Many times while climbing I've lost my balance and grabbed a nearby rock to steady myself, but this time I jarred my hand. Even so, I was expecting only a minor injury. Instead I was shocked when I saw my finger. The end was bent back and sideways and across the inside top joint there was a gash so deep that instead of seeing red blood, I saw white connective tissue. The blood would soon come.
Shin and I were coming down Summerlin Peak at the time. He had to leave later in the day for a backpacking trip, but he had time to take me up this little mountain on the west edge of the city.
After parking at a picnic area on Cliff Shadows Dr, the trip starts up a rough road. After hiking up it for 1.5 km, we left it and ascended the northeast ridge. Although steep, there was little scrambling. After making it to the top of the ridge, we had to lose 30 m before reaching the summit. Although a minor peak, Summerlin had some good views. Following a 45-minute stay on the top, we headed back down. Hurrying down, we were well down the mountain when I slipped. I was using trekking poles but hadn't planted my right pole when I lost my balance. Reflexively, I thrust out my right hand and injured my ring finger on a razor-sharp volcanic rock.
When I showed Shin, he was immediately concerned and said a hospital was only a few minutes drive away, so close I decided against administering first aid. The bleeding was slight and I felt no pain. My right hand was now useless, so I gave one pole to Shin and I continued down using a pole in my good hand. Once we reached the road, we ran all the way back to the car.
I handed Shin the keys, but before driving away, I checked my finger and noticed it had stopped bleeding. Then to Shin's horror – he can't stand the sight of blood – I insisted he take a picture of my hand. He snapped a few photos, all the while groaning and rolling his eyes.
By this time pain had set in, but it was so mild that it barely registered. (Pain was never an issue with my finger except when they flushed the wound under tap water at the hospital. That stung!)
We arrived at the hospital at 12:15, a little over half an hour after the accident. Coincidentally, the hospital shares the same name as the peak we had climbed: Summerlin Hospital.
I was admitted immediately. Since I'm right-handed, Shin helped me fill in a form. Afterwards, he stayed in the waiting room while a nurse took me to an adjoining room. She took my blood pressure and temperature, and then showed me to a cubicle down the hall. I spent the next few hours being administered to with long waits in between.
First, a doctor came to see me. After I related the events and after he inspected my finger, he told me they would need to take x-rays to determine if my finger was broken or dislocated.
I was puzzled by what happened next. A male nurse came and pushed an IV needle in my arm and withdrew a few tubes of blood. I wondered why they would need blood samples for a minor injury. It was, I was told, a routine procedure. He left the needle in my arm.
He returned later with a sterile solution and gauzes, and I spent several minutes cleaning the blood off my hand. Before I was finished, a technician rolled a machine up to my cubicle and took three x-rays of my finger. The x-rays would take half an hour to develop.
I hadn't seen Shin for over an hour and I was concerned. He had to get ready for his backpacking trip and meet his friends at 6:00; I didn't want him to be late. I had him paged and he soon showed up. (He had gone to visit some friends in the hospital, one a patient and the other two, Marianne and Andy were visitors.) Shin assured me he still had plenty of time before he had to go.
The doctor came back with the results of my x-rays: my finger was merely dislocated. He yanked my finger back into place and it looked good as new. Except for the gash. I must have cut it on a sharp rock. Since it was deep, the doctor worried about infection. He decided not to stitch it as that might trap bacteria inside my finger.
After more waiting, my nurse came around and gave me a tetanus shot. He then administered antibiotics intravenously using the IV needle that had been sticking in my arm for the last couple of hours. It took twenty minutes to empty the IV bag.
Finally I was done. My nurse bandaged my finger and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I was shown to a desk where a hospital administrator had me sign an endless stream of papers. Before I left, the administrator asked if my IV needle had been removed (it had). Apparently it's not uncommon for patients to leave with the needle still stuck in their arm. At 4:30, after spending more than four hours at the hospital, Shin and I left.
Two weeks have passed since the accident and my finger is doing fine. I'm grateful to Shin for taking me to the hospital and waiting there until I was released. Incidentally, he made it to his backpacking meet on time – just barely.
Postscript: My insurance covered most of the $3,676 hospital bill and the $1,134 doctor's bill – expensive doctor as he spent less than 15 minutes with me. I also got a bill from the radiologist for $24. Then there's the matter of the blood I spilled on the hospital floor: I'm expecting a clean-up bill from the janitor.
Hiking up the road toward Summerlin Peak
Unknown bird on a yucca
We leave the road and head across the flats.
Shin heads to the slope in front of him.
Desert tortoises are a rare sight: they spend 95% of their lives underground. This one,
a juvenile, was about 2 inches long (mouse over for another view).
We'll ascend the ridge ahead and then cross the gap to the summit on the left.
Near the ridge crest
On the ridge crest: we'll go right, losing 30 m, before going to the summit on the left.
Shin tests the sharp points of a Joshua tree below the summit.
My finger at the hospital (mouse over for another angle, before I removed the blood)
Blue Diamond NE 1:24,000 Topo (4.8 mi, 5065 ft, 2119 ft)
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