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Recovering from frostbite - Advice?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by The_Next_Generation, Apr 5, 2013.

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  1. The_Next_Generation

    The_Next_Generation Member

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    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:
    [​IMG]

    3 weeks later:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    2 months:
    [​IMG]

    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
     
  2. JustinJ

    JustinJ Member

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    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/95...ol-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.
     
  3. Blackstone

    Blackstone Member

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    Christ, I've no advice on what to do, but I'm amazed that your hand could still heal to that degree...
     
  4. The_Next_Generation

    The_Next_Generation Member

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    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..
     
  5. climbnjump

    climbnjump Member

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    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?
     
  6. JustinJ

    JustinJ Member

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    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.
     
  7. Kernel

    Kernel Member

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    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.
     
  8. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

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    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.
     
  9. r1derbike

    r1derbike Member

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    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!
     
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    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.
     
  11. orionengnr

    orionengnr Member

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    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. :)

    I'm also guessing you don't ride a motorcycle, or do much sport parachuting. :)
     
  12. thump_rrr

    thump_rrr Member

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    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.
     
  13. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    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
     
  14. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Staff Member

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  15. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  16. The_Next_Generation

    The_Next_Generation Member

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    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.
     
  17. BSA1

    BSA1 Member

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    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.
     
  18. Sol

    Sol Member

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    Hmmm no ideas on how to manipulate firearms pain free, but you are lucky to even have fingers...
     
  19. okiewita40

    okiewita40 Member

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    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.
     
  20. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    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.
     
  21. FIVETWOSEVEN

    FIVETWOSEVEN Member

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    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.
     
  22. tarosean

    tarosean Member

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

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


    Other than that try a extended release?
     
  23. Cryogaijin

    Cryogaijin Member

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    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.
     
  24. BullRunBear

    BullRunBear Member

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    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
     
  25. JFtheGR8

    JFtheGR8 Member

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    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
     
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