The Adventures of a One-thumbed Hairstylist

Seven years ago today, I had surgery to remove a pin from my thumb. That pin had been placed there a little over 5 months earlier. I know most of you know the story, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really written down what led up to that injury and the time that followed. It’s a strange story, but a fun one to tell.


We began a landscaping project in July that year. We were replacing an ugly, bulging, wooden retaining wall near our front yard. Derek and I always enjoyed doing yard work together and we were excited to begin this one. He took a week off of work, thinking we would have the project finished when he returned to work.


It was probably the hottest week of the year that week. The heat index was 110 degrees, and extremely humid. We began by knocking down the fence on the upper level, and trying to take down the wooden slats along the front and side. Apparently, whoever built that sucker 40 years earlier, was anticipating earthquakes or mudslides in Central Illinois.


When we finished that part, we began to dig, and dig, and dig… That was, by far, some of the most difficult work I have ever done. We had to dig out the dirt that would be going away, and we had to dig deeper into the ground to set the foundation for the stone we were going to lay. We started realizing what a big task this was really going to be. My dad had been helping us where he could, and a good friend of ours came over and helped us dig for a while. When our friend left one day, he said, “Good luck. I don’t think you will get this finished this week, though!” He was right.


Over the next few weeks, we would dig, set foundations, reset foundations, backfill with rock, and move to the second layer. We would have to get a stump grinder to get through enormous tree roots. We dug out the path for a stairway. We framed the stairs and filled them with concrete. When we finally laid the foundation for the second level of blocks, we felt like we were getting close to finishing our project.


I’ll never forget that evening. School had started by that time. I had gotten home from work, and the boys from school. We decided that we needed to order some pizza for all of our hard work that evening. I sat on a stair with the phone book in my lap looking for the number. As I did that, I supported myself with my other hand as I leaned on the landscaping block next to me. Derek was busily working, building the wall on the second level. He walked around me while coming up the steps. He had on leather gloves, which allowed a block to slip out of his hand. The sharp edge of that block landed on my right thumb between the two lower knuckles, as the landscaping block that I was leaning on, kept my thumb from moving underneath.


I immediately knew that it was bad. We laugh now, because after he picked up the block, I told Derek that it was not good. He said, “Take off your glove, it may not be that bad.”

As soon as I took of my glove, and we looked at it, he said, “Yeah, we need to go to the hospital.”

We went to the hospital that evening.

You know, our trips to the emergency room are always interesting. I almost dread having to tell them how our injuries happen, because it is usually a strange scenario, like a Nerf sword fight or something. This time, I kept saying, “WE dropped a concrete block on my thumb.” I couldn’t tell them Derek did it, because he already felt so bad. So, I tried to make it look like a joint effort.

They x-rayed my hand, placed my hand in a splint, medicated me, and rehydrated me. They sent me home and told me to call the hand surgeon the next morning.


They next morning, we dropped the boys off at school, and I called the doctor’s office. I remember the nurse telling me that she needed to check and see if they had received my pictures yet. Then, after she had obviously looked at the awful picture, she said, “Oh, yeah, you just need to come on in!”

We made our way to the office. We met with the doctor first, and he explained the extent of my injury. He started off by saying, “I hope you don’t play the piano”, (as if that would have been funny if I did). “I don’t, but I do cut hair”, I said. He raised his eyebrows, looked away, and said, “We will see…”

My thumb was crushed – shattered. We found out later that my tendon had been severed, as well. A couple of months later the doctor told me, that if I had not been wearing a glove, that block probably would have cut my thumb off!

That morning was such a miserable morning. I had never had surgery or anesthetic before, but I was very anxious to be put to sleep, just to escape the pain.

The surgery was an hour and a half long. The doctor said it was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. He inserted a pin, and literally tied it all up, because there was not enough solid bone to attach screws or hardware to.


I wore a cast for five weeks, and then I wore a splint. I returned every two weeks for x-rays, hoping that would be the week my pin would be removed.


It was a long recovery. It took almost 5 months. My thumb finally healed enough to take that pin out. He left the material that bound up my bone, and it is still there today.

Oddly enough, I am grateful for the experience. It was painful, it was difficult, it was frustrating. God seemed to keep telling me, though, that it could have been worse. Of course it could have been worse, and I’m so thankful that it wasn’t. I did learn a lot about myself through the process. I learned that we are all way more capable than we think we are.

I kept going to work after surgery. My mom and others were filling in for me, so, I would go and help out with instructions, and such. Then, eventually, I would figure out how to accomplish these tasks while wearing a cast or splint.

I started with color little by little. My mom would want me to show her a technique or help her out, and then she would say, “I think you can do it, if I help you.”

So, eventually, I started doing my own color, but I had others cut hair for me. Then, one brave client said, “I think you can cut my hair. Try it. I trust you”. That was one of the longest haircuts in the history of the world, but I did it. From that day on, I did all of my own work, except for rolling hair on rollers or perm rods.

I learned that we are all more resilient than we think we are. The first day after surgery, I called my clients, telling them that I would be back in 6 to 8 weeks. By the end of those 8 weeks, I was working on my own. There is no way I thought that I could do that.

Besides my work as a stylist, I had lots of other things that needed to be done, but seemed unlikely with my injury. With a busy family and a business to run, I usually found a way to accomplish my goals.

I think about that often and remind myself  that I am capable, when I think I am not. This last year, we had to sell our house, my parent’s house, and a business. We had to get both houses packed up and moved. My husband lived 750 miles away, and my parent’s capabilities were limited.

There were days that I didn’t think that I could do it, but I would remind myself to just try it. I would start small and work on 1 thing at a time until I finished that particular task. I would pray…

Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had not tried?  What if my co-workers had not helped me, and then encouraged me to try?  What if my clients had not trusted me and allowed me to work on their hair, while obviously in a compromised state?  ** Sidenote: they should have been scared of a one-thumbed hairstylist!!  I’m just sayin’!

Would I have kept working?  Would I have learned my capabilities? I just wonder how things would be different.  I know that had the accident not happened, I would not have met God in that place for those months.

My last visit to the hand surgeon, I stood up to leave, and as I did, I picked up my big heavy purse with my hand, and flung it over my shoulder. As I placed it on my shoulder, my purse rested in the curve of my thumb alone, and no other part of my hand.   That 15 pound purse was supported by just that broken, shattered thumb that was now repaired, healed and whole. The doctor looked at me and said, “I didn’t think you would ever be able to do that”…

I don’t tell this story to boast about what I did, but what God did for me.  In any area of our life that is broken and shattered, God is that mighty healer who will repair, heal, and restore.  Usually, through that process, He teaches us more about ourselves, but most importantly more about HIM!

My thumb still hurts on rainy days like today.  There is a scar, and it just doesn’t look the same as my other thumb. Actually, it looks a little strange. My once broken thumb, though, feels more solid and stronger than my thumb that has never been broken…

Can we say the same for ourselves after being broken?

I have to admit, the story is fun to tell.  It’s sort of legendary.  I found out recently that my surgeon still tells that story in his office to other patients.  He has changed the story a little, telling that the wife dropped a block on her husband’s hand.  HIPPA, I suppose.

I saw him in the grocery store before we moved from IL.  I greeted him and said, “I’m not sure if you remember me?”  “CINDER BLOCK!”, he said!

It’s always nice to be remembered…


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Married to the love of my life for 20 years, mother of 3 boys, recently “retired” from the beauty business, and learning to be a stay at home Mom.

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