A Mandolin Incident, First Aid, and Retrospective


I'm not complaining…per se. But of course, it had to happen to me, right? Two days before the A to Z Challenge, wherein I will be attempting a lot of typing, and I slice the daylights out of my right thumb…I won't alarm you with the gory images my sister insisted on taking, but here's one of it wrapped up nice and cleanly:

Darn my craving for homemade baked potato chips! Double darn that super sharp mandolin! I'm never touching that thing again!

This led me to think about something…why hasn't anyone created a mandolin with a ceramic or hard nylon blade instead of a metal one? I mean usually the hardest thing you're going to slice is a root vegetable…you don't need heavy artillery for that. Even mandolins with the guard that holds the vegetable for you needs improvement. In fact, the only reason why I got injured bad was because my guard wasn't holding my potato steady enough and I had to hold it steady with my fingers! It didn't help either that I wasn't speaking to my dad about how great this mandolin was. Oh, sweet irony…you're such a bitch.

So what did I do right after I cut off a corner of my thumb but good? Debated about whether or not to go to the E.R.

It wasn't a small piece by any stretch, but not big enough to worry about throwing it in ice to get reattached. Since a visit to the E.R. would cost me $450 (yeah, this is with the insurance I forced myself to get), I ultimately figured I should lose an actual limb first before I make that trip. What reinforced this idea was what I found out would have happened had I gone. Since an injury like this isn't a cut (the shape of a line), it wasn't going to get stitches. The gap is too wide and being a finger, there's not much skin to pull in for the task. What is usually done is heavy compression on the wound to stop the bleeding because chances are, you've hit an artery (which did happen) and you need to stop the bleeding with heavy pressure.

I happened to have an advantage not too many people do: I had a surgeon for a relative! So I called him up, told him what happened, and then stopped by the house. With my young nieces and nephews running around me asking questions and standing around the kitchen counter watching, my cousin's husband brought out the first aid kit and went to work. As soon as he took off the gauze I started bleeding again. A lot. He dabbed the wound to take a look, which made me want to kick him! Then he took out this little glass tube filled with some purple stuff that my cousin crushed a bit and then he squeezed the contents on top of my wound. What was it? Basically, medical-grade super glue (do NOT “ghetto-ize” this procedure by using actual super glue…that would be very stupid). The ultimate goal for a wound like this is to stop the bleeding, and that's what this stuff is for.

Words can't express how bad this crap stung!! For what felt like eternity, my wound burned as I screamed and hyperventilated. The two oldest of the four children present (they refused to leave…so they asked for it) proceeded to cry.

Then something magical happened. The doc told me to wiggle my other fingers. The second I did, the pain was immediately reduced to a minor ache. Naturally I wiggled like my life depended on it! So after about 5 minutes of sitting there with my thumb being squeezed while the glue solidified, he started wrapping me up again. I saved part of a student loan payment, or 4 paychecks, by going over to a professional I was related to. As I was winding down he showed me his portable surgeon's cauterizing tool (yikes!) that he could have used if he was feeling sadistic enough. But that is an additional option under the circumstances.

All this happened before the Walking Dead season finale. Per his instructions, I was supposed to be able to take off this dressing this morning and leave it alone. My sister and I decided we would just replace the dressing to protect it for about another day…just to be safe. I advise this too, especially if you plan on running errands and being seen in public.

What has this experience taught me?

  • Pay attention when you are using a freaking mandolin!!
  • Wear heavy gloves when operating a mandolin!!
  • Apply direct pressure on this kind of wound to stop the bleeding! Don't be a baby, just do it!
  • Go to the E.R. if you can't stop the bleeding yourself or don't have a competent, dependable relative.
  • Eat lots of protein during your recovery; this will help you heal efficiently and quickly.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to make up for the blood loss, however much that may be. (I lost a relatively small amount compared to other people, but I wasn't going to skip any steps since I decided not to go to the E.R.)


Finally, and most importantly:

It could have always been worse. When we replaced the bandages this morning I wanted to cry when I saw my thumb. It looked like a zombie finger with the dried and fresh blood and discoloration. I thought about how this was going to look once it healed. The word, “disfigured” even passed through my mind at times. And then I realized I was getting way too upset over this. There are people who have lost fingers, limbs, and even more, and I was about to cry over a small chunk of flesh. I didn't even cry when my wound happened. I didn't even cry when it was getting treated. I wasn't about to waste tears over how it was going to look when it finally heals.

Being a woman of faith, there's something I have been keeping in mind lately whenever something goes wrong: Don't complain about your hardships or else God will give you something bigger to complain about. This isn't out of anger or spite. It's about perspective and that's a hard lesson to learn when you're stubborn or set in your ways. I'm glad I only lost a small chunk of my thumb, even as it throbs right now while I'm typing. If I lost my thumb I would be glad I didn't lose my hand. If I lost my hand, I would have been glad I didn't lose my arm. Should I continue?

So…the A to Z Challenge starts tomorrow? Bring it.



