Losing a Finger

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photo credit: Untitled via photopin (license)

Gillian Lane’s right hand is bleeding.

Her ring finger. Twisted. 180 degrees.

A bone poking out between her knuckle and lower joint.

And the entire upper half of the finger torn away, two halves held together by a shred of skin.


Gillian finishes a two-hour ride on Phantom. He’s a grey spotted gelding the family purchased for only $200. She knows she has to be careful, knows he’s easy to spook. Knows that’s why he was so cheap.

She starts securing the lead rope to a metal ring on the stable, tying a series of slip knots.

That’s when Phantom brings his head back, jerks the rope, forces Gillian’s pointer, middle and ring finger through the 25 millimeter metal ring nailed to the stable.

Three crunches. And then screaming.


Ms. Scott hears her, hears her friend’s daughter screaming. Stops fetching hay. Runs to Gillian.

And she’s the first one to see her hand. Then there’s more screaming. And running for help.

Victoria – Jillian’s best friend who’s at the next stall – hears, runs towards Gillian, rips off her grey tank top — only a bra on now – and leads Gillian to a bench.

She wraps Gillian’s hand with the tank top. And Gillian lets her, stands there, her hand not really hurting that much, thinking, “Oh shit.”


45 minutes later, Gillian’s at the hospital, waiting for an hour before she’s finally taken to a room.

Jim, the owner of the stable is there. So is Gillian’s mom, uncontrollably babbling beside her bed.

The hospital calls in one of the best hand surgeons in the nation to deal with her case, a surgeon three hours away. He spends seven hours in the middle of the night trying to reattach her finger.

I don’t think the finger will make it, he says, but we’ll do our best.

Gillian spends the next week recovering in the hospital, her arm wrapped in bandages, propped up at a 45 degree angle with a pillow.

7 days.

No walking. Eating with her left hand. IV bags surrounding her.

A bald patch appears on her head from sitting in the same position all day. Her face puffed up from all the drugs. And when she can finally leave her bed a week later, she’s lost the ability to walk.


April 6th . Gillian sits on a doctor’s chair, the surgeon unwrapping the bandages.

It’s been a week and a half since her first surgery. The bandages come off.

And the finger is black.

Dead.

She’ll have to have two more surgeries to remove her ring finger, two more surgeries to repair the damage to her other fingers.


April 12th. Gillian’s had her finger removed.

She walks into her home. Her 17 year old sister meets her at the door with the “nub hats” she’s made out of tape and cotton balls –little covers for her now-half-gone ring finger.

Gillian puts one atop her nub, something she does every day until the stitches are all healed up.


April 27th. Gillian walks into school.

It’s the day of the state standardized test. And it’s Gillian’s first day back.

She’s late. A teacher escorts her to her room. A girl calls out to her in the hallway. “Gillian! You’re back!”

Gillian barely knows the girl. Word must have gotten around somehow.

“I texted a few of my close friends when I was in the hospital,” Gillian says, “but none of them ever texted back.”

She waves back to the girl and enters her testing room. 30 pairs of eyes follow Gillian as she walks in. Or rather, follow her hand.

Gillian gets to take her test with a highlighter.


During lunch, Gillian is a celebrity.

“Everyone knew what happened to my hand. I mean, I even tried convincing people that my finger got bitten off by a tiger, but that didn’t work because people who knew what happened spread the word, ” Gillian remarks. “It’s like, I lose a finger, and BOOM, suddenly I’m popular.”

One girl bakes her cupcakes.

Another offers to carry her books for her.

And Gillian gets plenty of hugs.


July 20th. Gillian’s sitting in journalism class at A&M. It’s been more than two years since the accident. Stiches gone, scars healed.

She listens to the teacher talk about feature writing and takes notes on her laptop. Her stub barely gets in the way. After class, a girl walks up to Gillian and asks about her finger. She explains her story and shows pictures on her laptop.

And then she sticks her stub up her nose, laughs, and says, “I have fun sometimes with this finger. I like to play pranks. I freaked out my six-year old brother’s friends at a birthday party once, and I do the ‘missing finger’ prank sometimes. It’s not all that bad.”


My one venture into journalism. Written last last summer at camp when I was planning on joining the school newspaper. I said hi and bye to Gillian within roughly 48 hours. 

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