N06 — February 2013 — Injury Season for Snow Blowers
Intro: Snow blower accidents cause more than 65-hundred injuries each winter. More than a thousand people lose hands and fingers. A Wisconsin man is hoping hearing his story will remind others to slow down, be safe and not become a victim too. Here's Dennis Douda for the Mayo Clinic News Network.
"In the snowy hills of western Wisconsin a new white blanket was piling up on Jim Radloff's long driveway."
"Huge mound of slush because the plow had come through. It's 8 o'clock in the morning…"
Jim decided to simply do what he'd done all his life. He fired up the snow blower, and got to work. Then slush clogged the machine. So he threw it into neutral, watched the blades stop turning and stuck his hand in the edge of the chute.
"All of a sudden CLICK, I hear that noise."
"Obviously, this was the dumbest thing I've ever done."
Gone were the ends of three fingers on his right hand.
"You can see that's the exact angle of the blade."
One year later Jim's made an inspiring recovery, back playing the piano he's enjoyed since childhood. But, he says he couldn't have come this far without some serious help.
"Anything bothering in here?"
Marilyn Berg is an Occupational Therapist. Her patients often develop a whole new appreciation for a hand's complex mechanics.
"In your hand you have muscles, you have tendons, ligaments and obviously the bones that hold everything together."
Jim's injury affected all those parts and to help him heal Marilyn had to get creative. Jim even nicknamed one of her devices.
"That's the torture tool." (laughs)
This strap helped restore flexibility to Jim's knuckle joints. Marilyn says the goals of rehab are always to preserve Range of Motion - reduce Swelling – and build Strength, all essential for daily tasks.
"You close doors, you carry things, you lift things. Things you don't even think about!
Take snow blowing off Jim's do-to list, however. His wife made him give it away. He did keep the mangled glove he was wearing, though, as a reminder to slow down, be safe…
"This is what's left."
And count his blessings that the accident wasn't worse.
For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Dennis Douda.
By the way, the emergency room Jim was taken to treated a half dozen other patients for serious snow blower accidents that same day. Besides shutting off the engine and waiting for all moving parts to come to a complete stop, always use a stick or broom handle, not your hand, to clear clogged snow.
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