by Frank D. Howard
July 3, 1994

My nine year old daughter and I left early this particular morning . We wanted to work while the morning air could keep both us and our workplace somewhat cool. We were going to nail shingles on the roof of one of our houses. There would be running water there but no electricity and NO air-conditioning! We would frequently open the cooler we had brought with us for cold water, Cokes, and snacks throughout this North Florida July morning.

We survived well until it was near noon and time to get off the now HOT roof and not only try to rest and cool down, but also to bring forth our lunch, the real treat from that large cooler. The lunch was too big and the rest was going on too long. I knew those singles would never get nailed down if I didn't get back up there. I told my daughter to remain there in the shade until I needed her help.

Perhaps it was the reluctance to go back into the heat that caused me to rush so much as I climbed the ladder and grabbed up tools and shingles. All this time I was mentally fussing at myself for leaving all this cutting and fitting for last. But rushing I was as I looked at my watch and realized I had "saved" a most time-consuming task for the hottest part of the day.

Anyway, for which ever reason, in the work frenzy that had overtaken me I had set up my cutting guide, put a fresh blade in my shingle knife, grabbed the first single and, placing it under the guide, proceeded. And proceeded with absolute haste, I did! I also yelled loudly, very loudly! I had cut myself.

In such haste perhaps one does not consider all precautions especially when the same job has been repeated hundreds of times. The knife blade had jumped the guide and ran very smoothly across my left thumb. (My left hand was holding the guide in place.) The distal end of my thumb seemed to hang well away from the rest of it. The blade had entered diagonally just above the thumbnail root and moved in a line just a tiny amount behind the cuticle on across the thumb exiting on its right side at the joint. I could see the bone glistening white among all the red.

Maybe its not as bad as it seems. We are a long way from the hospital, it is the weekend, emergency rooms are expensive and I can't go off and leave all my tools out. I am now down off the roof and my daughter is excitedly vacillating between fainting and running away from the "gore". I tell her she simply has to buck up and help me as I begin to wash roofing tar and blood from the wound. I send her to the car for the first aid kit. Wrong car, no kit! Today we are using my wife's car.

She sobs and cries, gets weak-kneed, and tells me she is going to pass out. I tell her I can only hold the wound open, she MUST continue to wash until all the black specks of tar are picked out. Somehow she manages to continue until I have a well exposed, blood free, and very clean wound. I know it will need at least a dozen stitches!

The absence of a first-aid kit is a real blow. There will not be a better time to get this thing sewn together than right now before its blood supply returns. My daughter first cuts, and then re-cuts as I yell "smaller," several tiny butterfly shapes from what must be the stickiest tape know to man; duct tape. The little tape shapes are only about one sixteenth of an inch wide and flare out a little more at the ends.

But what do we put on the wound? One must have something. I remember those little packets issued to us when I was in Military service. No packets. Only some Sodium Ascorbate we use on cut fruit. That's vitamin C and it aids in healing. She crushed a tiny fleck of it between two spoons and sprinkled it into the wound.

I looked carefully at the fingerprint ridges to help me align the cut edges together. Pressing it together with just enough tension to hold a hint of a ridge at the cut, I asked her to place the duct tape "sutures" first on one side and then stretch each one across and press it down tightly. They looked like stitches and they certainly held every little fingerprint ridge right in place.

When I finally get home I am informed that I am crazy for trying to treat myself and that my daughter will not be available to help me ever again. We also notice the next morning that my thumb looks very good. By Monday morning it looks so good I decide not to take it to see the doctor yet, but to wait and see if it behaves badly. It doesn't. In fact it seems to heal more quickly than other small cuts before. But I take no chances as I tell all I'm going to leave those tape "stitches" on 'til they just fall off.

They don't fall off, so one day I did remove them. The suture line looks healed and a touch test also shows it to be healed. After this part of such an ordeal is over one is prone to laugh and joke about it while showing off the scar. Well, in this case, after a few months had passed I had to settle for letting those who insisted on seeing "the scar" look at a much older scar on further up on the thumb. There was no scar to be found from this much larger cut!

I don't know why, but I, and others, have looked at it under both magnifying glasses and binocular microscopes and still see no scar, only the occasional misaligned finger- print ridge to show that something happened there. No scar. (I certainly don't recommend repeating our approach to creating this No Scar, but I would like to know what physiological events took place to create it.)

more articles by F. Howard
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