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Starbucks And A Car Door

Keith J. Kaplan, MD

Posted December 28, 2017

I quit drinking coffee almost a year ago. Up to then I was a gold star premium member of the Starbucks club. Morning, noon and night was not unusual. I wouldn’t brew my own but I would pick up gas station coffee or Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at least once a day. Then one day I just decided the cost wasn’t worth the benefit. I lost interest in the taste. Then the smell. I use to like to music and atmosphere. Hundreds of blog notes were posted from Starbucks locations across the country.

Now I find myself needing a bathroom and Starbucks is calling me. They always seemed to have maintained facilities. I stop and duck my head in. The music and smells are very familiar but not enticing me to the line to order my drink and watch someone make it as I use to. I walk directly to the back to the restroom and walk directly out when done. I take a cursory look at cups on the shelf and other merchandise. Nothing catches my eye. The line seems longer than when I came in. I remember there always seems to be a line. Perhaps I think about getting in it but the feeling passes.

As I am getting back into my truck I hear a loud scream, a shriek in the cold December air that seems to echo across the strip mall. A child is standing in the parking lot holding his hand and screaming uncontrollably.

I think about avoiding the matter but something doesn’t seem quite right. His father looks confused and is trying to console the boy.

I get out of my truck and offer to help. I tell the father I am a physician and ask what happened. The boy says he slammed in thumb in the car door of the family van. He is inconsolable. There is blood all over both hands and dripping on the snow and ice on the ground appearing to freeze on contact.

I suggest we go back to Starbucks and get his hands rinsed off and take a look. The distal part of his left thumb is mangled. Half of the tissue is detached from his hand. There is bleeding from under the nail bed and around the significant laceration.

I ask the father to get a first aid kit and keep running cold water over the thumb. The bleeding slows a little. The child is making a fist around my hand. He stops crying. He watches to see if his thumb keeps bleeding. We get it where we can see the damage. I carefully wrap some gauze from the kit around the thumb and tell the child to gently apply pressure around the gauze.

I tell the father he should visit the nearest ER to see a hand surgeon and repair the thumb. I tell him he might lose that nail. A new one will replace it in time. He will be ready to play Little League by the Spring.

The father seems disappointed he doesn’t get his coffee or tea. He reluctantly agrees to take the child to the ER. He asks for my name and number. He wants to send me a bottle of wine or something. I refuse. He insists on getting my name and number. Think about being a good Samaritan and hope this doesn’t come back to bite me. We applied some basic first aid principles. Time was on our side to care for the child. I give him my name and cell number.

The father carefully puts his son back in the car and drives off.

The next day I receive a text message from an unfamiliar number that reads “Thank you for saving my son’s thumb”.

Of course I didn’t really do the saving. I merely suggested it likely needs saving by someone other than I.

One never knows when one can help someone else, even at a coffee shop.

Thanks and Gratitude:

Dr. Kaplan is a pathologist and laboratory medical director in North Carolina. He blogs daily on issues relevant to pathology and laboratory medicine at tissuepathology.com. As a member of the medical editorial board, Dr. Kaplan also reviews healthcare content created by DoveMed medical staff.