line, casting normally, baiting hooks, etc...
4.) No longer able to do the extremely detailed & intricate artwork & woodwork he did before.
5.) Cannot run
6.) No longer able to work an airbrush
7.) Unable to work on his truck mechanically or even open the hood with out the aid of a special device.
8.) Unable to tolerate hot & cold temperatures due to skin grafts & loss of sweat glands. Scott is only able to sweat from the top of his head, his groin area & the bottoms of his feet. Thus when it is hot out he sweats profusely in those areas & the rest of his body throbs.
9.) No longer able to ride a motorcycle. My dream is to some day have enough money to get a chopper custom made for him that doesn't require fingers to operate.
10.) This used to be that he couldn't camp and canoe alone anymore, but in the last few years this came off the list because Scott now can camp and canoe on the river again and spends a few weeks enjoying his favorite activity every summer now!
Things Scott Can Do Again!