Tight Ring Removal at 5,000 Feet
I was minding my own business, reading a Dick Francis book. The birds were calling, the distant sound of kids playing was a happy background sound and I felt that happy lassitude you get after a long hike and a swim in a bracingly cold creek.
I was at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp on our tent cabin deck. (I love this camp with a fiery passion. So many great memories. So many years. So sad that it was fire scoured in the Rim Fire.)
Then I heard agitated adult voices approaching.
In he came with an entourage of adults, teens and kids all talking at once.
“Are you the jeweler?”
“Um, yes.” But I didn’t have any jewelry with me. I was in cut offs. Why was I being outed as a jeweler?
“I’m kinda freaking out here,” said an attractive women in hiking clothes. She had that CEO look that you can’t hide. She stepped aside and revealed the object of everyone’s attention.
“I have a little problem here.” Her husband held out his hand and his knuckle was scarily swollen, his finger was turning blue and his too tight ring was looking mighty tiny with all that swelling fore and aft.
“Yeah, I see that,” I said with understated anxiety.
“The nearest Emergency Room is over two hours away.” Said the lady CEO in rumpled shorts. “The camp nurse can’t do anything. Can you help us?”
“Maybe. I’ll need some things.” I was wishing I’d brought my ring saw, but who thinks of that when they go to the woods camping? I looked up at all the kids. (See my blog post on sawing off rings.)
“OK, I need a baggie of crushed ice. You!” I pointed, he dashed off, shoes thumping a moment later on the wood bridge over the nearby creek.
“I need oil, olive oil or vegetable oil. I need it in a baggie and I need a saucer. The kitchen is probably closed. Can one of you adults go with the kids to make sure they can get into the kitchen and take stuff?”
“I need hand soap and hand lotion, it’s around here in the tent cabin.” I gestured vaguely.
“Can I have a couple of clean washcloths?” Two more kids peeled off at speed.
“A bowl of warm, clean water. From the kitchen, not the creek.” More running feet.
I held his hand and examined his bulging finger and his too tight ring. He looked calm, but I didn’t know him other to than to say “hi” or “excuse me” near the communal bathroom or in the D Hall. (Dining Hall.)
“How are you doing?”
“This circus is a bit much. I think I’m the afternoon’s entertainment.”
“How did your finger get itself in this state?”
“At the volleyball competition. It was the old farts against the young gun staffers. I put my hands up and the ball hit it at a weird angle and I seriously jammed my finger.”
“I have no idea if I can help you. Are you up for trying? There will be some pain and maybe some blood.”
“Sure.” He smiled a small grimace-y smile.
The thundering, noisy herd started returning, showering my space with ice, water, oil, lotion and they all gathered around.
I iced his finger and held his hand above his head.
“Let me know when it aches, OK?”
“Yeah, it’s getting there.”
I dried his hand and oiled it and started twisting his too tight ring around. After a minute or so it had moved down a tiny bit toward his knuckle. The released skin behind it popped up and pinked up aggressively.
Behind me I heard all kinds of fascinated negative talk: “Look how huge his knuckle is!” “Do you see how gross his skin color is getting?” Some TV NCIS fan piped up, “I wonder how you tell if the skin is getting necrotic?” (Dying.)
I’d had enough.
“OK, I need everyone to leave, seriously.”
I whispered to him, “even your wife?” She was a picture of anxiety.
“Yes. But let my son stay.”
I made it happen.
His son sat still, alert and peaceful holding his father’s other hand. Soon I could hear the birds again and the little creek babble. I felt more peaceful.
“While everyone’s considerations about how impossible it was to get your tight ring off were surrounding me, I just felt helpless. It felt impossible.”
“I know, it was a bit much. I’m a body worker and I know the value of a quiet place to do difficult things.”
“Cool, so let’s look at your hand.” His knuckle had a big,shiny, swollen look that was purplish. His ring was so small in comparison.
“Let’s just acknowledge that it looks impossible and get that out of the way.”
“Yup, it looks like a Mount Everest climb for a day hiking dude.”
“OK, so here’s the new thought, ‘I’m so happy my ring is off!’ OK? Close your eyes and picture us smiling at each other and you hugging your son in celebration OK?”
His son looked up and smiled, “Yeah Dad, I’ll close my eyes and picture it too.”
“Let’s make some magic happen here in this dreamy magical place.”
“I’m game,” I said. “Both of you close your eyes. I don’t even know your names. You can introduce yourself when his ring is off.”
“Keep your eyes closed unless you can’t take the pain.”
I re-did the icing, drying and oiling. And I began twisting. Then he was bleeding a bit. I had his son, eyes open now, helping me by pulling the knuckle skin toward the back of his hand, the palm, while I tried to slide his tight ring off of his finger.
We were both panting, but the man with the tight ring stayed mute, breathing deeply, eyes closed.
We kept at it and I said, “It’s coming.” And then it was!
In the final long twisting pull over the knuckle I was crying, there was blood and I knew I was hurting him. Then I fell back and it was off. We all three were suddenly hugging and I was so glad we didn’t have an audience.
It had felt magical that we did this thing together.
I cleaned and disinfected his finger. Then I lotioned up his hand, which amusingly smelled very lilac-y. We didn’t care. I then massaged his arm and had his son do the other one.
“Give those nerves something else to focus on.”
We got acquainted in the quiet afterwards. We waited a few minutes before announcing to two kids who were hiding under the tent cabin deck that it was done and they could come back. They announced it Paul Revere style and soon the deck was groaning under well wishers and disbelievers turned believers.
The family honored us, my family and me, with a little wine and cheese in-the-pines-party the next day. (Check out family camps.)
I’ll never forget that ring removal experience in my life. It’s probably why when I see someone with a super tight ring I advise them to size it a bit larger. I tell them it isn’t a good idea to wear a too tight ring. This includes people who don’t know me.
Hey you, consider yourself told!
Magical Too Tight Ring Removing Jeweler,