I Was Bitten by the Family Dog and I Needed 50 Stitches on My Hand. (Graphic)

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I’m left with 50 (external!) stitches on my left hand as a memento of Singapore 2014. Wow. 50. I actually felt pleased at how neatly sutured my wounds were upon revealing the bandages, but I am now feeling rather appalled at the sheer number of stitches that exist on my hand. It’s a horrific-sounding number. Granted, the hand is a delicate instrument and stitches have to be finer, but still. It sickens me to think of that specific quantity.

Let me share my tale of being hospitalized for 5 days during the Christmas holidays.

 

• 22/12 — Dog Bite
23/12 —First Surgery
24/12 — The Reveal
25/12 — Christmas Day
26/12 — Second Surgery + Discharge

This may be the most physically and emotionally traumatic experience I’ve ever had. My parents’ dog bit my hand, unprovoked, for approximately seven seconds. When I think about the exact time I was bitten, my body reacts physically, and I feel nauseous and start to tremble. Staring unstudied aggression in the eye, immobilized by sharp canine teeth — unsure if the beast was going to let go, continue holding on or ravage my face — made it a very horrifying seven seconds. When it finally released me, my left (non-dominant, thank goodness) hand was bleeding, badly. Blood oozed out of chunked out holes on the back of my hand, while exposed flesh tore through my soft inner palm. My hand was, in short, mangled.

I managed to keep it together, run my hand under a tap (which you’re NOT supposed to do with deep wounds) and call an ambulance. I remember kneeling on the ground, my curled body heaving with each gasp, gripping my dripping wrist with as much strength as I could muster while my vision throbbed. But once I was at the hospital, a dam of emotions broke.

In the ER.

I bawled to the EMTs who stayed with me for a few after dropping me off. I was scared. Scared I’d get rabies. Scared I couldn’t do normal, everyday things anymore. Scared that I can’t feel all the things I like to touch — my lover’s skin, sumptuous fabrics, pliant cookie dough. Scared that my hand would look like a distorted, melted, rubbery version of its former self. Scared that now no one would put a ring on it. But most of all, I was in pain. My hand was burning in a consuming pain so foreign that I felt like it was at once separate from but also all of me. I would rate it an 8 on the pain scale, given that my worst ever pain was cervical cramps and for the whole time I literally couldn’t think about anything else but how to manage the pain. That gets a 9 because I’m saving 10 for childbirth. The pain from the bite was protracted but at least it ebbed and flowed and I could occasionally contemplate ridiculous things like how my scarred hand might enhance certain bedroom activities. Silver lining, right?

After I had been seen by the EM doctor (who ascertained that I needed to be admitted due to the depth of the puncture wounds and lacerations and get an X-ray lest fragments of dog teeth are lodged in my hand), I was parked in a holding area with other patients.

 

One of the three holding areas I was parked at.

Along with the fear, anxiety and pain, I now needed to pee, something fierce. I told a nurse, who acknowledged and then ignored me. In the grand scheme of being triaged, having to pee is not dissimilar to encountering a corpse beyond medical assistance — neither fulfill the dual criteria of importance and urgency.

 

I bounded out of the stretcher propelled by my full bladder while simultaneously dead-weighted by a general sense of disorientation, reaching the bathroom in good time. I got my first taste of the one-handed life. Buttoning up tight shorts is slightly challenging with just one hand.

About three hours after seeing the EM doctor, about 11 pm, I was finally warded. By then, the local anesthetic the EM doctor gave me had worn off and I was writhing in agony, sporadically combusting into hot tears. I wondered what my bunk mates thought. There was a stoma cancer patient, a granny who had underwent hemorrhoid removal surgery and a tourist who had unexpectedly fainted. (These details are inferred, not guaranteed.) I probably disrupted their sleep by whimpering and rustling the sheets a whole lot.

22/12 — Dog Bite
• 23/12 — First Surgery
24/12 — The Reveal
25/12 — Christmas Day
26/12 — Second Surgery + Discharge

I finally got some painkillers in the next hour and fell asleep only to be promptly awoken at 2:30 am by the hand surgery attending and a resident. They unwrapped the bandages holding my flaps of meat together, and began prodding and pricking it my hand.

(Click for images of the actual wounds, back and palm. Sorry about poor picture quality. These photos were taken after being bandaged twice, hence the blood smears. I considered snapping photos while waiting for the ambulance but I couldn’t stand how Gen Y I was being so I didn’t.)

