A seemingly harmless family tradition of carving Jack O'Lanterns sends at least dozen people to the emergency room every year in Sioux Falls. We have pumpkin carving safety tips from the surgeon who usually repairs those people and a woman who wished she would have followed them.
Lisa Ketelhut says, "My ring finger is the one with nerve damage. See you can poke it and I can't feel it."
Sunday night, October 12th, Lisa was carving pumpkins outside with her family when she cut her ring finger and pinky on her right hand. Two days later and two hours before surgery Lisa tells us, she wishes she had used the safety knives her kids were using.
Lisa says, "They say there's a chance I won't be able to make a full fist again and have numbness in it for a ling time. But this isn't a surprise it happened to me. I'm quite accident prone."
Lisa was using a dull butcher knife with a smooth edge, but it was dull so she was having trouble penetrating the pumpkin. That's when her hand slipped down over the blade severing 2 tendons in each finger.
Dr. R. Blake Curd is a hand and arm surgeon/specialist at the Orthopedic Institute. He says, "At the very least we'd like people to use a serrated knife. It's better than a the ones with a smooth edge because it tends to grab the outer skin or rind of the pumpkin. It works better to saw back and forth instead of a puncture in 1 forceful blow."
Lisa went to the emergency room Sunday night and they stitched her fingers up. She went to Dr. Curd on Monday and on Tuesday morning he is performing surgery on her.
Dr. Curd says, "What we are going to do in surgery is open her wounds up and expose the tendons and repair them using an operating room microscope. We'll also repair the blood vessels and any nerve damage we find."
Luckily, the arteries and nerves in the ring finger looked good after he got in there. He said she was probably not feeling anything because the nerve was traumatized from all the damage around it. Because Lisa, and so many other like her, didn't used the right tool for the job, after she heals from surgery she will have a full-time job of grueling therapy and recovery.
Dr. Curd says, "I tell people I have the easy part, surgery. She has the hard part with occupational and physical therapy. It will take probably 3 months before she can use that hand for normal activity . She'll be in a splint for 6 weeks for intensive therapy to regain strength and the rest of motion. We will allow her to do some forceful grasping around 3 months."
Lisa hopes you'll learn from her mishap so you're Halloween costume doesn't end up being a real surgery gown with lots of stitches to boot.