Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why it sucks to be a postal worker...

The charge nurse from the ER calls me and says she is sending over a patient who has come from an Urgent Care center.  "She's chopped off the top of her finger and she's got the finger with her".  

Well, that sounds exciting.  I get everything ready in anticipation.  A bowl of ice, some saline solution,  a ton of gauze and IV stuff.  The patient comes in with her hand wrapped up and a cardboard box.  I get her settled, make sure she is not in pain (the urgent care had properly medicated her), and eagerly open the box.  (Wounds, to me, are like unwrapping Christmas gifts.  I can't wait to see what is underneath the bandages.)  The box holds ice packing and, in a small plastic bag, the tip of her finger, from the knuckle to the tip.  It's pale but properly packed.  I set it aside and begin to unwrap her bandages from her hand.  She turns her head away as I get to the bloody end and there it is:  a chewed up stump at the end of her middle finger.  So cool.

Here's the story:   She's a Filipino lady who works at the post office.  Apparently, they keep their stamps in a locked safe.  It's big and heavy duty.  She is closing the safe and before she can pull her finger out of the way, the safe closes on her finger.  On instinct, she pulls her finger away and realizes that the tip is missing and blood is gushing out of her little stump.  Her co-workers are alerted to her distress.  Problem is, they can't find the tip and realize it must be in the safe.  So they have to have her tell them the combination so they can open it and retrieve it.  The tip is retrieved and sent with her to the urgent care.  (They sent her to an urgent care because it is a "workman's compensation" claim and must go through their affiliated care provider first.  Another glitch in the medical/insurance system.)  

I must say I totally respect the urgent care for their appropriate handling of the "body part" and the fact that they contacted a hand specialist and told him to meet the patient at our facility.  It was successfully (so far) reattached right in the exam room.  Kinda surprised he didn't have to take her to operating room.  We of course gave her proper pain medication as well as prophylactic antibiotics.

I hope she is doing well.  I think she is lucky that this injury occurred at her federal job and she will be completely taken care of as far as bills and compensation go.  I see so many partial amputations from illegal immigrants that never claim it as workman's comp because they are not legally employed by the company.  I even had one guy leave without telling us, his partially amputated finger still dangling.  


Leah Perlingieri said...

like christmas, eh? you definitely have a gift...i wonder if they had to reset the combination of the safe now that eveyone in the office knows it...?

leahsmom said...

I'm so thankful that you have such a good perspective to do the job you are doing. That lady was lucky to have you as her nurse. Keep up the good work. Mom

Hilary Battes said...

I love your stories! Keep them coming!