It’s one of Mini First Aid’s mantras – “If blood can get out, then germs can get in”. Unfortunately, Natasha Terry found this out the hard way when a nasty cut almost resulted in her losing her finger. In this week’s blog we find out what happened to Natasha, and give you the advice you need if yourself or a family member suffers a nasty cut.
Hi Natasha, thanks for chatting to Mini First Aid - can you tell us what happened when you cut your finger?
I was doing the housework and hoovering behind some house plants when I found a broken bottle which my husband hadn’t properly cleared up! I picked up the broken bottle and it cut my finger in the top bend, or flexor. But then I was really unlucky because I slipped, pushing the bottle further into my finger! I felt a slight “pop” in my finger but being a busy young mum to 3 young boys and numerous pets I chose to ignore it . . .
Ooh, it sounds a bit grisly – what was the “pop”?
I know now that it was because the glass had gone through to the tendon sheath, which is a protective lubricated layer around the tendon.
So effectively you’d pierced through to a tendon?!
Yes! But I actually work in the medical profession so I guess I just took it in my stride and as I then managed to successfully remove the glass in one piece I wasn’t worried.
The wound was actually quite small but it did bleed a lot. I cleaned it up but unfortunately I didn’t have any plasters to hand so I couldn’t cover it.
Did you just carry on with the housework then?
Yes, busy as ever - I needed to sort our pet chickens out and typically it was raining! As I opened the chicken house door some water ran into the wound. It was stinging really badly but it was almost time for the school run and being a busy mum, you just carry on don’t you? It was very sore, but nothing completely out of the ordinary.
What happened next Natasha?
The next morning I was in work and as I work in operating theatres I gave the wound a really good clean and covered it with a plaster. Obviously I didn’t realise at the time, but an infection was brewing in the tendon sheath inside my finger.
This image shows Natasha's swollen, "locked" finger, 3 days after the intital cut
That sounds nasty. When did you first start worrying that something wasn’t right?
I cut my finger on Thursday but by Sunday evening it had swelled to twice its normal size and had “locked” in a bent position. It was extremely painful and red and I now realised it was serious. I made the decision to deal with it in the morning as it was really late by this time.
Did you go to hospital?
Yes but again, being a mum, I have responsibilities so after dropping the kids at school I drove myself to A&E. I had to have an X-ray to check there was no glass left in the wound which there wasn’t. Luckily, they were able to get me into theatre that afternoon and following that I was put on a course of intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
As you can see on the picture (complete with dried black blood!), they made 3 cuts during the surgery – 2 across the finger flexors and one across my palm. This was so they could insert a cannula to flush out the infection with sterile saline. So from what started as a tiny cut, I’ve had to have 3 much larger ones to fix it!
I can’t believe how bad it got Natasha! How long were you in hospital for?
6 days! As well as the IV antibiotics, I had to take oral antibiotics 4 times every day, as well as a trip back to theatre to flush out the tendon sheath again. By the third day I was really frustrated and missed my children so much.
What was the recovery process once leaving hospital?
I left hospital with a bagful of antibiotics to take 4 times a day for a further 2 weeks. I was due to go on holiday the following week so was just so relieved to be told I could go!
Although I was allowed to take the bandages off as soon as I went home, I kept my hand covered for a few more days – once bitten, twice shy as they say!
As you can see from the picture, my finger has healed really well to look at. However, it’s a few months on now and it often becomes stiff and painful.
Do you have a message for other people Natasha?
Make sure you have plasters at home at all times and take the time to cover cuts. I thought I was too busy to take the time to look after the wound properly, but 6 days into a hospital stay I could really have done without, you regret those decisions. I was told I was really lucky to not have lost my finger due to gangrene (when a loss of blood supply causes body tissue to die). I could even have developed life-threatening sepsis! Just make sure you cover a cut, however small - the alternatives are not worth it.
Mini First Aid’s advice for dealing with a cut
So what should you do if you find yourself in a situation like Natasha’s?
Removing a foreign object from a wound
As you have read above, Natasha is a medical professional so she removed the glass that was stuck in the wound herself.
HOWEVER, Mini First Aid’s advice is that you do not attempt to remove a foreign object yourself (the exception being a small splinter), whether it is you that is wounded or a family member or friend. This is because the object embedded in the wound is actually stemming bleeding, as well as preventing infection getting in. Instead, seek medical assistance whist applying indirect pressure to the wound ie pressing on either side of the cut. You may require an X-ray if the foreign object is deeply embedded, and the object will be removed under controlled and hygienic circumstances.
Dealing with a minor bleed
Your absolute priority here is to prevent infection from an open wound, however minor.
But first you need to stop the bleeding. To do this you need to apply pressure to the bleeding area, using a clean, absorbent material - think a sweatshirt or a folded clean tea towel. You’re waiting for the blood to clot, so keep checking if it has stopped by gently removing the absorbent material.
Next, move on to cleaning the cut, using a non-alcohol wipe from your first aid kit or fresh water where available. To prevent germs getting into the open wound, start from the centre of the wound and work outwards.
The final step is to cover the cleaned wound with a plaster and keep it as dry as possible, replacing the plaster as necessary until the wound has healed. Don’t forget to give your child a Mini First Aid Bravery Sticker, found in our first aid kits.
Thanks so much to Natasha for sharing her story with us. As the final word, I’m going to repeat our Mini First Aid mantra again:
“If blood can get out, germs can get in”.
Make sure you clean and cover, so you and your loved one don’t end up like poor Natasha next time you get a cut!
All the best, Charlotte
Every home should have a family first aid kit
This is our award winning family first aid kit, jam-packed with 116 first aid items for dealing with cuts, bumps, splinters, sprains, burns and breaks. It's an absolute must for the home but we would also recommend you have one for holidays and the car.