“Oops, hey, could you hand me that,” he said so calmly with the impeccable, intentional pun. The fellow industrial employee, donning a clever set of overalls, had a stricken look on his face. He bent over to retrieve the item that had landed on the metal grate-like 3-foot narrow suspended walkway. The item was the first’s severed hand.
Picking it up by the thumb, the only part not twitching, he handed it up to his short-handed colleague. It was a large hand with a surprisingly clean cut. The first guy, Woodward, grabbed the hand, politely said, “Thanks” then promptly passed out.
In his collapse he inadvertently propelled the loose hand in a regrettable trajectory landing directly into the now operable industrial compactor. He had been doing regularly scheduled maintenance on the machine and had it working perfectly a few moments too soon. It resulted in the hand being lopped off. In his vast experience-induced overconfidence he had neglected to follow proper lock-in-tag-out safety protocol. [Remove the key to disable the machine before maintenance starts, then install key once completed to restore functionality.] He’d been doing this work for years and felt an unnatural connection with the machinery thinking they would never harm him. Oh well, he won’t do that again.
He was delivered quickly to the hospital. The factory’s loss control manager had called in advance and provided every detail before the medical staff could even ask. The manager, like Woodward, also had vast experience. This kind, however, yielded a cool head and he performed at the top of his game. This exquisite efficiency commingled with the fantastical odds of a recent hand donor on hand [well, the hand, at least, the donor having expired only hours before] had the medical staff immediately prepared for a hand transplant procedure upon the handless gentleman’s arrival.
Woodward was groggy, but well understood the grim circumstances and gravity of the doctor’s query.
“We have a hand, just by chance, ready to be installed. You’re in luck, it is a right hand like the one you’re missing. Would you like us to go forward with the procedure? We can start right away.”
“Yes, yes, please. Thank you, doctor,” came his effusive reply. And so the trouble commenced.
Woodward was a 42-year old 240-pound athletic male. The hand donor had been a 16-year old female of slight build. After the transplant his left and right hands did not match. The two were in visible and glaring opposition. His hairy right forearm met his cute little hairless right hand with a line of demarcation as abrupt and distinct as a colored map designating the borders between two countries.
The first few months after the transplant he would hardly leave the house, aside from his therapy sessions, out of fear of having to explain the embarrassingly dissimilar appendages. There was a professional liability lawsuit against the doctor, naturally, but this was mere background noise to him and his new reality. Eventually, though, he had to get on with his life. Go on, yes, but with modifications.
He stopped shaking hands when greeting people, although his closest pals would insist upon a shake, and frequently. He good naturedly abided the close friends, all others would be met with hand in pocket. He changed from being right-handed to left-handed and, boy, was his new writing atrociously sloppy. He now wore his watch on his left wrist so he’d not have to look at that hand or the bottleneck of the forearm matching up with the tiny effeminate hand. He stopped playing softball because his ineffectively diminutive new hand had difficulty grasping the softball and winging it accurately across the baseball diamond from third base with any velocity.
Driving was another source of frustration. It bothered him to see his hands at 9 and 3 on the steering wheel with the painful difference between the two. He came to prefer wearing gloves while driving, but glove wearing came with its own set of problems. One glove was always too tight or too loose depending on the hand. The idea of buying two pairs of different sized gloves only to throw away one of each was even more infuriating.
Despite these mental drains there was some degree of upside to possessing a smaller hand. If he were to drop something in the car between the driver’s seat and center console, for example, the smaller right hand could more easily resolve the issue of fishing it out from the crevice. In the past this task had often rendered him, with his original pair of beefy hands, into an angry mess unsuccessfully trying to work his large hands into tight confines to no affect. Present day, a mere inconvenience with his slender right hand reaching the target without difficulty.
The one precious development was his infant daughter’s reaction to the new hand. She was in middle school and getting to be a ‘big girl.’ She wanted her independence and the days had become scarce when she willingly held Woodward’s hand walking to school. Since the hand transplant, though, his daughter took a renewed interest. ‘Give me your girl hand,’ she’d often say matter of factly on their approach to the school’s entrance. She liked the smaller, more comfortable hand than his oversized male hand that nearly envelope her own. The ‘girl hand’ was softer and more her size. He would give away nearly anything to reverse the effects of the accident, but this recurring hand-holding allowance rejuvenated his spirits and provided a momentary reprieve from the anguish. He’d walk back to the car with both hands seeing the light of day, not thinking that the girl hand should be quickly shoved into his pocket where nobody could see.
He came to treat it different than the left. The left hand was his brute force or filth hand. It was employed for such tasks as opening a tight jar of pickles, using a thumb nail as a flat head screw driver or reaching in to clean out the rain gutters. The right was his precision hand called into duty to remove a splinter in the absence of tweezers or to retrieve the desired pickle from above mentioned pickle jar.
His right hand remained softer and more delicate through the balance of his days. The malpractice lawsuit against the doctor raged on. He got on with his life.