Recovering from frostbite - Advice?


PDA






The_Next_Generation
April 5, 2013, 08:01 PM
Hey guys,

I was climbing Mt. Rainier this past December/January, when temps dropped to -40F (with windchill) for about 5 hours. Long story short, I got 3rd degree frostbite on my fingertips/pads (worst was on my right hand). Fortunately, nothing got infected and all of the dead tissue is gone. However, I am left with some extremely sensitive/numb digits (hard to explain the sensation), especially my right thumb.

This is bad for several reasons:

- I can't use the slide or mag releases on my Glock 22 (3rd gen) without pain
- Loading mags (of any kind) is painful
- Handling firearms in general is tricky because I am so careful with my print-less fingers.

I tried using gloves, which takes some of the edge off, but my thumb isn't helped at all. Is there a way to make the slide and mag releases easier to manipulate?

So, are there any of you out there with similar issues? How do you get around them? This whole thing has made me realize how much I used to take my callused fingers for granted, especially when handling firearms.

And here are some pics for those who want to see what frostbite looks like:

5 days after exposure:
https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/321084_548323148512551_1479179344_n.jpg

3 weeks later:
https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/537274_553382028006663_112493438_n.jpg
https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/36494_553382051339994_2035239471_n.jpg

2 months:
https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/600097_578771978801001_106431068_n.jpg

The only difference between this last picture and now is that the dead tissue on my thumb has since come off, and I am left with a 1/8" deep x 1/4" diameter pit where it used to be.

For the record, YES, I was wearing gloves while climbing! It was just way colder than we had expected, and I had to take off my expedition mittens and use a liner glove for better dexterity..

- TNG

If you enjoyed reading about "Recovering from frostbite - Advice?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
JustinJ
April 5, 2013, 08:08 PM
No offense but, GROSS!

Just kidding. Regarding the mag release, is it easier to just pull the slide rather than use the mag release? Many consider this to be the preffered manner regardless.

Might something like this help with the mag loads?
http://www.midwayusa.com/product/952670/maglula-uplula-pistol-magazine-loader-and-unloader-polymer-black

There is also a little ring with a tab that makes reloading mags easier for some but i couldn't say how it would feel with your injuries.

Blackstone
April 5, 2013, 08:13 PM
Christ, I've no advice on what to do, but I'm amazed that your hand could still heal to that degree...

The_Next_Generation
April 5, 2013, 08:33 PM
JustinJ: For now I've been releasing the slide by pulling it back when I'm on the range, but it just feels slow. I like to just insert a fresh mag and release the slide with my other hand. But it's looking like that won't be possible for a while. At least I have the mag loader that came with my Glock, so that helps a bit, but handling the rounds is still difficult.

You never realize how little you actually use the inside of your thumb outside of shooting a handgun. I think that's what's got me right now, the new tissue on that part of my thumb just hasn't been "broken-in" as much as my other digits.

Blackstone: My doctor said the same thing. When I got back his initial thoughts were that I would probably have to get something cut off..

climbnjump
April 5, 2013, 08:40 PM
Blackstone: My doctor said the same thing. When I got back his initial thoughts were that I would probably have to get something cut off..

Sounds like you have more recovery time yet to go. What has your Dr. said about using your thumb at this point? Are you risking prolonging recovery by using your damaged digits now?

JustinJ
April 5, 2013, 08:41 PM
JustinJ: For now I've been releasing the slide by pulling it back when I'm on the range, but it just feels slow. I like to just insert a fresh mag and release the slide with my other hand. But it's looking like that won't be possible for a while. At least I have the mag loader that came with my Glock, so that helps a bit, but handling the rounds is still difficult.

I've never used the pistol version but if the Maglula loader works similar to the AR version i would expect it to help significantly.

I'm not sure if they make them but an enlarged mag release would be the only thing i can imagine that would help ease the pain.

Kernel
April 5, 2013, 08:44 PM
Ask your doc for a product called DuoDerm. It's like a synthetic skin with an adhesive backing. It's commonly used for treating bed sores. It comes in different thicknesses. You'd probably benefit from a thicker type. I have a similar problem as you and use DuoDerm on my thumb pad.

