On Monday, January 31 I ripped the toenail off my left big toe. It was a freak accident, one of those things that you can’t really replicate in your mind how exactly it happened… but the general gist is that I opened a door, smacked it into my toe somehow, the toenail popped up at a 90° angle inside my shoe and started bleeding all over. So here are my steps for “recovery” with a dose of sarcasm.
1. Put the nail back on
Sit down and ease your foot out of your shoe. Pause briefly, look at the blood oozing out, then get to work. Push the nail back down on the nail bed if it’s still attached to the toe in spots. (Mine was still attached horizontally across the middle of the toe… so I guess it was just half of my toenail that came off… but when you’re in the moment, who’s measuring?)
2. Wrap it up
Grab napkins, paper towels, tissues… whatever you can and wrap it around the bleeding nail. Several layers. Jam some more napkins in the toe of your shoe to create some compression when you ease your foot back into the shoe.
3. Avoid passing out
Go back to your car, get really dizzy and let the world get slightly black. Fight against that feeling by leaning your head against the headrest. Get cold and start shivering. Call your spouse and cry. (If you’re a guy, you may want to avoid the crying part.) Call your mom and cry. (Again, guys may not want to do this.)
4. Avoid going home
Instead of heading home to promptly address the situation, avoid home. Go somewhere with a bunch of other people and keep your foot elevated. This way you have to explain to several others exactly how clumsy you are.
5. Play first aid at home
Once you’re home, clean the toe off. There will probably be a lot of blood on the napkins you wrapped around the injury. Try not to look too closely at that. Soak the foot in warm water, adding Epsom salts can help soothe the site. Gently dry the foot off, douse it in peroxide and wrap it up in some gauze. If you realize you don’t have any first aid tape to keep the gauze on, use band-aids.
6. Avoid looking at it again for about 12-24 hours
Just thinking about the wound will give you the heebie-jeebies… just try to ignore it.
7. Play first aid some more
Keep dousing it in peroxide each day and wrapping it up. Foot soaks in Epsom salts are still soothing.
8. Remove polish
After a few days, gently remove the nail polish. (Guys, if you have painted your toes, you are weird.) This may sting at moments, so try to be really careful. But really, it’s the only way to see just what state the toenail is in.
9. Be surprised
If you have responded in the previous ways, you will be surprised at how little bruising there is and how your nail seems to be settled into the nail bed again. Granted, the nail is probably going to fall off at some point, but today is not that day.
10. Use protection
The nail will still be very sensitive, especially if you have a puppy that steps on it continually. You can keep wrapping it in the gauze, but that is kind of annoying if you try to run. If that’s the case, go to a drugstore and buy a gel toe protector. It cost about $6.50, which seems like a lot for what it is (basically a condom for your toe). But when you put it on and feel the gel protection, it will feel like a very worthwhile purchase.
Alright, so none of this is based on any real medical information (well, perhaps some things like compression and elevation) and is written with a hefty dose of self-effacing humor. But in all honesty, I am surprised at how well my toe seems to be doing. Yes, it still hurts quite a bit. I ran 5.5 miles yesterday and realized that 5 was kind of the limit on the pain threshold for that day. But each day is a little better.
I have discovered that I pop my toe up a lot. I don’t know if that’s something I have always done because the only time I’ve really paid attention to what my toes are doing is when I’m practicing yoga, and that requires you to spread your toes and ground yourself. But the past couple days I have noticed that I’ll pop that toe up in the air while standing in the kitchen or while working on Jade’s obedience school homework. I really notice it when I have shoes on, because I pop that toe up against the top of the shoe and am instantly reminded, “Hey dummy, you hurt the toe, remember? Don’t do that!”
*Please, please, please don’t take any of this as medical rule. And if you are crazy enough to do so, please don’t yell at me if your toenail doesn’t heal that well!