Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WARNING!! This post contains blood and other shocking things!


Yes, the warning is for real.  If you're a Facebook friend you may have already seen these photos so no need to take another look--unless you want to, that is.  This is really a cautionary tale so it might not hurt to read even if you avert your eyes when the photos come up--they're all at the end to be more easily avoided.

First, let me say that a cautionary tale may begin by mentioning that something might be foolish or even, egad, dangerous to attempt on one's one.   Next the story is told.  And then the fate will emerge... in grisly detail!

This particular tale began to unfold around 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 20, when I went to the studio to spend the afternoon as I usually do, by myself weaving tapestry, doing design work, or other assorted things.  That afternoon a new-to-me loom sat folded up in the studio.  My husband and I had picked it up the night before, a small Baby Wolf loom.  I had several things to do at the studio on Sunday but before I got started I thought I'd see how the loom would fit into the studio when it was unfolded.  My thoughts ran something like this:  "I know how to unfold this loom since I've done it before.  I'll move a few things around and set the loom up quickly to see how much space it will need."  

I knelt at one side of the folded loom and unscrewed the wing nuts holding the bracket on the wheels (the "baby stroller").  Then I went to the other side and took off one wing nut on the corresponding bracket.  Next came the final wing nut to allow the bottom of the loom to be pulled apart.  Suddenly--and I can't even begin to emphasize HOW suddenly--the loom collapsed with my hand somehow inside the frame of the loom. I felt a tremendous pain.  "XX)(@(@(**! I've mashed my hand!!" I thought.  I tried to pull my hand out and then realized I couldn't move it and there was blood--a cut.  Then I saw it was more than a cut--I COULDN'T pull my hand away since I'd been impaled by a metal bracket that was firmly attached to the loom at one side and that went through the back of my hand to extend several inches past my palm at the other side! 

I managed to get one knee under part of the loom to release some of the tension on my hand.  By this point I was screaming.  Of course, screaming behind a locked door and around the corner and several houses away from possible help (my husband) wasn't going to accomplish much of anything--except cause me to hyperventilate.

"I have to call Thomas! I have to call Thomas!" I thought and saw that my phone was maybe within reach at the opposite side of a table near where I was kneeling.  I stretched as far as I could while balancing the loom on one knee and was able to get the tips of my fingers around the phone.  I pulled it closer to me on the table and punched my husband's number.  When he answered, I said "YOU'VE GOT TO COME RIGHT NOW!"  He said, "Are you all right?!" and I said "NO!!!"  The phone went dead as he hung up and ran for the door.  Then I dialed 911 because I was beginning to bleed pretty badly and I knew I'd need more help than Thomas could probably give.  By the time I was telling the dispatcher where I was, Thomas was unlocking the door and rushing in.  

He quickly got pliers and took out the bolt holding the bracket to release it from the loom.  But, it was still through my hand and so he pulled it the rest of the way out.  He ran for a towel, wrapped my hand and told me to grasp it tightly and to hold my hand up.  He helped me into a chair, then called 911 again since we weren't hearing a siren.   As it turned out, there were several accidents in the county about the same time as I was creating my own accident and it took a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

When they got there the EMTs put me on a stretcher and loaded me up for the 30 minute ride to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.  We chose to go there rather than our local hospital because we didn't know the extent of my injury and whether I'd need a hand surgeon right away or not.

As it turns out, the Emergency Department of Northeast Georgia was having an extremely busy afternoon and evening--several stroke victims, car and motorcycle accidents and more.  An impaled hand was low in priority, so we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  At last, around six hours after we arrived one of the doctors was able to treat me.  I'd had x-rays done by then and he felt that bone wasn't involved.  He flushed out the wound, took four stitches inside, then multiple ones on the outside--both on the back of my hand and also in my palm.  He'd called a plastic surgeon, who also does hand surgery, and I was told to see him the next day (yesterday).  

When the plastic surgeon inspected my hand yesterday morning he determined that I didn't need surgery since what was done in the ER on Sunday night would suffice.  He did say that I'll need physical therapy and that my hand may not totally function as it had before.  

But, I'm typing with my hand right now and know that my fingers are working.  I wove a few passes on my tapestry diary this morning--and can do that.  The pain level isn't bad at all.  I have a prescription for antibiotic and also for pain medication.   I've taken only a couple of the pain pills and will try to do without those from this point on.  I cleaned and dressed my hand by myself this morning, and was able to drive the car (although turning the key and shifting the gears is a bit tricky!)   If I can type, hold a pen, pencil, and paint brush to draw or write or paint with, and if I can weave... those things are what I desperately need to be able to do.   And, by the grace of God, I'll be able to do them all, I believe!