I get it in 6"x6" sheets. I'll cut out several little coin sized oval shapes and stick one to my thumb. I' can make 16 little "coins" per sheet. One might last a few hours, all day, or a few minutes; depending what I'm doing. When it gets loose and peels at the corners, off it comes and I stick a new one on. It's really helped.

It will stick to the skin underneath, so peeling it off might be a problem for you, depending on how tender your new skin is. I was using just plain old band-aids and DuoDerm is 10 times better.

Certaindeaf
April 5, 2013, 08:45 PM
Carry a revolver. I've never even been near that close but couldn't load Hi-Power magazines a time or two for the cold. Oh and to answer your question.. go to the doctor! lolz
Hope everything'll be OK.

r1derbike
April 5, 2013, 08:46 PM
may the doc take a chunk out of somewhere on your body and graft it into the pit left in your thumb? The nerve damage/sensitivity may get better or be there the rest of your life, however.

I thought you were going to lose two digits. Hang in there, buddy!

Cosmoline
April 5, 2013, 08:52 PM
They'll toughen up over time, but they'll probably always be more vulnerable to cold in the future. Got to watch them very close in freezing temps. Old Ranulph Fiennes, who is tough as a coffin nail, had to back out of an Antarctic trip recently because of this familiar problem.

In the mean time I'd suggest sheer 100% silk gloves over whatever ointment you're using. You could wear leather gloves over that for better grip.

orionengnr
April 5, 2013, 09:04 PM
Those are some really nasty-looking pics. In the first pic, your ring finger looks worse than your thumb. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, you still have all your digits attached and funtional. Not too many years ago, we'd have been calling you stubby, times two or three.

Thanks to the miracles of modern electronics/communication, I guess you were able to take those pics with your phone and your undamaged(?) left hand as soon as you hit level ground. I know that being a righty, it is instinctive to rely on the right hand, especially in a survival situation, but is it possible that you could have swapped back and forth, and shared/minimized the damage? Guess it is all Monday-morning quarterbacking now.

I'm also guessing that you are quite young, and the human body has quite a capacity for self-repair, especially when you are young. The good news is, you have a long life-line. The bad news is, you will be living with that thumb for a long time. :)

You never realize how little you actually use the inside of your thumb outside of shooting a handgun. I'm also guessing you don't ride a motorcycle, or do much sport parachuting. :)

thump_rrr
April 5, 2013, 09:23 PM
Somebody was watching over you.
I would not have thought that those digits would have survived.
I have no input as to what you can do to lessen the pain.
Best of luck.

9mmepiphany
April 5, 2013, 09:24 PM
There is a positive side to all your pain, you're going to learn 1) a new technique, 2) and adaption and 3) get a gadget you should own anyway.

1. Releasing the slide - use the overhand method. Reach over the top of the slide with your support hand (thumb pointing toward your chest), grasping the rear serrations (ideally, behind the ejection port), and giving it a good rearward tug and you push the frame forward with your strong hand. Your support hand comes off the slide as it reaches the limit of it's travel. This is a common technique taught at most leading schools as a universal technique.

It isn't as slow as you think (it would be if you were sling-shotting the slide) as you hand moves up the side of the gun after inserting the mag and comes over the top of the slide, it is all one motion and you're driving the gun out toward the target again. I've used it in classes and IDPA competition regularly

2. Releasing the magazine - use your support hand thumb. You can do this as part of a speed reload (let the magazine drop) or as part of a magazine retention technique (catch and stole ejected mag) This is the technique I tech folks with small hands and children (10 YO girl in a class)

3. Loading magazines - Get a Uplula loader. Grip the loader with your right hand (only using your palm and fingers) and drop the bullets in with your left

Al Thompson
April 5, 2013, 09:28 PM
Since it relates to this thread:

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=693039

I'm going to suggest you switch hands, till you've healed up. :)

Texan Scott
April 5, 2013, 11:32 PM
As a veteran with peripheral neuropathy issues, among others, I sympathize.

There was a time a few years ago that I had serious trouble walking unaided, and simple tasks like writing, typing, and tying shoes were real challenges. Feeding myself with a fork was humiliating.