I felt like my unbridled tendons were going to spring out with all the hand gymnastics they were making me do, like pointing and Vulcan salutes. Yes, my fingers feel numb. Yes, my thumb remains opposable — thank goodness I retained my evolutionary advantage. They’re going to debride the wounds first thing in the morning, they said. They’ll have to cut away some of that mangled meat, extend the main lacerations further to properly dig for any damaged nerves/tendons then stitch it up internally, leave the wounds open for a few days before stitching the skin closed to ensure there’s no remaining contaminated tissue. They also told me I have a metacarpal fracture, and while this undisplaced fracture alone wouldn’t necessitate surgery, they may stabilize it during debridement anyway since my hand is already going to be inside out. *gulps*

I find it amusing how the specifics of my injury seems so blindingly obvious but in actual fact requires an eyesore of a purple arrow drawn on my skin for the operating room (OR).

7 am arrives, the ward lights blare on and the next shift of nurses are briefed. “Prep bed 38 for surgery, patient had a dog bite to her right hand and is undergoing debridement.” I make eye contact and wave my intact right hand. “Oops, must have been a typo,” the nurse glosses over.

There’s an unprecedented sense of expediency being carted from the ward to the OR, probably because ORs run on very tight schedules. The main reason I had to wait till morning to get debrided was supposedly because of this gridlock. They also put me in one of those surgical gowns that don’t help preserve modesty. And oh, you also want to fast before general anesthesia so you don’t choke on your own regurgitate. Nuances, huh?

22/12 — Dog Bite
23/12 — First Surgery
• 24/12 — The Reveal
25/12 — Christmas Day
26/12 — Second Surgery + Discharge

A day after my first surgery to debride the wound (or as I like to say, cut off my fucked up meat) the hand surgery residents were rounding over my bed. Now was the time for the great reveal. Will my hand be healing well enough for the second surgery to close the wounds up?

Layers and layers of bandage were slowly unraveled. Blood-stained gauze started to peek through.

My hand, in its naked glory, looked like a blanched, overstuffed tenderloin. The edges of the laceration were pruny and pale, much like your fingertips after a long bath. But the opening flowered open and outwards, revealing the muscles and fat inside like an overstuffed piece of meat.

(If your appetite has been whet, image sources are as follows: Beef Wellington, Pancetta-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin, Porchetta)

My hand was yellow-tinged and bloated swollen. It really didn’t look too appetizing. How is that thing attached to my body? Ugh. Fortunately the bad news was only aesthetic and treatment would continue as planned.

22/12 — Dog Bite
23/12 — First Surgery
24/12 — The Reveal
• 25/12 — Christmas Day
26/12 — Second Surgery + Discharge

Christmas was unremarkable. Fortunately I’m a heathen so it didn’t bother me that I couldn’t celebrate it. On the 25th, I drifted in and out of sleep a lot. My parents and YK visited on Christmas. Combining my parents’ food with Erica’s snacks, I probably ate too much for my caloric output. I IMed sympathetic friends with my good hand.

My hands — one useless stump and one debilitated by a painful IV catheter

Other than that, I dreaded the intravenous antibiotics administered through my right hand every eight hours. My veins felt like they were going to burst from the syringeful of fluid pressure that I somehow end up tasting in the back of my throat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

22/12 — Dog Bite
23/12 — First Surgery
24/12 — The Reveal
25/12 — Christmas Day
• 26/12 — Second Surgery + Discharge

The second surgery was definitely more of a time crunch. They opened my bandages again to make sure it still looked fine, and wrapped me up in green paper, all festive against the blood-red surprize inside.

Evokes Furoshiki, the Japanese wrapping cloth, doesn’t it?

I waited in the antechamber of the OR for a good 2 hours, dozing off under a heated wind-inflated blanket to the sound of mechanical saws whirring behind me. Whose and what bone was being chopped up? The procedure before me had gone on longer than expected, I was informed, and they’re just going to give me a little anesthetic right now before we enter the OR. The next thing I knew I was in the post-op holding area, feeling confused. My first surgery went a little more fluidly. (Here’s a fun video of someone knocking himself out with propofol.)

I felt a little mixed about being discharged so abruptly after my second surgery. The hospital felt safe, safer than my parent’s house with an aggressive, untamed dog. I proceeded to spend the rest of my vacation being super ratchet and lethargic. I dreamed that multiple dogs were attacking me for holding a wine bottle. I was faintly haunted by the idea of my remaining phalanges being accidentally severed off by a slammed door or window. These traumatic imaginings are reduced now that I am now back in my apartment, warm under a Snuggie on the couch, the scent of sandalwood and vanilla filling my cozy home.

Today, my injuries are doing better. My skin is now water-resistant although my joints feel very rheumatic still. I commenced physical therapy, and I can now make a very feeble ‘OK’ sign while I still struggle to touch my thumb to all my other fingertips.

Thanks to everyone who extended your care and condolences. I appreciate your empathy and your acts of service. I greet 2015, content to be home alone albeit maimed, and I’m excited to have you see more of my writing in the coming months. ☺

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The Author

Singaporean in NYC, analyzing relationships with a boozy brownie in hand.

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