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When DIY turns into a nightmare


The summer season and its Sunday DIY-ers can lead to a high number of finger amputation accidents.


Héloïse Archambault
Sunday, 28 July 2019 01:00 am
UPDATED on Sunday, 28 July 2019 01:00 am

The use of sharp tools during summer renovations can quickly turn into a drama for DIY-ers and about one hundred workers suffer amputations each year after misusing a tool. 


"The consequences are pretty terrible," says Dr. Joseph S. Bou-Merhi, a plastic surgeon from the University Hospital of Montreal (CHUM).


"Losing two or three fingers can have catastrophic consequences for the rest of your life. It will really affect you. Every single day," he adds.
This summer, many Quebec residents will make the most of the weather to carry out carpentry work. However, in split second, their fingers could be sliced off by a circular saw or log splitter.


Every year, about a hundred patients are hospitalized after suffering an amputation, according to the data from the CHUM Centre for Expertise in Surgical Reattachment (CEVARMU); 89% are men.

surgeon

"The weather is fine and people are starting their summer DIY work. [...] The log splitters come out. People living in Quebec like splitting wood!" Says Dr. Bou-Merhi, director of CEVARMU.


"The machines have safety features, but they’re also very unforgiving and hostile," he says.
Today, DIY handymen have as many accidents as construction and carpentry professionals.
Contrary to what you might think, the victims are often very experienced.


The desire to get the job done quickly


"When someone has just bought a machine, they’ll read the manual and use the all safety catches and features,” says the surgeon. “These kinds of accidents always happens to more experienced workers who know the machine but want to get the job done quickly.”


Surgical reattachment of a finger can be carried out up to 12 hours after amputation if it’s in reasonably good condition.


CEVARMU is a unique Quebec clinic: all patients who need to undergo an amputation or surgical reattachment are transferred there. A team of 14 surgeons take turns to be on call around the clock.

Although the success rate of reattachment is now very good, the consequences of amputation last for life, with frostbite in winter, stiffness and pain: the patient never recovers 100% in terms of their abilities.


"The consequences after the accident are terrible for work, leisure and winter sports. The rehabilitation period takes six months to a year," says the surgeon, who hopes that prevention will help to improve the accident rates.


Patients hospitalized following amputation:


2019-2020*: 30

2018-2019: 70

2017-2018: 98

2016-2017: 110

2015-2016: 81

2014-2015: 105

89% are men

58% are between 35 and 65 years of age

27% are under 35


Most common amputations: fingers, hands, wrists
Tools involved: table saw, circular saw/round saw, log splitter, snow blower

Source: CEVARMU* from April 1st to July 18th

What you need to do to save your fingers

steps

A saw table and three amputated fingers

old man

A 54-year-old carpenter who had three fingers amputated in an accident in February fears he won’t be able to recover the dexterity he needs to continue his job.


"I never had a hard time finding work because I was skilled and good at what I did. But I find it impossible to work effectively with my fingers in this state,” says Pierre Hamel. “I’m worried that I can’t perform to the same standards as before.”


With 25 years of experience, this carpenter never thought he’d experience the type of work accident he suffered last February 26th in Joliette.


"A miter saw and table saw are the two most dangerous tools. I have always been careful when using these," vows the 54-year-old.


While cutting a wooden board using a table saw, he cut off three fingers on his right hand (protected by a glove) in a fraction of a second. 

However, only his index finger was completely cut off. The tip of his thumb was also damaged.


"The pain was like a burning hot brand sticking to your skin. It doesn’t stop," he says.

Incomprehensible


Even today, Mr. Hamel in unable to understand what happened.


"I was always very careful and yet it happened to me," he sighs.


"But, there’s no point living in the past. It’s simply futile," says the Granby man.


The same evening, Mr. Hamel underwent an operation to reattach his fingers at the University Hospital of Montreal.


"The only thing I could think of was getting my fingers back," he says, still clearly upset.


As it turned out, grafting back his ring finger wasn’t successful, but in the circumstances, it could have been far worse.


"It's easy to make a fuss, but there are people far worse off than me," he says.

Returning to work?


Five months later, Pierre Hamel is still recovering and attending rehab sessions.


He hopes for a progressive return to work next September, although he’s worried about his dexterity.


"I have to be able to hold and drill the items I work on, not just use my strength," he says.


Although he knows he won’t recover 100% of his strength, he’s trying everything he can to improve his situation


"I'm able to face reality, I know things won’t ever be like they were before.”