Like me, you will recover to a great degree (nobody today would realize I have any disability), but YOU may always feel it. You'll learn to compensate and/or tough it out.

Specific recommendations:

Let the soft tissue damage heal completely. Leave the Glock alone for now.

Work continually on regaining manual dexterity ... exercise those fingers continuously. You may never be able to FEEL the same with them, but that shouldn't keep you from consciously controlling and using them.

You may find that a full-sized revolver like a 3" Ruger GP-100 is easier for you to shoot. Also, if your hands are large enough, learn to pull the trigger with the distal joint, rather than tip, of your finger.

Try shooting with a modified cup- and- saucer hold if hooking your left forefinger in front of the trigger guard bothers you (ypi didn't mention if you had injuries to your left hand).

Don't let anger or frustration get the better of you or prevent you from learning ways to accomodate or replace old ways of doing things. Let stubbornness be a source of strength, not an impediment.

Good luck.

The_Next_Generation
April 6, 2013, 12:18 AM
Thanks for the tips and support folks, it's really helpful!

climbnjump: The doc cleared me for using my fingers like I normally would. He said any damage that would have occurred from my exposure has already been done, things will just be sensitive for a while.

Orionengnr: The only medication I took was aspirin to open up my blood vessels so the blood could work it's way back into my fingers as much as possible. So far, time (and perhaps the Father..) has been the biggest healer and I am sure it will continue to be that way. I did sustain frostbite injuries with my left-hand, but they were only 1st and 2nd degree so I was still able to grip my phone as a camera. HOWEVER, the touch-screen couldn't detect them (frostbite makes your skin very waxy and dead...mostly because it's dead..) so I had to tap the screen with my nose to take most of those pictures. And yes, I am pretty young I suppose (Up until last July I couldn't buy my own ammo.........).

Kernel: I will certainly look into the DuoDerm product. This is the first time I've heard of it but it sounds like a great thing!

Al Thompson: I've been carrying my pocketknife (no firearms allowed on campus at GATech...yet.) on my left side, and it feels perfectly normal now. In fact, using my right hand to do most daily tasks still feels a little weird. Next time I get to the range, I'll try going full-lefty and see how it goes (dang, I should've bought the 4th gen after all!)

I think I'm going to try a better pair of gloves, probably leather. The ones that I tried are a little loose-fitting and my thumb slides around in them when I try and hit a release.

BSA1
April 6, 2013, 12:26 AM
It appears that the damage to your right index finger was not to severe so switching to a revolver would be worthy of consideration.

If you can't or are unwilling to switch to a revolver then now is a great time to learn how to shoot weak handed. I had shoulder surgery back in December which made shooting with my strong side impossible so I practiced weak hand with both revolver and semi-auto. Turns out I can shoot passable groups!

Although I am healed up enough to resume strong hand shooting I intend to keep practicing with at least a few rounds weak hand every range session.

Sol
April 6, 2013, 12:43 AM
Hmmm no ideas on how to manipulate firearms pain free, but you are lucky to even have fingers...

okiewita40
April 6, 2013, 03:48 AM
I know this is going to sound weird. My Grand mother used to do a lot of sewing. She had a set of thimbles that were made of some sort of grippy rubber. They also cushioned her finger tips.

Maybe you try looking for something like that. Other than that all I can think of is moleskin. Used it in the military to treat blisters. It just sticks really well. And is a pain to take off.

MachIVshooter
April 6, 2013, 04:00 AM
Just put a "tough strip" cloth bandaid over the sensitive areas. As a mechanic, I regularly slice/peel/abrade/burn/smash my fingers and thumbs. Those cloth bandaids provide a considerable cushion over the injured area, and they tend to stay on quite well in spite of normal use of the injured digit.

FIVETWOSEVEN
April 6, 2013, 04:13 AM
Al Thompson: I've been carrying my pocketknife (no firearms allowed on campus at GATech...yet.) on my left side, and it feels perfectly normal now. In fact, using my right hand to do most daily tasks still feels a little weird. Next time I get to the range, I'll try going full-lefty and see how it goes (dang, I should've bought the 4th gen after all!)