26 responses »

  1. Hi! I just did this same thing the other day (Friday morning), slicing squash for my 8 month old. After more emotional pain than physical pain (and there was plenty of that too), it’s bandaged and fairly pain free, but I still have emotional torture of what it’s going to look and feel like once it’s healed. I took a biiiiig chunk off (maybe about the size of my ring finger nail), with at least a little fatty tissue exposed…I didn’t look carefully. I really would love to know how yours healed. What does the scar look like? Is there sensitivity or numbness? Knowing (truthfully) will help me a lot. Thank you so much and I hope you’ll write back. 🙂 crystal99jaxx (at) yahoo

    • Hi Crystal! I’m sorry this happened to you as well! Even though it’s been months, I still get a bit nervous just thinking of getting near that mandolin again lol. You’ll be surprised at how well you’ll heal though. My thumb is fully healed and you hardly see the scar at all (it will be the only area without those grooves that make your fingerprint, but a very small line where the gaping hole used to be). The scar is very smooth, not raised or pitted either. My nail is also fully grown as well, I have no disfigurement, and I believe I lost about the same size chunk as you, so that is a good sign! It’s almost like it never happened.
      As far as sensation, I have found that I am more sensitive in the general area than I used to be. I do face the challenge of feeling it when I might need to pinch something (like opening up medication or tearing open a Gogurt for my nephew), as it aggravates the area. Considering we sliced a finger, the tip of which is especially rich in nerves for our sense of touch, nerve damage along the lines of sensitivity is definitely to be expected. I don’t really have numbness. It’s kind of like since some nerve endings got destroyed in a “clean”, straightforward sort of manner, repair was easy enough and given the location, sensation was reinforced and even enhanced to make up for the damage.
      Even so, I have to say I learned at the end of it just how awesome the human body is. It will do it’s very best to heal up back to normal. You may be very pleased how well you will heal 🙂

      • Thank you so so much for expanding on your experience for me! It really helps ease my mind alot. It seems silly to freak out over a little piece of flesh, and if asked prior to that little injury if I would get so scared of scars and mangled-news I probably would say no (I grew up on a farm and was always hurting myself in little ways). I work as a professional crafter and my hands and fingers are eveything. Thanks again for making me feel better. I’m ordering one of those cut proof gloves from amazon right away!! 🙂

  2. I did this too cutting carrots with my mandolin….

    I luckily didn’t cut the whole til off.

    The stupid thing was that I didn’t put the guard on til I got to the very end of the carrot. And then it was the only part to hold the carrot, not the sliding part for the slicer. Then the carrot slipped, and my hand became the carrot!

    If it wasn’t set on a thick slice I would have cut the tip right off! I then flailed my hand around because it felt as though a hot poker went through… (Still are the salad though extra iron!) I pulled out the pieces that looked like blood got on it but it was just red leafed lettuce.
    A few days later I noticed the blood spurted all the way on the wall above me! I guess you could say it looked like a CSI episode.
    No more carrots for me with the mandolin…
    What I came here to say though was try a product called “new skin” instead of a bandage. Because it is like the superglue stuff and it’s a liquified bandage that’s waterproof. I may have lost a little sensitivity in my thumb due to nerve damage, but that stuff saved me from getting an infection!

  3. Hi! I’m sorry for your cut! The same thing happened to me a few days ago, same right thumb, part of the finger tip with the flesh and part of the fingernail. May I ask you how many days/weeks it took for it to heal – regrow skin so that you can use your thumb without any kind of bandage? An also, how long did you keep bandage on the wound? The doctors put some kind of medical foam on top of my wound to stop the bleeding and I followed up with a doctor a couple of days after the accident, the bandages came out after soaking the finger for a bit, but the foam seems to be stuck there… and I’m afraid to pull too hard on it for fear that it will make me bleed again and make the wound worse… Thanks so much!!!!

    • Hiya! I think it took at least a couple weeks to heal. We used a medical superglue kind of thing for my thumb, and I didn’t mess with it. I definitely wouldn’t take off the foam if I were you, because you’re right, it could start to bleed again. Not to mention, it would hurt since there are lots of nerve endings in that area. I think I waited maybe 2 weeks before I started fidgeting with it and removing it in tiny increments. But it was really because I was being impatient lol. I would stop when it hurt and then wrap it up again. No bleeding at that point though.

      • Thanks so much for your reply! I guess I need to be patient now… It’s not easy because I cannot do much. But it’s amazing how the human body works to heal a wound!

  4. I’m so glad I found this post!! I sliced the tip of my right thumb off last weekend using my mandolin for the first time. It sounds like I have a similar wound to you! Instead of medical superglue or foam dressing, I used Wound Seal powder to stop the bleeding. It stung like crazy but it worked and ended up forming a pretty thick scab. I’ve had it covered with a Tegaderm bandage wrapped in gauze and it’s looking good considering everything! Just curious – how often did you clean your wound during the healing process? Did you continue to use any antibiotic ointment on it? I don’t want to disrupt the powder scab, but I don’t want it to get infected either. I’d love to know how you got yours to heal so well!

