I’ve been in the radio controlled hobby for almost 15 years now. Aside from the occasional minor hobby knife cut, I haven’t had any major accidents. I even prided myself on my safety record. I’m usually very careful when dealing with dangerous items. On Thursday January 5th, my safety record came to an end.
I was helping a buddy setup his new quad rotor helicopter. He was having some issues with it and asked me to take a look and try to figure it out. To work on these, you tweak the software for the flight board from a computer. The motors are normally disarmed when making changes. Even so, it is always recommended to either disconnect the motors from the ESC’s or to take the props off. I was lazy and didn’t do either. This particular problem was that some of the controls were functioning backwards and to trouble shoot it, I was reversing some settings in the software.
We were making headway and almost had it sorted out, when I hit a wrong button. This button caused the two motors on the far side of the copter to go to full throttle. In an instant the copter lifted that side and tilted right at me. I had no time to think and instinctively threw my hands up to stop it. My buddy grabbed the copter from the back and got it shut down. This likely kept the copter from continuing towards me and eating me alive. I looked down and saw blood and knew I had cut my hand. I went into another room to get some paper towels. I thought it was just a minor scrape as I had no pain. When I stopped to actually look my hand, I saw a huge gash down my left thumb right through the thumbnail. Part of my thumb was laying over, I yelled for help and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.
I was going into shock as I started to realize how serious this was. “I almost cut my thumb off” I said as people started to gather. I looked and saw the trail of blood I left, it was a lot of blood. We hopped in a car and headed for the emergency room. On that trip the pain started to set in. It hurt, a lot! When we got to the ER and I was taken to the triage room, between the pain and my imagination running wild with what was going to happen, I started hyperventilating. My ears, legs and hands were tingling, I almost passed out. I had to control my breathing and eventually came out of it.
I was taken back to a room and had the paper towel removed. The blood was soaked and dry now and it hurt like crazy as they peeled it off my thumb. I looked down and by now, the blood had clotted and filled the gap where the cut was. They took an X-Ray to see if I cut through the bone and we found out that it did take the tip of the bone off, but not enough to worry about. They had me soak my hand for while in some soapy water to clean it out some. Then they gave me three shots at the base of my thumb to numb it. The shots hurt almost as much as the cut as the stinging fiery pain went up my thumb. Then everything felt a lot better. My thumb went numb and the pain went away. The doc came in, cleaned out the wound and started stitching me up. It took nine stitches in all and then they wrapped me up.
Two weeks later, I’m still healing but have some feeling in my thumb and I can bend it and use it for some tasks now. I expect a full recovery and it will take some time for the nail to grow back, but all in all I feel very lucky. It could have been so much worse. The copter could gone right past my hands and into my face. I feel blessed that nothing worse happened and really wanted to tell this story to help remind us all to be careful.
This story should serve as a reminder to be diligent, to not get complacent and lazy, to always think about what you are doing. It would have taken me less than a minute to take the props off and that would have saved me days of pain, frustration, and money. Don’t let this happen to you. Stay safe and have fun.