Another Smashed Fingernail
Nov 15, 2009
First off, this is not a recommendation or endorsement. It is merely a report of my personal experience with a common problem for those of us who work with tools and are incredibly clumsy.
Yesterday the fingernail on one of my fingers got between a fast-moving piece of metal and the side of a combine feederhouse frame. The fast-mover was a hammer. You can guess the result--lots of jumping around, lots of yelling and a few whimpers once I figured out that all the yelling was after-the-fact and not going to change the situation. Which was that my fingertip was rapidly turning purple beneath the fingernail. Being the stoic, manly-man that I am, I accepted the consequences of my clumsiness, finished the repairs, and ended the day with a throbbing finger. Smashed fingernails are common in my job, so I resigned myself to 24-to 36-hours of intense pain and a week or so of discomfort.
But this smashed fingernail was more intense than most I've experienced, and by 2 a.m. I was still unable to sleep. So I fired up the computer and checked the internet for information about an old carpenter's remedy for smashed fingernails. I've heard for years about guys drilling or melting holes in their fingernails to release the pressure and reduce the pain of a smashed fingernail. And there it was--precise instructions on how to use a heated paperclip to relieve the pressure. There were internet entries from doctors and emergency room nurses that said it was a commonplace, safe and effective "cure." Heck, there were even YouTube videos of guys using the procedure on themselves.
So at 2:30 this morning I was at the bathroom sink with an unfolded paperclip clamped in my mini-ViseGrips. The small butane torch I use to heat-shrink electrical connectors was burning blue and hot on the edge of the sink. The purple, throbbing fingernail had been sterilized with alcohol then wiped clean. In a burst of amazing courage I heated the tip of the paperclip glowing red and held it gently against the most purple part of the fingernail. There was a faint hissing sound, an odd burnt odor, and suddenly blood spurted from the tiny little hole. Once the bleeding stopped, I applied more antiseptic, installed a Bandaid, went back to bed and found blissful sleep. This morning the fingertip is sore, but no longer throbbing with each heartbeat and MUCH less painful than it was mere hours ago.
Again: this is not a recommendation or endorsement. I am a mechanic, not a doctor. A CLUMSY mechanic who will most certainly now carry a few paperclips in the medical kit he keeps in his toolbox.