I carry my pocket knife left handed for no real good reason and I'm a righty. You'll get used to it and I suggest going full on lefty till you're healed as well.

tarosean
April 6, 2013, 04:40 AM
- I can't use the slide or mag releases on my Glock 22 (3rd gen) without pain

Why not use your weak hand? Your thumb is already there and eliminates you needing to adjust your strong hand to manipulate it.

For now I've been releasing the slide by pulling it back when I'm on the range, but it just feels slow.

All the pros use this method as its universal for any semi that you pick up.


Other than that try a extended release?

Cryogaijin
April 6, 2013, 06:33 AM
As someone that frequently went icecamping in the cascades in the middle of winter, and lived for over a decade in Alaska, I just have to say "Bwahahahahaha!" Always be prepared!

That said, you can get an ADA part for handguns that is essentially a metal T on the back of the slide that lets you pull it with two fingers rather than one's thumb and index finger. No idear what the part is called, where to find it, or how to install it, but I knew someone that had 'em installed on his automatics, due to missing the last joint on his thumb.

BullRunBear
April 6, 2013, 06:57 AM
First, congratulations on such a remarkable degree of recovery. It's astonishing how the body can repair itself. An everyday miracle.

Second, protect the sensitive areas but don't mind any slowness or awkwardness. Give yourself a chance to heal and get used to new routines.

Another vote for the UpLula loader. The springs on my M&P 9mm mags are, shall we say, determined. The loader makes it a snap. My wife uses it when her arthritis acts up.

Consider adding a revolver to your arsenal. Of course I say that as a mostly revolver guy. :rolleyes:

Let us know if and how any of the suggestions help.

Jeff

JFtheGR8
April 6, 2013, 10:27 AM
Definitely Duoderm. I've used it on my patients to treat/prevent skin breakdown. Continuous bipap is hell on the bridge of the nose and that stuff keeps skin intact. It is a good product.

I'd seek out a gunsmith for some modifications for your particular needs as well.


Posted from Thehighroad.org App for Android

Vern Humphrey
April 6, 2013, 10:51 AM
The pictures remind me of Army training films from the late '50s and early '60s of frostbite in the Korean War.

My advice is to wear gloves. Your doctor can probably advise you on something like Benzoin, which toughens the skin and may help.

MrCleanOK
April 6, 2013, 10:55 AM
9mmepiphany's recommendations were spot on.

1. For racking and releasing the slide, the support hand over the top of the slide, thumb pointed back at your face, is the way to go. It's a strong, positive manual of arms that works on almost any pistol (some of the mouse/pocket guns don't get along with it).

2. Alternately, you can drop the slide via the slide release with your support hand thumb before reassembling your grip. An extended slide release may help with this. I'm not a Glock guy, so I'll let others make recommendations on which one, but there are many available.

3. As far as the magazine release goes, if you don't have a 4th gen Glock, the Vicker's extended magazine release may be a good option for you. It sticks out further than the factory button, but isn't as aggressive as other extended buttons, which may ease the pain some.

4. This may be a good opportunity to practice up on alternate means of racking the slide. Using the belt or pants pocket, or the edge of a table

Torian
April 6, 2013, 11:02 AM
Severe frostbite can often result in amputation of all affected appendages. You are very lucky that the color returned to all of your fingers. Count your blessings!

The_Next_Generation
April 6, 2013, 07:00 PM
I won't be able to get to the range until next weekend, but I'll definitely let you guys know how the tips work out. I'm picking up some new gloves tomorrow and I'll call my doc about the duoderm stuff.

And Torian, I wouldn't describe it as the color "returning" to my fingers. All of the discolored tissue sloughed (fell/peeled) off over the course of several months while new tissue was formed underneath.

