Monday, April 26, 2010

My story about the BB formerly in my left hand

(Note, if you're reading this on facebook, click on this note to see the whole note, and then click on "view original post", and then you'll be able to see the pictures!)

Many years ago, when I was aged 17 and less thoughtful and aware than I am now, I used to own a BB air pistol. It looked like this

I have always been one who likes it to be pitch dark at nighttime when I'm sleeping. Outside my home in Esperance (now part of Edmonds) Washington, directly outside my bedroom window, there was a street light (In fact, it's this exact street light right here (give it a second to load)). I had a relatively inexpensive blind on my bedroom window, and lots of light seeped in from the street light. One of my greatest desires at that time was to have the street light stop working. Toward this end, I used to occasionally, in the middle of the night, get out my BB gun and shoot BBs at the light. I would hit it, but it didn't really hurt the light that much. It had a very very thick plastic lens.

The BB gun runs on compressed CO2, which comes in a little canister which one places inside the handgrip and then forces into a needle/valve setup at the top by winding on the little screw at the bottom of the handgrip. When one winds it far enough, the needle inside the valve punctures the top of the CO2 canister, allowing the pressurized gas to enter the gun and provide motive power for shooting the BBs. The canisters and BB's look like this:

As you can see, the BB's are about 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) in diameter. They are steel with a copper coating. My gun held approx 17 BBs, which could be fired on semiauto. One CO2 canister was good for 250-300 shots. When it started to run out of CO2, the shots would become weaker and weaker, with the BB's falling well short of their intended target.

It should be noted that A: I had been through a certified gun safety course, and had regularly handled actual firearms with powder based munitions for years at this point and B: The prefrontal cortex does not finish developing until the early to mid 20's.

So on the particular night in question, I noticed that: A. My BB gun appeared to be out of bullets, and B. My BB gun's CO2 canister seemed to be winding down to empty. At this point I hit upon the brilliant idea of figuring out just exactly how empty my CO2 cartridge was by pointing my unloaded BB gun at my left hand and firing, and then judging the emptiness of my CO2 cartridge by the intensity of the air (minus the BB, mind you--just air!) that blew against my hand.

Unfortunately, there was exactly one BB still left in the gun. There was enough CO2 left in the cartridge to propel this BB through the inside wall of my palm, but NOT back out through the top of my hand. My immediate thought at the time was along the lines of "SHOOT (I didn't even think cuss words, back then--really), now I'm going to have to wake up my dad and tell him exactly what a stupid thing I've done, and he's gonna be furious". Funnily, my dad was very matter of fact. I suspect looking back that considering all the shit he saw in Vietnam, it was actually fairly low key and amusing for him.

He drove me to the Emergency Room, where a (in hindsight) fairly incompetent GP did surgery on my hand with local anesthetic. She sliced open my hand and tried for nearly an hour to remove the BB. I asked her why she didn't use a magnet, and she said they didn't have one. Then I asked what's the big deal--can't she just reach in and grab it? She said "nope, it's very complex and delicate in there--I could cause more damage". Finally she asked me what was it made of. Steel, I answered. She asked was I sure. Yes, I answered (I was wrong--it has a copper coating). "Okay," she said, "I'm going to leave it in there."

At this point I should have said "The Hell you are. You're staying here until it's out.". But being young and somewhat less aware and thoughtful than I am now, I acquiesced.

This led to about 3 weeks of physical therapy (Physio in Australia), regaining of full motion in my hand, and basically completely forgetting, most of the time, that I was partially a man of steel.

Fast forward 18 years, to about 8 days ago. My hand starting hurting, and I started losing range of motion. This got worse and worse as each day passed, until finally the pain was unbearable and I could hardly open or close my left hand at all. Finally, on Friday, I found myself being operated on by really nice plastic surgeon named Sofie, who afterwards said the BB was ensconced in a fibrous shell and the surrounding tissue was so inflamed and infected it was like "muck"--her word, not mine. Unfortunately I was basically asleep for the operation, and by the time I woke up they had disposed of the BB in such a way that it couldn't be recovered. Bummer.

So now I'm doing a little physical therapy on my own, have about 60% of the motion back in my left hand, and should be fine.

That's my story about the BB. Lesson learned--never point a gun at something you don't intend to shoot, even if it's just a BB gun. And perhaps also don't let people under 25 handle guns unsupervised. =). I mean there's a reason the car rental companies insist you be 25 before they rent to you, isn't there?


  1. I love you my man of flesh who was until recently, at least partially, my man of steel!!!!!!!

  2. Wow, what an amazing story! So glad you got that out now without TOO much trouble...I will be sure to pass this story along to any unsafe gun (even BB gun) users. Hope your hand is back to full function in the near future :-)

  3. Hey Jena-thanx! slowly getting better! =)

  4. "i was partially a man of steel" - lol, that is the best line ever!
    glad your hand is doing better, ben! :)

  5. Hey Arenda--thanx it's doing much better!