So the end of this cautionary tale may not be too gruesome.  Lesson learned?  Perhaps more of the same that seems to always be presented to me--be mindful.  Be aware.  Pay attention to now.  I thought I'd learned the lesson when I fell a couple of years ago and gained a black eye from that experience.  But I needed a reminder.  A refresher course in humility and the need for patience has been given to me.

This is the bracket that impaled my hand.  It's 9 1/2" long, 3/4" wide , 1/8" thick.

The loom collapsed like so.  I was at the left side and balanced the end closest on my knee while I reached for the phone that was at the opposite end of the table that's on the left--can only see one leg of it here.

My hand was impaled by the bracket and wedged here.  The hole at the left is where Thomas took the bolt out to remove the bracket and pull it on through my hand.

Yesterday morning, photo taken with my iPhone as I was getting ready to go to the plastic surgeon.

After the nurse cut the dressing off and left the room for a minute I snapped a couple of photos with my iPhone.  My palm side... 

Top of the hand yesterday.  It looked much better today when I took off the dressing to clean and rewrap it.

The loom as it should be.  My husband and a friend put upright yesterday.

Here's the bracket that wasn't held in place by the black knob when I tried to unfold the loom, causing the collapse.  The end of the right side bracket was what did the deed.  Thomas cleaned the blood off the bracket and the loom and also washed it out of the carpet.  I am so very lucky that he had his phone turned on and that he was still at home rather than at work when it all happened!

I posted a comment in reply to Katie and Jan's thoughts that the loom company should be contacted... here it is, in case you miss it in the comments below:

Thanks to Karen Donde (who is a dealer for Schacht) the company knows about my accident and is taking measures to improve the printed instruction manual to include a clear warning about possible injury when unfolding the loom if the black knobs aren't in place as they should be. Additional warnings will be attached to the loom when it is shipped. Those printed changes are being made right now.

The company is also considering possible solutions to add to the loom as a feature that will make such a collapse impossible.

So if anything good (other than causing me to slow down a bit) comes from this accident it may be that others won't have to have a similar experience in the future!

Thanks to all for you the comments of concern! I appreciate them all very much.


  1. Thanks for posting the details, Tommye. I'm not totally clear on what it was that you did wrong to precipitate this? Do you think the loom is inherently dangerous and that perhaps the company should know what happened and make some change to the design? Or at least include a warning?

    Next time someone starts whining about cell phones I'll tell them your story. Thank goodness yours was within reach.

  2. Oh, Tommye!!!! That is unbelievable! I have a Baby Wolf that doesn't like being folded, but I never dreamed that this could happen. Yes, this is a "wake-up" call for all of us to be more careful!

  3. Dear Tommye-
    This truly is a frightening story. My heart is racing a bit as I type. Thank you for sharing it, and I am relieved to know that you are already "getting back up on the horse that threw you." You are always an inspiration.
    Annette Norviel

  4. My prayers for healing swiftly for you are in the making as we write. Take care of yourself.

  5. I'll bet I know what happened. That knob on the wolf loom screws through the brackets and is supposed to be caught in a small receiver gadget that slides up and down in the slot to fold and unfold the loom. If you unscrew the knob too far when folding or unfolding the bolt/knob disengages from the little receiver, which then falls to the bottom of the slot. It is easy to miss and almost impossible to retrieve. We have only wolf looms in our studio classroom, and sometimes students who are trying to help fold the looms commit the cardinal sin of unscrewing the knob just a little too much. This has always been annoying, but I didn't realize it was dangerous! Schacht should be informed, regardless of whether my assumption is the reason for the collapse. I'm glad to hear your hand is functioning with no apparent permanent damage. Thanks for sharing your scary tale.
    Karen Donde

  6. Oh Tommye , I am so sorry that you went through this! I have a babybwolf with a"stroller"" ( the brackets ) and when undone if the black knobs aren't tight the loom will crash down. This is definitely a design flaw, to say the least. I am relieved that you can do as much as you can with your hand.
    I am thinking of you and hope for fast healing.
    I'm taking pictures of my tapestry tonight and should be posting to tapestry share this week.

  7. Thanks to you all for your comments. Yes, Karen, I think you nailed it. I'm going to review the printed material that came with the loom for warnings of consequences and also look at the Schacht website for further information. I certainly take responsibility for the accident--am not blaming the loom design.

    Lots of people use these looms and most often they're in a situation where there are several people in the classroom or workshop. Folded looms of all types really need at least two people to manage the unfolding, I believe. Yet, I'm one of those (like most of you are) who are ready to have it happen when you're ready to have it happen... and other person/people aren't always around right then. One more part of my lesson, after all, is about patience.