    • Hi! I’m glad you found it helpful! Wound Seal powder, huh? Medical technology, man…So in answer to your question, once I had the glue on me, I changed the dressing once a day, and just poured a little hydrogen peroxide over it to try and get the dried blood off. As an extra measure (though in hindsight, I’m not sure it was really necessary since the wound was sealed up and clean already), I did apply a thin layer of standard antibiotic ointment AROUND the wound area before wrapping it up again. But this was every so often, not every day like the dressing. Another thing I did that I’m convinced helped alot, was I increased my protein consumption. Protein is involved in just about every chemical process in the body, and is needed in sufficient quantities to repair tissues. So I definitely suggest you eat a little more of that yogurt, that extra egg, or a few more pieces of tofu, and it’ll help supply your body with what it needs to bring your thumb back to it’s former shape as best as possible.

      • Thank you for replying so fast! Yeah, medical technology is crazy! It’s like magic to have glues and powders that stop bleeding and seal wounds so quickly. For cleaning I’ve ended up doing a saline rinse and antibiotic ointment so far. I’ve been sort of hesitant to use hydrogen peroxide, but maybe I’ll try a little since it worked for you! I will also definitely ramp up my protein intake so this finger regrows. Hadn’t thought of the nutrition aspect to healing, too worried about preventing infection so far 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

  5. Lol just did this tonight, so glad I’m not alone!! After a wonderful trip to the er, I am now home 8 stitches later. First time I ever used the freaking thing, and look what happens! Those darn potatoes, ugh. Never using the tool from hell again!

    • Oh my god, I know!! I feel it in my thumb every time I see someone use one now. Um no thanks. I’ve got this salad maker thing instead. Let THAT thing do the work. 😛

  6. Forget my last comment I just read all of the other ones. I was trying to cut an onion and had the guard on but my thumb exposed. I couldn’t stop the bleeding even with hard direct pressure. I went to er and they tried this special guaze called surgi cell. That didn’t work then they tried cauterization with silver work then they tried cauterization with silver nitrate…that didn’t work either. So they ended up just wrapping it and sending me home. I have no glue or anything on it…I’m concerned that when I go change the bandage the bleeding will start right back up again. It’s wrapped in surgicell and gauze. What do I do?

      • Hi! This happened to me a few years ago. The bleeding stopped but then started again after changing the bandage. The solution? Don’t change the bandage for as long as you can. If the wound was clean when you wrapped it (extensive bleeding actually flushes the wound out), you shouldn’t have to worry too much about infection. Keep it dry if you can (wear a plastic bag with rubber band when showering). Don’t change it even if you get it wet….it will dry back out. That’s what I did and it saved me from lots of extra pain and bleeding. If I remember correctly, my bandage consisted of a piece folded paper towel or tissue covered by several flexible cloth band aids applied snug but not too tight. I kept the bandage on for about a week….dried blood and all. When I took it off the healing had started and no new bleeding. I actually put the chunk I cut off back on right away and it reattached (although I put it on upsidedown). I now have a little oval ‘pad’ there and the sensation is different, but not bad, it kind of feels like a callus. I was traumatized a little when it happened, but looking back see that it was silly.
        I hope this helps and good luck!! 🙂

  7. A mandolin is a small guitar. A mandoline is a kitchen utensil used for slicing foods. There’s no pronunciation difference though.

  8. Hi, I’m quoting you as saying “don’t complain about your hardships or else God will give you something bigger to complain about. ” I guess God is an evil genie in your mind. Job complained plenty in the bible after his horrific event. I find your comment has biblical ignorance and is part of the growing problem of young people leaving the Christian faith. The God you worship sounds more like Satan.

    • And it seems you’ve taken me out of context. Because RIGHT AFTER that comment, I say that it isn’t out of anger or spite He would do this, it would be to teach a lesson much like the kind a responsible parent would teach their child. But thanks for judging me or my faith with little to no knowledge about me. Now that judgment by the way, is very likely also contributing to any young person leaving any faith. Because if you claim to know the Bible and God, and you pass judgement on them, they extrapolate that as a judgement by God, since you seem to be an expert. Then the line of communication to their hearts is cut. Not effective.

  9. I just googled this and your blog was the first search result. I was using my mandolin for the first time today, making au gratin potatoes. Stupidly, perhaps, while also drinking a beer. One minute I was excitedly telling my husband that I’ll make him potato chips sometime, and the next I was swearing like a sailor and screaming. We debated going to the ER, but he’s out getting me some liquid bandage and tegaderm. Ugh. But thanks for giving me some confidence in my decision. It’s already stopped bleeding, so maybe I didn’t slice it as badly as I could have!

  10. Omg. I did the exact same thing. I’m a pediatrician so I used cvs liquid bandage. Also the thumb. Also potato chips.

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