I had quite the accident just before Christmas while cleaning up after bottling 10 gallons of beer. If I had been aware of what could happen, I might have been more cautious, so I wanted to post my story just in case it helps another homebrewer.
We had just bottled 2 batches of homebrew and I was cleaning everything up. We have 2 carboys, one is a plastic Better Bottle type and one is the standard tempered glass style. I was cleaning out the glass one, basically just doing some final rinsing. Put some water in, swirl, dump and repeat.
I was in mid-swirl when suddenly I felt the carboy breaking apart in my two hands and blood and glass went everywhere. These glass carboys are about 1/8-1/4 inch thick and they don't break so much as explode. They certainly aren't safety glass. I still don't know what happened. I assume I slightly tagged the granite countertop on the edge of the sink. Either that or my wedding band happened to catch the side of it just right.
At this point it gets kinda gross, so stop reading if you have a light stomach. I looked down and my hands were covered in blood, so I washed them off so I could tell how bad things were. I had a number of small oozing cuts, but one rather deep gash in my left ring finger right under the first knuckle. Kristin immediately said, "That's bad, let's get to the emergency room." I wrapped it up in a kitchen towel and applied as much pressure as I could while holding my hand over my head. At this point we realize I can't drive and Kristin still isn't comfortable with a manual transmission. Plus it was snowing and the streets weren't completely clear, so she ran upstairs where fortunately our neighbor was home. He ran us over to the emergency room in his car.
At this point I still don't know exactly how bad things are and I'm entertaining bad scenerios of my bass-playing days coming to an end and my computer career which involves a lot of typing not looking so hot either. My adrenalin is pumping and I feel light-headed in the emergency room, still holding my hand over my head. Eventually a nurse notices my sitting there and calls me back to check after about 20 minutes. At this point we can see the extent of the damage and realize that fortunately, I didn't hit my tendon. But I did hit the main nerve bundle. She attempts to wrap all my fingers with gauze, which doesn't work as the blood just soaks through. So she then wraps just the cut finger and that seems to do the trick. After this, we wait about another 30-40 minutes and I'm finally able to see a doctor. While we are waiting we talk to a very nice nun who is there with a friend who slipped and fell in the snow. She has led a very interesting life and it does help to take my mind off everything at least a bit.
Turns out I need 5 stitches to close it up, so they proceed to irrigate the wound (which was the thing that hurt the most in the whole process). Then they numb up the finger with a bunch of those annoying little pin prick shots around the whole finger, wait 15 minutes and sew me up.
I honestly expected there to be a lot more pain, but I guess because I hit some nerves it minimized it a bit. It did throb a bit here and there, but really nothing that ibuprofen couldn't handle. Fast forward to just about 3 weeks later and it is healing up pretty nicely, the stitches are out and I'm typing with it and using it a bit. Still have to be careful as it is still pretty tender if it gets bumped. Also, I still have numbness in spots on my finger. The ER doc said it would take about 6 weeks to know for sure how much, if any, nerve damage I would have. It's still hard to say. I could live with what I have now, but I'm hoping it keeps improving over the next couple of weeks.
So I feel very thankful that God was watching over me as it could have been much worse. We read stories later of people cutting tendons in multiple fingers, 20 stitches in an arm, that sort of thing. So in spite of everything, I think I got off better than I could have. This is not going to put a damper on our homebrewing, but we quickly decided that we are not going to use anything but Better Bottle plastic carboys from here on out. It's just not worth the risk. There are too many stories similar to mine and why work with an unnecessary risk. The plastic bottles do scratch eventually, but they only cost about $20 so it's not that big a deal. Glass has a few advantages, but not enough to be worth this type of ordeal.
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