Taking a Gruesome Lesson From ‘Emily in Paris’

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If you’re up to date watching “Emily in Paris” on Netflix, then you’ve seen the gruesome scene involving Camille’s dad, Gérard. His flamboyant use of a sword to open a bottle of champagne resulted in amputating the tip of his thumb. Nearby, Emily, her face splattered in blood, places the amputated tip in a bucket of ice and rushes Gérard to the emergency department.

 The grisly scene got us thinking: What exactly should you do if all or part of your finger or thumb gets severed? Premier Health Now asked hand surgeon Matthew Cavo, MD, for advice.

Although it’s very bloody and scary to witness, Dr. Cavo says it’s important to keep your cool. “First, find some clean, moist gauze to apply tight pressure to the part of your hand or finger that is bleeding. The bleeding should stop in about 10 minutes. Don’t keep pulling off the gauze to look at it or the bleeding will start all over again.”

 Next, cover the piece that was amputated in clean, moist gauze, place it in a plastic bag, put the bag in an ice bath, and get to the emergency department. “Don’t let it get wet or have direct contact with ice; this could damage the tissue,” he says. But keeping it cold is important, he adds. “It doubles the time that a surgeon has to reattach the tissue.” If warm, a surgeon has 12 hours to reattach; if cold, 24 hours.

Why Most Tips Are Not Reattached

On the show, Gérard has a quick recovery. A couple of scenes after the champagne fiasco, he’s with friends at a backyard dinner, his bandaged thumb elevated shoulder height. Which means, according to Dr. Cavo, like most incidents of tip amputation, Gérard did not have his thumb tip reattached. To reattach can involve about five hours of surgery on tiny arteries, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and sometimes bone, depending on the extent of the injury. To ensure proper healing, surgery typically is followed by a week or more in the hospital.

“Because the patient on the TV show was home the same day, we can assume his doctors opted not to reattach and instead closed his good, healthy skin,” says Dr. Cavo. “If it’s just the tip, that’s typically what we do.”

Although surgery to reattach tips isn’t common, thumb tips are reattached more often than fingertips. “That’s because thumbs are so critical to functioning day-to-day. You can’t really pinch without a fully functioning thumb,” Dr. Cavo explains.

Respect Your Power Tools

Keeping your hands safe from amputation means treating power tools with respect. “Most of these injuries occur in adults who took their eyes off the table saw for just a second. Or they didn’t follow safety protocol with lawn mowers, snow blowers, hedge trimmers, or other power tools,” Dr. Cavo reports. Accidents happen in an instant, to even the most experienced, he says. “Be careful, don’t disassemble safety guards, don’t allow kids to use power tools, and don’t use them after consuming alcohol.”

Opening a bottle of champagne with a sword also is not advised!

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