Day of Reflection

Today marks a very difficult day.  One of remembrance and important value.  As part of my blog, I wanted to extend the chance to share what I’ve learned throughout my cake experience.  My following words will forever  be a tell tale true story of the day that changed my life.  It’s been by far the most horrific thing that’s ever happened to me, and as I come to terms with my physical and emotional struggles, know that even if I could search every corner of my mind, words will still always fails me.

 (Warning, this will be graphic …)

May 5, 2010

I had only been at my new job a few weeks.  I was working on my first big project.  A large custom safari cake, that was for a birthday event.  Mandi was going to come and photograph the cake, so I could submit it to a magazine that had contacted me early that month, interested in my work.   It was a perfect opportunity to have something fresh and new.  I wanted this cake to be perfect.  I was working alone, methodically, and percisely.  I already had the top tiers of the cake done, and was moving onto the bottom two tiers.  Both the bottom tiers were squares, and I wanted to make sure that the fondant didn’t tear.  One of my bosses walked by and I asked, “Don’t you guys have a sheeter?”  Never once did I think that I would regret those words for the rest of my life. 

My boss set the machine up for me.  It was old and large.  He plugged it in and ran through some fondant.  The machine was leaving marks on the fondant, with grey streaks.  This was not the result I anticipated.  I decided to grab some scrap fondant to use to run it through the machine.  I didn’t want to waste the piece I needed to for the cake.  I also grabbed a towel.  I was on the back half of the machine, when the rollers sucked in the loose towel and my hand with it. 

I can tell you every perfect noise as I experienced the machine crushing my hand.  The pain, the most intense unfathomable and excruciating thing imaginable.  Ingrained in my mind I will always hear crystal clear the noise of the sheeter as I was resisting against it to try to get my hand free.  I screamed, as did my boss.  He unplugged it, but I was stuck in the machine.  Two other men came to try to free me from the machine.  As the commotion built, others from upstairs came pouring down to see what was going on.  I decided at that moment to shut off.  I went into a strange state, mostly shock.  I thought that if I continued to panic that the situation would be worse and at that point I would pass out.  When my hand lodged into the machine, the pin holding the rollers into place jammed which is why I could not be freed.  I told someone to call 911.  I thought that I would have to be extricated from the machine.  It seemed as though hours passed in those next several minutes.  Finally, the release and I was free.  It took three men.  My hand was deformed and gruesome.  I took another towel and wrapped my hand.  I couldn’t wait another second for anyone to come to me.  I was in fight mode.  I took my purse and told my boss to drive me to the hospital a few blocks away.  The instant we stepped foot outside the bakery, I turned in the other direction and walked to the fire house next door.  My husband is a Milwaukee firefighter.  I went right in and said, “I’m Vince’s wife and I need a med unit.”  They sat me down were they had trouble finding a pulse.  I bit my shirt to keep the mind blowing burning nevere sensation from making me stop breathing.  I kept thinking that I had to hold it together because these were my husband’s co-workers.  They couldn’t see me at my weekest.  I had to be brave.

At the hospital my fears were confirmed.  Three broken fingers, two of the tips also shattered, two finger nails torn off.  They numbed me, casted me and set me up for surgery to two days.  The next day at my pre-op I was rushed into surgery immediately.  My hand was completely blistered from the swelling.  The surgery happened so fast, that my husband didn’t even have time to drop my daughter off and get back before I was under.  I had three pins in each finger, and my nail beds reconstructed, with the nails sewn back on.  More than anything, I can tell you that the nerve pain from my fingernails was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. 

In the following days set to recover, my world started to spiral out of control.  I had orders and clients that had to be fulfilled.  I couldn’t take care of my kids, or even dress myself.  My husband had to take leave and take care of everything.  It was in that moment that I learned some very hard and valuable lessons.  First I realized how fortunate I was to have my fingers at all.  I became overwhelmed with the love and support of my family and friends.  I learned that no matter how much you’d like to think that the world doesn’t go on without you, it does.  I also learned that the people that should have cared the most didn’t.  That they mistook my ability to look the other direction as stupidity.  Even more so, my world was shattering around me as I became incapable of coping with my emotions.  I felt ashamed, guilty, and most of all alone.

I sought help from an amazing phsycologist who gave me the most insight into my injury, the process, and my downword spiral.  I started to have panic attacks, nightmares, and was hyper visulant towards everything around me.  Certian sounds, motions, senariors would trigger instant panicing and physical sickness.  I was diagnoised with Post Truamtic Stress Disorder.

After months of physical and physcho therapy, I’m here left with permement damage to my hand and my mind.  I have lost complete function of my index finger at the first knuckle, and have limited use and movement of the others.  I cannot fully straighten or bend all three of those fingers.  I lose feeling in the tips, as well as have throbbing pain the majority of the time.  The atrophic changes to my hands are remarkable.  The skin is different and sensitive especially to cold.  I have disfigurement to the nails and fingers.  I’ve lost 50% of my strength to my dominant hand, leaving simple chores like opening containers, or untying knots and counting money difficult. 

More than anything through all of this, it’s a learning expirience.  I cannot stress the importance  or invaluable lesson behind every single sentiment in this post.  If you are unfamiliar with a machine in anyway, make sure you have every possible chance of training on it.  Check and recheck to make sure everything is in place, and NEVER have anything lose like a towel, clothing or jewerly in your possesion while working with industrial machines.  It only takes a split second to change your life.

So at a year later, I embrance my fortune of still being able to make cake, eventhough it causes me pain.  I’ve learned to addapt around the injury and non-functioning parts of my hand.  I’ve learned to ask for help.  I thank God everyday that the injury wasn’t worse, and can only hope that I can pass the urgency to someone else that will heed my advice.  

I do have quite a bit of anger, sadness, and fear that’s left looming around the entire messy ball of drama.  Given the point of where my hand is now, I fear my future.  I’m already seeing drastic changes that point to me perhaps not being able to have a long cake career.  I’m still able to play the piano, with pain, but other passions such as my flute are a far bigger struggle. 

As far as the other parts of this injury, there is no worse feeling then being taken advantage of, especially after something so life altering.  There’s a deafening silence that consumes you when you realize that the people that you’d hope would care the most, don’t.  It’s devestating.

3 Responses to “Day of Reflection”
  1. Amandalynn says:

    I love you so much. The fact that you’re still making cakes, and incredibly they’re better than ever, and that you still have that love and passion in the face of everything you went through… it’s inspiring. You’re my biggest hero, I mean it 100%

  2. heather says:

    Thank you for being so open and honest about what happened to you. That is so brave and I know it must be a challenge everyday. I love your cakes and your amazing talent…I’m so glad you are still able to live your passion!

  3. zzzzz78759 says:


    I don’t know you but I think your cakes are wonderful.

    I had a similar (though less devastating) accident many years ago when a silkscreen clearcoat machine grabbed my rubber glove while I was cleaning it and pulled my hand in. Somehow, nothing was broken (though the doctor took more than one x-ray because he couldn’t believe it). I do still experience some arthritis type symptoms.

    I do understand the fear and (for want of a better word) shame after such an accident. I kept asking myself, “How could I be so stupid?” and so wanted to go back and change what had happened. It took me a long time to realize we can’t change the past, we can only look forward to the future.

    It’s only been a year but please forgive yourself for making a mistake. I hope that the pain, both physical and psychological, will subside and you’ll go on to make many more of your beautiful cakes. You are very talented and do seem to love it.

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