- TNG

hemiram
April 7, 2013, 05:30 AM
Good luck with your recovery. I've only had really minor frostbite, but at the senior discount stage, my hands are seriously messed up. One thing really did a number on them. I was at Irwindale drag strip in 1977, and it was cold for the SOCAL area. I was sitting in the front row of the bleachers, and held onto the railing in front of me for so long, it pulled the heat out of my hands. By the time the races were done, I could barely move my fingers. My hands were pretty much snow white. The heater in my car made my hands hurt very badly. When I got back to our hotel, they were bright red, and ached in time with my pulse. It took all night with them under the covers to get them anywhere close to "normal". They really haven't ever been the same since, and the fights I had as a bouncer, and working on cars and guns over the years have added arthritis to the cold sensitivity. They hurt anytime they get cold at all, and I do a lot of putting my hands in my pockets, causing more than a few people to think I'm "Weird". I am weird, but the hands in pockets is just to keep them warm and mostly pain free. A friend who had frostbite similar to yours does the same thing and wears gloves a lot to keep the heat in his hands. My next car will have a heated steering wheel, and I've had a remote starter for years as it prevents my hands from killing me on cold mornings. The minor pain I have in my hands is just an annoyance, it's a hassle, but no big deal, unless I do something dumb, like mess with snow on my car without gloves. Do NOT shoot outside in cold weather without heavy gloves, if you do, you will pay for it. At least I'm shake free, unlike a lot of friends about my age.

ObsidianOne
April 7, 2013, 06:06 AM
Is wearing some light but rough gloves (maybe like the Mechanix line) an option? Might give you some protection and make your hands less sensitive, while not being too intrusive.

Sent from my PC36100 using Tapatalk 2

phonesysphonesys
April 7, 2013, 01:29 PM
As a few others have mentioned, I would recommend going to a revolver for the time being and learn to shoot it left handed I also would not go higher than a .38 special. That way you can let your hands heal properly. As far as reloads, carry two revolvers. Best of luck. You are really lucky.

flyingfeathers
April 7, 2013, 01:45 PM
Reminds me of the terrible stories of winter warfare in Korea and Europe, frostbite crippled armies almost more than anything else. You neednt tell me, but I am curious how you managed to get it. bad clothing? I thought of using a revolver instead too.

stonecoldy
April 7, 2013, 02:10 PM
Perhaps finger cots would help? They can be found at CVS, Walgreens, etc.
Sometimes I get skin splits around my fingernails in cold, dry weather, hurts like the devil. I have used finger cots to help bandaids dry or after applying lotion to keep clean. Just a thought. Best of luck, hope your recovery continues well.

LJ-MosinFreak-Buck
April 7, 2013, 02:24 PM
Thanks for the tips and support folks, it's really helpful!

climbnjump: The doc cleared me for using my fingers like I normally would. He said any damage that would have occurred from my exposure has already been done, things will just be sensitive for a while.

Orionengnr: The only medication I took was aspirin to open up my blood vessels so the blood could work it's way back into my fingers as much as possible. So far, time (and perhaps the Father..) has been the biggest healer and I am sure it will continue to be that way. I did sustain frostbite injuries with my left-hand, but they were only 1st and 2nd degree so I was still able to grip my phone as a camera. HOWEVER, the touch-screen couldn't detect them (frostbite makes your skin very waxy and dead...mostly because it's dead..) so I had to tap the screen with my nose to take most of those pictures. And yes, I am pretty young I suppose (Up until last July I couldn't buy my own ammo.........).

Kernel: I will certainly look into the DuoDerm product. This is the first time I've heard of it but it sounds like a great thing!

Al Thompson: I've been carrying my pocketknife (no firearms allowed on campus at GATech...yet.) on my left side, and it feels perfectly normal now. In fact, using my right hand to do most daily tasks still feels a little weird. Next time I get to the range, I'll try going full-lefty and see how it goes (dang, I should've bought the 4th gen after all!)

I think I'm going to try a better pair of gloves, probably leather. The ones that I tried are a little loose-fitting and my thumb slides around in them when I try and hit a release.

What I would have suggested if you had a gen 4 is to have someone else change the mag release around. I had a tricky time just switching it around with one half-dead finger, versus your really sensitive fingers. But once it's changed, it's easy-peasy.


~On The Road Again...~

U-235
April 7, 2013, 06:44 PM
Can you get Physical Therapy through your medical insurance? It will probably help with specific actions that you are trying to get your hands/fingers to do.

Lex Luthier
April 7, 2013, 09:59 PM
Sorry for your experience, but it surely made you stronger. Grateful you have made such an outstanding recovery. I have always had a fascination with triage and medicine, so thanks for that also. Good luck.