When DIY leads to amputation


Héloïse Archambault | Montreal Journal

| Published on 28 July 2019 at 5:53am – Updated on 28 July 2019 at 5.58am

The use of sharp tools during summer DIY work can quickly turn into a drama for those carrying out home improvements. Around one hundred workers suffer amputations each year after misusing tools.


"The consequences are terrible," says Dr. Joseph S. Bou-Merhi, a plastic surgeon from the University Hospital of Montreal (CHUM).


"Losing two or three fingers can have catastrophic consequences for the rest of your life. It will really affect you. Every single day," he adds.


This summer, many Quebec residents will make the most of the weather to carry out carpentry work. However, in split second, their fingers could be sliced off by a circular saw or log splitter.


Every year, about a hundred patients are hospitalized after suffering an amputation, according to the data from the CHUM Centre for Expertise in Surgical Reattachment (CEVARMU); 89% are men.


"The weather is fine and people are starting their summer DIY work. [...] The log splitters come out. People living in Quebec like splitting wood!" Says Dr. Bou-Merhi, director of CEVARMU.


"The machines have safety features, but they’re also very unforgiving and hostile," he says.


Today, DIY handymen have as many accidents as construction and carpentry professionals.


Contrary to what you might think, the victims are often very experienced.

The desire to get the job done quickly


"When someone has just bought a machine, they’ll read the manual and use the all safety catches and features,” says the surgeon. “These kinds of accidents always happens to more experienced workers who know the machine but want to get the job done quickly.”


Surgical reattachment of a finger can be carried out up to 12 hours after amputation if it’s in reasonably good condition.


CEVARMU is a unique Quebec clinic: all patients who need to undergo an amputation or surgical reattachment are transferred there. A team of 14 surgeons take turns to be on call around the clock.


Although the success rate of reattachment is now very good, the consequences of amputation last for life, with frostbite in winter, stiffness and pain: the patient never recovers 100% in terms of their abilities.


"The consequences after the accident are terrible for work, leisure and winter sports. The rehabilitation period takes six months to a year," says the surgeon, who hopes that prevention will help to improve the accident rates.

Patients hospitalized following amputation


2019-2020*: 30
2018-2019: 70
2017-2018: 98
2016-2017: 110
2015-2016: 81
2014-2015: 105
89% are men
58% are between 35 and 65 years of age
27% are under 35
Most common amputations: fingers, hands, wrists
Tools involved: table saw, circular saw/round saw, log splitter, snow blower
Source: CEVARMU* from April 1st to July 18th

A saw table and three amputated fingers

A 54-year-old carpenter who had three fingers amputated in an accident in February fears he won’t be able to recover the dexterity he needs to continue his job.


"I never had a hard time finding work because I was skilled and good at what I did. But I find it impossible to work effectively with my fingers in this state,” says Pierre Hamel. “I’m worried that I can’t perform to the same standards as before.”


With 25 years of experience, this carpenter never thought he’d experience the type of work accident he suffered last February 26th in Joliette.


"A miter saw and table saw are the two most dangerous tools. I have always been careful when using these," vows the 54-year-old.


While cutting a wooden board using a table saw, he cut off three fingers on his right hand (protected by a glove) in a fraction of a second. However, only his index finger was completely cut off. The tip of his thumb was also damaged.


"The pain was like a burning hot brand sticking to your skin. It doesn’t stop," he says.

Incomprehensible


Even today, Mr. Hamel in unable to understand what happened.


"I was always very careful and yet it happened to me," he sighs.


"But, there’s no point living in the past. It’s simply futile," says the Granby man.


The same evening, Mr. Hamel underwent an operation for reattachment of his fingers at the University Hospital of Montreal.


"The only thing I could think of was getting my fingers back," he says, still clearly upset.


As it turned out, grafting back his ring finger wasn’t successful, but in the circumstances, it could have been far worse.


"It's easy to make a fuss, but there are people far worse off than me," he says.

Returning to work?


Five months later, Pierre Hamel is still recovering and attending rehab sessions.


He hopes for a progressive return to work next September, although he’s worried about his dexterity.


"I have to be able to hold and drill the items I work on, not just use my strength," he says.


Although he knows he won’t recover 100% of his strength, he’s trying everything he can to improve his situation.


"I'm able to face reality, I know things won’t ever be like they were before.”

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