Monday, November 23, 2009

Fingernails are like tree trunks

Little Brother's little hands

Ouch! In September, Little Brother caught two of his fingers in the door of our car. It was a horrible experience. He screamed, I panicked, and Kerm came to the rescue by opening the door. Two of Little Brother's fingers immediately turned purple, at which point I threw everyone back into the car and sped off to the Emergency Room.

But by the time we had arrived, Little Brother's fingers looked fine. Aside from a mild cut, there was no visible injury. I felt bad for bothering the ER staff. However, the medical personnel assured me that following up with a crush-type injury is important.

About a week later, we went to our pediatrician for a recommended follow-up. Again, I worried that I was wasting her time. I couldn't see anything wrong. But the doctor pointed out two very teeny tiny blue-black spots right at the base of Little Brother's nail beds. Those are the bruises, she told me.

Here is a picture of Little Brother's fingers today, over two months later. The color of the bruises has faded (from bluish-black to purple to red) as his nails have grown. The bruised part of his fingers seems to have spread, but in reality, the affected area has simply grown larger along with the nail.

In this way, fingernails are like tree trunks -- they mark the passage of time. When you count the rings on a tree stump, you might notice that some rings are closer together than others, indicating years when the tree grew less due to drought or other stressors. You can sometimes see damage from fire or insects, which can cause the rings to be lopsided.

Fingernails are much the same. They grow more slowly when people suffer from poor nutrition. Human fingernails can tell you something about the overall health of a person. Their color and texture can reveal systemic illness, nutritional deficiencies, or, as in this case, injury.

Luckily for us, Little Brother is healing nicely. But it looks like it will be another month or two before his fingernails go -- or I should say, grow -- back to normal.

Photo credit: Mama Joules

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