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Woodworker with Permanently Injured Right Hand

wife of woodworker's picture

My husband, a cabinet-maker and woodworker both for career and hobby, suffered a traumatic hand injury (right and dominate hand) on a joiner at work in October. He will never again have full, typical use of that hand. He lost the middle knuckles of the middle and ring fingers and the bone will be fused at those knuckles at a slightly bent angle. Not only does he have the fusion to contend with, but he has permanent impairment of muscles and tendons will will likely impair his entire hand to some degree. 

This is his dominate hand and, as I stated above, he is a cabinet-maker for a living. It's been seven weeks since the accident, he still has pins in his fingers for at least two more weeks, and it will be a good 3+ months before he has any use of that hand at all. 

His boss asked him the other day what if he can no longer do his job. This really isn't an option for a few reasons: (1) he is the family's source of income and neither of us could replace his current pay rate outside this job. (2) not being able to build and create would crush his spirit

I am posting here to ask you for names and sources for custom tools (hand tools with custom-made gribs for the way his hand would be able to hold it), accessories to help with grip of sheet-goods when feeding through machinery or to compensate for likely loss of strength in that hand, left-handed tools, and anything else those with great knowledge of woodworking tools and cabinet-making can think of that will allow him to continue to work in the field he loves. While money is very tight and always an issue when purchasing tools, this was a partially disabling work injury and we expect a final worker's comp payout once his permanent % of disability can be determined, which will allow us to purchase tools specifically to enable him to continue as a woodworker. 

He is not yet ready to accept that he may have to work in a different way, although the fear of not returning to woodworking is everpresent on his mind -- that is why I am seeking this information on his behalf at this time. I am a planner and want to know what we will do and how we will do it when he is able to return to work so he can reclaim his position as woodworker and cabinet maker. 

Thanks in advance for your advice, expertise, and creative ideas! I appreciate each and every one of you. 

RalphBarker's picture

Sorry to hear this (post #170853, reply #1 of 5)

As I said in the other injury thread, I'm sorry to hear of your husband's injury.

I am not a doctor, nor an injury specialist. Until he is completely healed, and an assessment can be made of remaining dexterity, I'm not sure how much planning can be done. If faced with the same problem, however, I might think in terms of attempting to transfer "dominance" to the other, uninjured hand. But, I don't have much of a clue about how to go about doing that. Your doctors may have suggestions, and there may be industrial-accident support and rehab specialists who can help. There may also be prosthetic experts you can talk to about this.

Fortunately, all of the woodworking tools I can think of at the moment are ambidexterous. There are no right- or left-handed hammers, for example. Thus, it may be a matter of him retraining his other hand to take over.

I'm reminded of a fellow I worked with at a hardware store when I was young. He had lost his right hand in the war (WWII or Korean, I forget which), and wore a "hook" - a two-part arrangement that he could open and close, like pinching your index and middle fingers together. He had maintained a great attitude, and there wasn't much he couldn't do.

Good luck to you and your husband as you go through this challenging situation.

Westchester's picture

Injury (post #170853, reply #2 of 5)

I'm very sorry to hear of this accident.  I feel for both of you.  However lets put ourselves in your Husbands shoes.  He is hurting for many reasons - not only the injury but the fact that the best cabinetmaker in the Family lost focus for a split second and got hurt.  He is mad at himself for not being more careful doing what he loves and doing what earns a living -

Maybe consider not worring so much about how to plan - let him heal -  he will ultimately adjust on his own and surprise all with his grit - give him some quiet time to think and he'll be fine.  You'll all be fine.  Let him write in when he's ready and I'm sure there are many on this site that will help out one way or another. 

SA

PurdueDan's picture

I am sorry to hear about your (post #170853, reply #3 of 5)

I am sorry to hear about your husband.  I too had a serious injury to my dominate right hand and arm in January.  I shattered nine bones and had seven pins and three plates installed.  I made furniture for a living and have a family to support.  Our family has managed to weather the storm only through the grace of God.  I am now teaching woodworking at the local college.  My right hand has about 20 percent of the dexterity and strength of my left.  I have undergone two surgeries and have one more next week and another one in the spring.  I have found an excellent hand specialist.  Your husband needs to see an expert not a general ortho doctor.  I will keep you in my prayers.

Westchester's picture

Injury (post #170853, reply #4 of 5)

Wishing you well Dan through the recovery -  even with your injury you find the goodness within to reach out to another and extend prayers.  Your students have been given a woodworker, and more importantly a kind soul.  The best to you this beautiful season and in the new year.

SA

oldusty's picture

     So sorry to hear about (post #170853, reply #5 of 5)

     So sorry to hear about this and the changes presenting themselves .

   If you could try   to look at this from all angles , your Husband or  another

    family member could have a terminal  illness or could be  sick , he is injured

   and will heal to the extent possible . Of course things will be very different for him .

      Your husband will adapt beyond belief  .

        He could crossover into several cabinet co, positions from finishing to planing to sales .

           best regards         dusty , boxmaker