Thursday, 18 August 2016

Mike's Hands

Mike and I celebrated his 52nd birthday this week. The celebrations were low-key; after all the animals were tended to, we threw a few logs on the outdoor fire and drank a bottle of champagne, a kind gift from Mike's employers. We discussed rams going to market, pheasants yet to be delivered to other shoots, ageing dogs, and that day's deer sightings. You know, the usual birthday banter.

It was a warm evening, and Mike had his sleeves rolled up. Looking at his hands and arms he sighed sadly. Mike is very self-conscious of the scars and grafts that crisscross his arms. I took a picture of them -


His fingers don't bend, and the webbing between them tears. He's always banging his knuckles and making them bleed, but he can't feel it. Sometimes his hands swell from lymphoedema and I rub them to try and disperse the swelling. Mike can only straighten his elbows as much as you see in the picture because the muscle is damaged from the burns.


And he can only rotate his arms this much. His pinky joints are hooked because the tendons tightened irreversibly. The skin on his hands is always dry and dirt stays in the creases of his palms.

It was a big step for him to let me photograph his hands.

Mike hates when people tell him he's brave. He says there's nothing brave about having an accident, and he wouldn't do it again - not even for charity. I tell him he's brave for how he's dealt with life after the accident. And that he's still a big pain in my ass, so he's not all that different from before the accident, scars or no. 

Eight years ago his doctors sat me down in a private room and told me he wasn't going to live. Now we're celebrating his 52nd birthday. Bravery, blind luck, or determination? Maybe some of each. 

Here's to your 53rd birthday and beyond.

14 comments:

Jayne Hill said...

Big "happy birthday" from the Bag End crew. Here's to many more :)

Maria said...

Happy birthday to Mike. And if I may, a big congratulations to the two of you not just for making it through life after the accident, but for making it through *together*.

Anonymous said...

Well said Mike! And happy birthday. As a multiple cancer survivor, I too hated it when people told me I was brave. There just isn't any bloody option but to get on with it IMO so "brave" never came into it. A possible hint which MAY help Mike's hands, Heel Balm used on dry cracked heels and bought from the pharmacy might help. It certainly helped my husband's hands and now he uses it every winter as I told him to do every winter for at least 2 decades that he should do before he finally tried it.

Katie Morrissey said...

Happy Birthday Mike! Here's to many more!

keryn said...

Well done Mike, for tackling life after the accident with such courage and determination. There is an alternative to being Brave; some people I know have let traumatic incidents define them ever afterwards. You've lived life to the best of your abilities, with strength and courage. Hope you don't object to me saying that. And I've never forgotten the story of you giving your jacket to a boy on a shoot; kindness is a wonderful thing, and so under-rated in today's society. Happy Birthday, and many more.

Paula said...

The important thing is, you're still here.

Oh- and that you're still being a pain in the ass. That says something.

Happy Birthday, and many more.

Laura Orabone said...

Have you tried lanolin and beeswax for your hands? You two inspire me every time I read this blog. Planning a trip to England for our 20th wedding anniversary in a couple years - would love to pay you a visit. Happy Birthday, Mike - and may you enjoy many more to come!

Janice Bendixen said...

Mike had beautiful, hardworking hands. They're strong and a daily (if painful) testament to his perseverance and determination. Darling Husband is an aircraft mechanic so his hands are immersed in noxious chemicals constantly. The resulting skin problems have vexed him for years. When things get really bad (esp. during our dry Alaskan winters), we use bag balm and cotton glove therapy at night. Thanks for sharing the photos and Happy Belated Birthday, old man! (I'm six months his senior so I can say that! :-) )

Hazel said...

A belated Happy Birthday Mike- many happy returns.

Christine said...

Happy birthday and congratulations on 8 years post accident to both of you! I agree with Maria above -- the "together" portion is important to couples where someone has a chronic health issue. I'm sure you've tried remedies on remedies for the cracking/bleeding/swelling, but I'd be happy to send along some herbal salve made with calendula and comfrey, of which I am a firm believer can help with just about any skin injury. Just say the word.

Virginia said...

There's poetry in his hands - a story about overcoming obstacles, second chances, learning to make do. Many happy returns!

17th stitch said...

Happy birthday to Mike!

Jennifer Montero said...

Thanks ALL - I have passed on your kind comments and suggestions to Mike. It does him good to hear other opinions, and to realise that no one is judging him. I don't think anyone will believe me but Mike got his creaming regime from the current Archduke Ferdinand (who was badly burned as a child), and I can still see the surreal tableau of Mike and the Archduke huddled over the back of the game cart on a shoot day sharing tips, and swapping pots of creams!

Teri said...

Happy birthday to Mike! Having courage does not make one a hero, but it's necessary to deal with the after effects of a bad accident. It's too easy to give up and do nothing. Hope the two of you have many more years together.