A Lesson In Gratitude

In retrospect, I had no right doing what I was doing at 5 a.m. on the Saturday that started my week-long Thanksgiving vacation.

Even the nurses and doctors in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital Miramar ignored my blood splattered Gap sweatshirt to ask the question I would answer over and over again that morning.

It all started at 4:30 that morning as I went through my pre-training ritual for a 7 a.m. meeting with my trainer. While drinking a protein shake, I decided to wash the innocent looking casserole dish I’d left in the sink the night before.

Apparently the dish did not appreciate being awoken by a cold shower that early. To get back at me, it jumped out of my hand and onto the kitchen counter, breaking into four pieces.

“Oh, no. I broke the casserole dish,” I lamented as I looked at the shattered remains of the dish I’ve owned for years.

My lament soon turned to curiosity as I saw blood running onto the kitchen counter. I lifted my left hand and saw the ring finger and pinky dangling at a very interesting angle. Something that might or might not have been bone peeked out from underneath.

This can’t be good, I thought as my plans for the week flashed before my eyes.

I always look for something for which to be grateful in every situation. I quickly thanked God my fingers were still attached to my hand.

“I think I have to go to the emergency room,” I calmly screamed into the peaceful slumber of the pre-dawn hour.

Within seconds, I found something else for which to be grateful … two angels who came to my rescue.

One was disguised as a 10-pound miniature dachshund who showed her concern by licking my bare feet as I struggled keep from freaking out. There’s nothing like dog kisses to distract you from whatever you think is important.

The second angel was the partner with whom I’ve shared my life for the past 11 plus years — my calm among the chaos.

“Breathe, keep your arm elevated, apply pressure to stop the bleeding,” I was instructed. I did what I was told and rushed to make myself presentable for my trip to the hand tailor.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked into the emergency room.

“Why were you doing dishes at this hour?” asked the receiving nurse. Before I left the hospital, I would answer that question at least a dozen times.

Thirty minutes, seven stitches, one very happy painkiller and a tetanus shot later, I was sent home with instructions to take my meds, get some rest and call my primary care doctor to remove my stitches in 10 days.

I thanked God for the hospital staff and their nonchalant attitude about my injury. “We’ve seen worse,” they assured me as they took care of me.

I left the emergency room and went directly to Home Depot. There was no way I was going to let something silly like larcerated fingers interrupt my landscaping plans.

If you want service at Home Depot, I highly recommend wearing a blood splattered sweat shirt and a hospital wristband when asking for help. The staff will bend over backward to get whatever it is you want and get you out the door before you hurt anyone else.

The past week has been challenging, but in the big scheme of things, I got off easy. And for that, and so much more, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the sense of humor that kept panic and shock at bay while I pondered what life would be like with only eight fingers.

I am grateful for the people who said “yes” when I asked … “Wanna see my stitches?”

I am grateful for the fact that the injury happened on my left hand and I am righthanded. I am grateful for a newfound appreciation of my left hand.

Have you ever tried to lather your right armpit without using your left hand? I will never consider myself completely righthanded after realizing how much that hand depends on the left for an assist.

I mostly grateful for the fact that my wounds will heal.

But the greatest lesson of all, the one for which I am most grateful, is the lesson of compassion for those who learn to live with injuries and disabilities that make my recent accident seem like a paper cut.

I will never forget Thanksgiving week of 2008 — the week that a broken casserole dish gave me so much for which to be thankful.

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