I have an area on my left ear that got frostbitten many years ago and still bothers me some very cold days.

The_Next_Generation
April 8, 2013, 09:39 AM
I think the problem was that my synthetic gloves weren't tight enough or thick enough. I tried some tighter and thicker leather gloves (I look like I'm about to fight somebody) and they really seem to help. Pushing on the mag release doesn't hurt nearly as bad, but I will probably stick with using my support hand to release the magazine for now while my thumb toughens up.

surferdaddy
April 8, 2013, 11:55 AM
Ouch...

The advice about the mag loaders is great, they really make things easier. I have an M&P which RELIABLY auto forwards; all I have to do is insert the mag with a little gusto and snap goes the slide, chambering a round. I've heard of other pistols doing this, but the m&p is the only one that I have heard that the factory acknowledges. Could be a great option for you.

SurferD

The_Next_Generation
April 9, 2013, 07:15 AM
Hmmmm...I like the idea of an "auto-forwarding" gun. I put up an ad offering my Gen 3 for a Gen 4, maybe I should change that to include the M&P pistols since I think they also have reversible magazine releases.

surferdaddy
April 9, 2013, 12:14 PM
Well, aside from their slam charge "trick", there are a whole slew of reasons to consider an M&P. Simply astounding firearms.

Leanwolf
April 9, 2013, 10:01 PM
As for residual effects of frostbite, in 1985, in Los Angeles, we had our kitchen completely remodeled. After the entire job was over, I was talking with the contractor, making out the last check, etc. Asked him if he'd like a drink? Sure. So we had a drink and talked a while. He was at that time in his mid-60s.

He'd mentioned previously that he was originally from Missouri. I asked him how he ended up in California? He said he really liked the warm weather in Southern California because he had gotten his feet frostbitten and the cold winters in Missouri made his feet hurt constantly. I asked him how he got frostbitten feet?

He said, "Well, I was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Div. and was at the Battle of the Bulge. It was a terrible winter and we didn't have the proper clothing or boots, or much of anything else. So, my feet ended up with frostbite, but mine wasn't as bad as some of the other troopers. After the war, I spent one winter in north Missouri, feet hurting all the time no matter how many wool socks I wore. I was miserable as I could be, so then in the Spring, drove to Los Angeles. I never went back to Missouri except in the hottest part of August to see my mother and dad."

I said, "Well, I suppose you don't go camping up in the Sierra."

He laughed and said, "I do my camping by the pool with a cold beer and the sun on my feet."

That was in 1985 when we talked. Forty years had gone by and cold still bothered his feet.

L.W.

The_Next_Generation
April 10, 2013, 12:37 AM
I really enjoy mountaineering and skiing (preferably at the same time :D) as well as backpacking and hunting. Hopefully it will be tolerable during the colder parts of my excursions.

I went backpacking on the AT 3 weeks ago and as long as I had some light gloves on, the cold and wind didn't bother them. The coldest it got was ~20F, so I'll have to wait until this winter to see how things fair at cooler temperatures. I think as long as I can take up (down?) to a -20F windchill with mitts I think I'll be ok for the rest of my climbing "career".

Of course, as I age I may become less-tolerant for pain due to cold..
- TNG

gym
April 10, 2013, 02:40 PM
I use a "lidocaine" patch that can be cut into any shape, and it is for pain. It may help give you relief while you are actually shooting. They are prescription, and really work on any sore areas. They also come off easily, but stick pretty good. It's the same stuff they use when the dentist or doctor give you a shot to dull the area.

CGT80
April 11, 2013, 01:21 AM
Competitive shooters use "slide rackers" to work the slide, especially with open guns which have red dots mounted over the slide. My mom's XD has a racker that clamps to the serrations on the slide and extends to the rear. It is basically a finger ring to grab onto. It works great for her, but her hands are not sensitive. She doesn't have as strong of a grip as some. Others use a racker that mounts in the dovetail from the rear sight which has been removed.

Obviously you would have to look into it more to see if it will work for carry use. Gunsmiths who work on competition guns will know of many upgrades for the controls of a pistol.

If you enjoyed reading about "Recovering from frostbite - Advice?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!