About two weeks ago one of my favorite entertainers, Jimmy Fallon took a fall in his kitchen, catching his wedding ring on the edge of a table and entirely dislocating his finger.
What seemed like a simple issue landed him straight for the ER at Bellevue Hospital where surgeon David Chiu performed a very delicate micro-surgery to save Jimmy’s ring finger. He was diagnosed with a “ring avulsion,” which is basically a sudden pull on the ring finger that results in severe soft tissue damage that can range in severity all the way to complete amputation. Jimmy suffered a Class II rupture, which causes inadequate blood supply to the extremity, which required micro-surgery to repair the torn blood vessel and vein and even nerves.
Watch Jimmy’s explanation here.
As odd as this injury sounds, there are actually 150,000 incidences of ring avulsion every year making up 5 percent of upper limb injuries. The issues of this type of damage is it also can entirely sever the vascular vessels in the finger and when that happens you have about 12 hours to save the finger at all.
Before the advent of modern microsurgery, ring avulsion injuries were treated with revision amputation to avoid multiple, extensive, frequently unsuccessful reconstruction surgeries. Even today, if the avulsion is so severe that the finger tissue dies, amputation is really the only choice.
Jimmy was sent immediately from Beth Israel’s ER to Bellevue where specialist acted fast to determine if his finger could be saved. How did they save his finger? Well, because the damage was so severe, Chiu took a vein from Jimmy’s foot to repair the damaged vessel in his finger. Amazing but… now for the healing crisis.
On his show last night, he said it would take eight weeks for him to gain feeling back in his finger. That’s the least of his worries of you ask me. And gaining all the feeling back isn’t guaranteed. First, the surgery is so intricate, a great deal of the more dense connective tissue in the fingers and wrist are altered to the point that the body’s natural healing process creates unnecessary scar tissue that can cause a slow down in nerve regrowth and ultimately full tissue repair. It’s crazy that our bodies’ healing processes can actually cause other issues we never considered.
While his finger heals, he also now has a missing vein and new scar tissue to deal with in his foot not to mention the compensation that slowly occurs in his movements while his hand is immobilized so the vein takes hold and repairs.
How can we get a message to Jimmy Fallon?
I’ve had clients who have had finger avulsions, thumb, and even toes severed from slipping under a lawn mower, cutting their finger off with a saw… you know, the insane accidents that you don’t think could ever happen to you then suddenly you are in an ER praying that the surgeons can fix you. In each instance the first thing we work with are the MELT Assessments to help my client learn to identify the accumulated stress the body is managing through the healing process so it doesn’t accumulate and cause more pain or compensation as time goes on.
With MELT, we use what I call “the indirect before direct approach,” meaning that we don’t treat the area where there is damage when we start. Instead we work in other areas to keep blood flow optimal, boost the body’s natural repair mechanisms, and restore balance to the body so compensation doesn’t cause more problems.
For Jimmy, I would recommend the Rebalance Sequence, the Lower Body Compression Sequence, and depending on how his foot is doing, the Mini Soft Ball Foot Treatment. Some hands-on bodywork would also do his body some good but managing some of his own care is the best way for him to continue healing and regain the mobility and feeling in his hand and his foot where they removed the vein to save the finger.
We want to send him a MELT system and get him started on his own self-care protocol. In the meantime, I’m sending a message to Dr. Chiu to see if I can get him to learn more about MELT so the next time he does this surgery he can recommend MELT as a self-care tool for people with extremity avulsions another way to support the healing process.