    Maybe, however, the experience will alert at least one other person that they might be hurt with their innocent weaving equipment, whether it's a loom like this or something else!

    And, yes, in this case, Jan, thank GOD for the cell phone! I don't have a land line at the studio and just by happenstance it was close enough for me to reach.

  8. oh, Tommye - what a scary thing to have happen to you and I am all for cell phones..I used to walk for miles without mine and when I almost took a potentially bad fall, I started to take my cell with me...I could have laid in the woods for hours until Bill would have gotten hungry enough to come looking for me. The nurse in me says it looks like you dodged a bullet as the metal went through soft tissue and apparently not much in the way of muscle damage if you are able to do as much as you are now....Speedy recovery, dear.

  9. Good Gawd, Tommye. I'm soooo sorry to see/read about such a bizarre and painful accident. Sheesh. It's my belief, tho, that no matter how much we want to pay attention in order to avoid accidents, they just plain happen sometime. Good that you can type. Good that you wove a bit. Good that you had that cell phone handy. Would HATE for you to have had to knaw your durn hand off. [sorry, hope levity is ok.]

  10. Oh, my gosh, Tommye! I'll be thinking of you and sending healing thoughts your way. Love and hugs, jeanne b.

  11. Oh my, Tommye! Gruesome! Shocking! So glad you can still use your hand! Good luck with recovery! I wonder if the tapestry diary entry will be red?

  12. How dreadful and shocking. You are indeed lucky. I know you will be back to full function soon, and thanks for the warning to us all to PAY ATTENTION.

  13. Tommye
    Sending my love and healing thoughts. So sorry you had to go through this. Best wishes for a very speedy recovery.

  14. What a frightening experience! Sounds like you kept your wits about you through it all, which is admirable. My cell phone would have undoubtedly been in another room. I think I'll try to be smarter about that, based on your awful experience. Give it time to heal well, and take care!

  15. Yikes! My LeClerc Compact has a similar arrangement and Karen's description of what happened makes sense to me.

    Good reminders to all of us to look twice as we work around our equipment.

    And as much as I hate being on an "electronic tether" (aka cell phone), it's yet another reminder of why it's a good idea for me to keep mine in my pocket....especially when I'm alone.

    Hope your healing is quick and complete. And thank you for sharing the warning.

  16. Oh, Tommye, that is horrible. I am so sorry. I hope your recovery is smooth and speedy. I'll be thinking of you.

  17. Ohmygosh, Tommye. I am so glad that the permanent damage appears to be less awful than it could have been, but what a terrifying experience. Thanks for sharing -- I do a lot of assembling, etc. alone in my house, and I will now make sure to have my cell phone within reach.

  18. Yikes, Tommye! So glad the major tendons, etc were spared! I never thought of weaving as a dangerous occupation.

  19. Yikes, Tommye! I'm glad you didn't faint and that your hand seems to be healing well. I didn't know weaving could be so dangerous!

  20. Hi Tommye-- First of all, so sorry about your hand! I've been enjoying your blog and beautiful tapestries for some time now-- not a stalker, just another tapestry weaver, from Cape Cod, and a member of TWiNE. I appreciate your posting this story, and I agree with Jan that Schacht should know that this can happen. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

  21. Katie, Jan and all...
    Thanks to Karen Donde (who is a dealer for Schacht) the company knows about my accident and is taking measures to improve the printed instruction manual to include a clear warning about possible injury when unfolding the loom if the black knobs aren't in place as they should be. Additional warnings will be attached to the loom when it is shipped. Those printed changes are going being made right now.

    The company is also considering possibly solutions to add to the loom as a feature that will make such a collapse impossible.

    So if anything good (other than causing me to slow down a bit) comes from this accident it may be that others won't have to have a similar experience in the future!

    Thanks to all for you the comments of concern! I appreciate them all very much.

  22. Tommye -

    Our sincere condolences about the accident and best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. It would be kinda hard to weave with only one "wing".

    Bobbi Chamberlain and Wes Brubacher

    But here comes the "Wes" half of this duo writing for the benefit of ALL who may read this blog, and from my many years of work rendering FIRST AID as a member of the National Ski Patrol and with our local Fire Department.

    This is NOT intended to lay a guilt trip on Thomas because he did the best he could under the circumstances, but NEVER, EVER try to remove an impaled object from a person until adequate medical help is on scene or you are at a medical facility!! The consequences of such an action can be devastating or even fatal.

    And as much as I hate the proliferation of all the electronic gadgets, the cell phone can be and often is the best and most helpful. Keeping one with a fully charged battery close by - in a pocket, clipped to a waistband or belt or however - can and has saved lives.