The Shirt Off His Back

So there we were, flying down a sweet, single track trail called Blue Collar, laughing and chattering away as we dipped and dodged around trees.

The sweet single track of Blue Collar with Jerry, Steve, Farley and Todd (photo credit: Todd Gallagher)
The sweet single track of Blue Collar with Jerry, Steve, Farley and Todd (photo credit: Todd Gallagher)

After a 4 km climb, we were soaking up the descent. I always think that my eye muscles will be the most fatigued muscles after a speedy descent as I try to anticipate each footfall and negotiate all those roots and rocks. These shorter, mid-week runs with friends are probably my favourites. There is no pressure to put in long hours; the purpose is simply to enjoy being out after a day of work.

We reached the reservoir and the flat, gravel service road that runs around its perimeter. As usual on the boring flats, my focus waned and I began chattering away to Farley, our group’s loyal trail dog. Next thing you know, I caught my trailing toe on an embedded rock and I was flying through the air, Superman-style. I almost saved myself from the fall, managing to get three or four more quick steps in as an attempt to recover my balance, but alas …

The full impact of my fall went onto the top of my right hand, near my pinky finger. Since I was holding a hand-held water bottle, my fingers wrapped under my hand so the knuckles of my right hand slid and scraped through the rough gravel. I lay on the side of the road with my eyes closed and tried to assess the damage. Still with my eyes closed, I decided it was nothing more than a bad scrape. When Steve and Todd came back to where I lay, I realized that I was holding my injured hand so tightly that they couldn’t see what had happened. As soon as Todd peeled my left hand off of my right, Steve said,

“It looks okay. Just a couple of stitches.”

Before I even had time to take a peek or disagree, Todd had removed his sweaty running shirt and bound up my injured hand with it.  With MacGyver-like finesse, he used my hand-held water bottle strap and cinched his shirt tight against my hand.

Ingenious and resourceful bandaging was in place within moments of my fall.
Ingenious and resourceful bandaging was in place within moments of my fall.

Together we walked the remaining 4 km back to the trailhead and they kept me amused with stories and jokes. Todd followed me as I drove my car (automatic!) and made sure that I went directly to the hospital. Not only did he pay for my parking, but he also escorted me into ER, sat with me in triage and coerced his work colleagues to take extra good care of me. Only after I was settled in, waiting for an examination, did he heed my request to leave.

When the ER doctor gave the okay, I unwrapped my scraped hand and finally saw the extent of the damage. A sharp rock had gouged a flap across that pinky knuckle and filled it with dirt and grit.

Some of that grey is dirt but some is bruising starting to show its colours.
Some of that grey is dirt but some is bruising starting to show its colours.
Gruesome gash filled with grit.
Gruesome gash filled with grit.

I had a few x-rays, which thankfully showed no broken bones, had a good wire-brush scrub (with freezing thankfully) and then was sewn back together with 10 stitches. I didn’t tell the doctor of Steve’s pending bet of 3 stitches until she had finished her work. The pinky knuckle  was the hardest hit, requiring 5 stitches and the next 2 knuckles shared the rest.

This day #2 pic shows the 10 stitches and the nasty swelling.
This day #2 pic shows the 10 stitches and the nasty swelling.

Yesterday, day #2, the rest of my body felt like I had been in a bar fight, with a sore shoulder, knee and elbow. I unwrapped the bandage and found that my hand was unrecognizable with the swelling. My knuckles are blackish purple and the skin of my hand is stretched to its limits. I have very little mobility in those two last fingers and the throbbing forces me to keep it elevated.

Chubby Knuckles!
Chubby Knuckles!

How lucky I am to have friends who don’t hesitate for a moment in this kind of situation? To literally be given the shirt off his sweaty back is a gift I’ll not forget.

It is perfect running weather today so I think I’ll head out onto the trails. I wonder if my running buddies are free.

Published by

Along A Path

general lover-of-life, including ultra-running, teaching, enjoying craft brews, being outdoors and living simply

2 thoughts on “The Shirt Off His Back”

  1. It was sweaty (the t-shirt)!!! Nothing like a little salt in your wound! Lol. Always good to have a nurse along on runs! I’m sure if it was the other way around you would have been equally as helpful. The community of trail runners is a special group of tough, gritty, kind and caring people and it’s a big part of why I enjoy it so much.

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