At exactly 12:27pm, one of the two school front desk secretaries called our home phone, I answered. She said, "Could you please come to school? Peter has smashed his finger in the bathroom'"
I interrupted and said, "I'm on my way" and hung up the phone.
I arrived at school approx. 4 minutes later by car, and found there was a fire engine in the driveway, and heard an ambulance approaching. I found the secretary who had called standing waiting for me in the driveway with her hand over her mouth. I didn't stop but she walked with me and said that she had called 911 because of Peter's injury. I walked into the office and found Peter's teacher. As I walked into the nurse's office, I found the principal, and 3 to 5 paramedic or EMTs with Peter. Peter was sitting, crying uncontrollably, with a large bloody bandage covering his left hand. A paramedic or EMT told me that part of his finger was severed. He handed me an office-sized white envelope with the severed part inside. It included the nail and fingertip, and some bone.
They offered to drive us in an ambulance to Stanford ER, but I opted to drive. I took the envelope and my son, and turned to leave. Another staff member offered to drive us, but I declined and got into our car. Peter kept saying didn't want to leave school until he found the boy who closed the foor and told him that he forgave him and knew that it wasn't his fault. We left. I told him that right now we were just going to focus on breathing and driving.
I drove straight to Stanford ER and arrived there about 8 or 10 minutes later.
Peter was taken in without waiting and treated by the emergency room staff and after about an hour, a member of the hand team at Stanford. They attempted the re-attachment of his severed left middle finger. He was given x-rays of the hand, an IV of morphine, an antibiotic IV, and finally a cast and bandaging. The doctor stated that there was bone loss, and this was called an "amputation/crush injury".
They asked Peter what had happened, and Peter told them that at lunchtime, his friend at school accidentally closed the bathroom stall door where he didn't realize his finger was, and the door chopped his finger off.
I am a volunteer art teacher at his school. I am there every Friday from 1145am-1245pm. I know that he bell rings at 12:15 and the children start recess after lunch. This is probably exactly the time that this happened.
The principal called in the hours following, asking about Peter's condition, and I informed him of the events and he said that he stated to me that the boys were playing tag in the bathroom. I remember he said, "We don't play tag in the bathrooms here, but that's apparently how it happened". During my art classes at Fairmeadow, I have witnessed the boys playing tag in and out of the bathrooms. The previous week on May 13, the boys were playing tag around the bathroom. A boy I know approached me during my outdoor art class and asked if I had a band-aid. I sent him to the office as I could see he was bleeding from his hand, he had blood also on his face. We were standing outside the boys' bathroom, but I do not know any details of his minor injury. I am a volunteer art provider at school, I am not on staff and I do not, nor am I authorized, to discipline the children.
The following day after Peter's finger incident, a family friend came over with flowers and her 2 children. One attends Fairmeadow, and the other attended Fairmeadow in the past. She said, "I thought they had 'soft-close doors' in those bathrooms." The two boys said, Yeah, well not in THAT bathroom". They called it "The far bathroom near room 14". Another parent and mother of Peter's friend and classmate called to check on Peter. She said, "I'm not surprised. Those doors are way too heavy and way too sharp." She said she was surprised Peter maintained consciousness with the amount of blood he left in the bathroom and leading from there to the school front office. Thankfully, I did not see the blood trail.
On May 26th, Peter had his first day back at school. He was approached and welcomed by another 5th grade teacher. He said he is the one who went to find the finger part in the boys bathroom, and he told Peter that he found it stuck inside the door-jam. He said to him that he retrieved it, and gave it to the EMTs who in turn gave it to me to take to the ER.
Peter was then under care from the Hand Clinic Surgical Specialties Department at 730 Welch Road. The finger portion which was re-attached did not "take" and has turned black and will be removed. We had follow-up appointments weekly, and Peter was given yet another round of antibiotics. The middle finger will be somewhat deformed and short permanently. They said that re-attachment attempt was to serve as more of a "biological dressing" than as an indicator representing an expectation of a re-attachment.
Peter returned to school on May 26th, 10 days after the incident, with limitations of physical activity.
My brother-in-law is a South Florida Plastic Surgeon. He has been in constant contact with us as well as with all doctors who have seen Peter. He has all details of the medical terminology of what has been happening with Peter's finger, and agrees that in his opinion, Peter has received appropriate care to date.
I sent a letter to Mr. Skelly, the PAUSD superintendent. I told him that my son had a severed finger at Fairmeadow, and that left with me with two problems. 1) the doors at Fairmeadow need changing ASAP, and 2) we now have a medical bill for $10,000 which we cannot pay. I asked for his help with my two problems.
I received a call over the summer break from Risk Management at PASD. They refered the case to Keenan and Associates, who also called and said that they were going to send out an adjuster to look at the doors at Fairmeadow. I received a call today from Keenan and Associates. He said that they have decided that the doors fine, and they will not be changing them, nor will they be helping to pay any of our family's medical expenses resulting from the severed finger. He added that the only negligence was on the part of the child who had closed the door while exiting the bathroom.
I am posting this today in an attempt to draw attention to what I see is a real safety issue for Palo Alto School students, and it is my hope that mine is the last child to loose a finger at school in our town. Something needs to be done.
This story contains 1212 words.
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