I did not pay attention in the 14th hour, distracted by trying to get a sled moving, and when I realised that a couple of my fingers were still not working, I did not take evasive action believing it was perhaps Raynauds causing the numbness and not the extreme cold (it was probably -50 at this point). I thought I would get to the checkpoint before anything "bad" would happen. It is said that in extreme cold weather, frostbite can take hold of your extremities within minutes. I could have put on a pair of over gloves, but thought I would get to the checkpoint soon. It was about an hour. I took off my damp gloves - probably damp from sweat and from having residual sweat that I had wiped onto the gloves earlier in the event to ensure my face did not have any water on the skin. Having experienced -30 before, sweat can freeze on the face even if it is covered...though it might be a damp covering as Al experienced! So at least I had no cold injuries on the face :-) I had expected an injury to the right pointing finger as had spilt a bit of water on the glove and the glove around that finger was covered in ice. There was a bit of frostnip on it but all was fine.
Advice: Leave the blister intact! Do not pop or pick the blister as this will increase the likelihood of infection. The blister will keep blistering to form a clear demarcation before any action can be taken. Call back in 4 days time (Saturday) to assess the finger. Doc also prescribed a cream in case the blister burst and thus to reduce the risk of infection.
Question: Should I keep it raised to reduce the swelling in the finger?
Answer: No, as you will reduce the blood flow to the finger
Question: Should I take anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling in the joint?
Answer: It won't make any difference (however I found it did make a difference, see later)
Question: Should I keep moving the finger?
Answer: It might help
As I was unable to call back into the centre in 4 days time, it was recommended I checked into an "urgent care" centre. So I went away with a prescription for a burn cream, that I did not pick up.
Below is the left hand side of the left middle finger. It has been a great conversation piece with everyone I meet. Of course I showed it to a queue of people and the lady at the till, who were waiting for me to pay for an item and at the same time staring at the finger and thus opened up more conversations.
Day 3: Got to my friend's place on the Friday. She took one look and suggested an antiflammatory. Took it because thought I had nothing to lose!
Day 4: The swelling in the lower finger joint had significantly gone down and the blister itself felt a little softer. I decided to take advil for 3 more days until the base finger joint looked normal. I jumped into an Urgent Care centre. Unfortunately they did not look after
wounds and advised me to go to another place, but I would have to call them early. It felt an effort, so I talked to the local pharmacist who gave me some advice to keep the blister clean and also talked to the triage nurse over the phone from the local hospital. Both the pharmacist and nurse suggested getting it checked by the doc. I took that as an option so didn't bother as there was no pain, no redness, though had a slight trickle of blood into the blister.
Day 5-13: Had to travel to different states for work so monitored for infection, and talked to everyone who saw 'the finger". I
believed everything was fine since no redness, and only the odd bit of discomfort occasionally. I believed it was draining nicely and drying out to become scabby.
Checked into St George's and 7 hours later was seen by someone from the plastics team. Hadn't seen frostbite but took photos to consult with other docs. Sent me away with antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection (wet gangrene).
Day 15: Was called to see the hand specialist at St George's. The registrar decided to explain what frostbite was to me. None of them had much experience and more photos of the finger were taken and more docs came to have a look at a frostbite injury. The consultant said it would probably need to be amputated but would give it the "benefit of the doubt" and see if there would be any improvement in 2 weeks time but he would take it off rather than it withering on the bone. He also recommended not to take the antibiotics as I would be on them for a long time. It felt that he wanted to "have" my finger in 2 weeks time. Couldn't believe it as although I might be able to feel anything when it is touched, it feels I have a thimble on the end of my finger protecting the healing tissue underneath. And as more docs came to have a look and more photos were taken, I wondered if I
could put on a bikini and pose with my finger! Andy's feet were in worse condition than my finger and thankfully he had taken evasive action when he had returned back to the UK that week, so improved his odds. See below.
Both have gratefully provided me their opinions and although there are some slight variations with regards to drugs to use, both of them said amputation should be the last resort and that it should be left for as long as possible. I trust both of their opinions as they both have experience treating frostbite and because it sounds better. If it is not infected why chop? The finger will never grow back....although a bionic finger might be cool! Also from research provided by Chris for me to read, frostbite can appear worst than it really is, so the body needs to be given a chance to heal the injured area. And if it does die and there is no infection, the finger top will self amputate. Hope am not eating when that happens....might think it's part of the dish.
Review session with the hand doc is scheduled for 24th Feb. All going well (no infection), I expect to be walking out with 10 fingers and reassessing at the end of March or mid-April.