The Joy and Pain of Dislocating a Pinkie
If you ever get the chance to dislocate a finger—don’t. I rank it somewhere between passing a kidney stone and having a tooth replaced.
I was playing basketball with my sons, reached for the ball, and—pop!—my left pinkie was suddenly in a place where left pinkies aren’t supposed to be. It had taken off in the wrong direction and skewed farther to the left, effectively making the knuckle disappear. The pop caused intense pain, and when I examined the wounded pinkie, I felt psychic pain. This is not normal. My pinkie usually doesn’t dangle like that. I sweated profusely, felt light-headed, and had to sit on the porch.
A neighborhood kid yelled, “Ah, he only broke a nail!”
I showed him my pinkie.
“Nasty!” he shouted, and he backed away.
My wife thought it was only jammed and asked if she could pull it out and put it back into place.
I showed her the pinkie.
“I’m not touching that,” she said. She, too, backed away.
A dislocated pinkie is a conversation stopper.
I collected my keys, wallet, and cell phone, and off to hospital I went.
Driving isn’t easy if your pinkie is pointing west and you’re in a hurry to go east to the hospital. I hit every red light, and I had trouble finding a parking spot near the emergency room. Evidently, my pinkie chose to go astray on a very busy night.
Upon entering the emergency room, I approached the intake desk. “What seems to be the trouble?” a nurse asked.
I showed her my pinkie.
“Eww,” she said.
It wasn’t very medical of her to say so, but I didn't hold it against her.
“Fill out these forms and wait for your name to be called,” she said. She handed me a clipboard. “Oh, are you left-handed?”
Small mercy. “No.” I took the clipboard.
“Are you in any pain?” she asked.
“Some,” I said.
“We’ll call you back as soon as we can,” she said.
I sat in the waiting area and filled out the form. I wasn’t pregnant, didn’t have TB, and wasn’t currently on any medications, though I certainly needed some. For forty-five minutes, I grossed out several people waiting near me. They saw my pinkie and scooted further away.
I didn’t make any friends that night.
A triage nurse called me to her counter and took my blood pressure. “Ninety-five over fifty-five,” she said. “Not good. On a scale of one to ten, what is your pain?”
“Um, five, I guess,” I said.
“You sure you’re not a seven or higher?” she asked.
“No, I’m a five,” I said.
“If you say ‘seven,’ I can get you back there quicker,” she whispered.
“I’m a seven,” I said quickly.
She admitted me to an exam room, provided me with an ice bag that would later cost $40, and told me to lie down.
“I’d rather sit,” I said. “It’s only my pinkie.”
“Please lie down, sir,” she said. “And keep your pinkie above your heart. Someone will take you back to x-ray in a few minutes."
I didn't see the point of an x-ray. It was obviously out of place.
A few minutes later, another nurse pushed in a wheelchair.
“It’s only my pinkie,” I said. “I can walk.”
“Hospital rules,” she said.
Because of my wayward smallest digit, I rode a wheelchair to x-ray. The x-ray technician flopped my pinkie around four different ways to take its first picture.
An hour later, a doctor brought in my x-rays. My pinkie looked even more detached in black and white.
“It’s not broken,” the doctor said. He pulled out a needle. “I’m going to numb it first.”
“First?" I said. "Before you do what?”
“Before I reset it,” he said.
Finger and hand numbed with the longest needle stick in world history, I watched him maneuver my pinkie into place. I heard no pop. I expected a pop. After all the pinkie had put me through, I deserved to hear something.
The doctor splinted it. “Keep this splint on for six weeks, and then come back so we can start you on some physical therapy.”
“For a pinkie?” I asked.
“It’s more important than you think it is,” the doctor said.
I signed some more forms, drove home, and tried to fall asleep with my pinkie splinted to the ceiling. I only woke up six dozen times.
For six weeks, I missed my pinkie. I had trouble doing the simplest things like tying my shoes, opening bottles, and playing softball. I was easily the politest softball player in our league. I had no trouble drinking hot tea.
I only lasted for ten minutes during my first and only physical therapy session. The therapist, who in a former life had probably been an active participant at the Inquisition, manipulated my pinkie in directions it did not want to go.
“You’ve got to get your range of motion back,” he said.
“I’ll get it back on my own, thanks,” I said. I removed my pinkie from his grasp, and I left. They charged me, of course, for the full hour.
Six years later, my pinkie almost bends as it used to bend, and it only occasionally goes numb. I am glad my pinkie is back where it should be. Otherwise, I couldn’t type my A’s, Q’s, and Z’s or press the shift key to type this. After eight more novels and a million more words, my pinkie is still going strong and will continue to ... as long as I don't play any more basketball.