One Finger, One Life
Lawrence T. Smith lost his life last weekend from what is known to be a common infection known as ‘felon’ in the finger. But this infection wasn’t always small, it grew larger because Lawrence simply didn’t get the help he needed right away. Here is Lawrence’s story:
Lawrence Theodore Smith was born on August 16, 1927 in a small town in Massachusetts. He was accepted into the Air Force at the young age of 15. Accompanying him were his brothers, Maxwell 13, Keaton, 17, and Jim, 19. They fought in many battles together, and were rarely apart. It is just sad that Lawrence didn’t speak up about his poor finger.
One day during a practice drill, Lawrence and others were given their own blade. They were to practice using the blade and learned when and how they should use it in case of a real emergency. But Lawrence wasn’t careful enough. During an entirely different drill, Lawrence brushed his left ring finger against his blade and found his finger with blood gushing out of it. He wrapped it in a bandage and moved on with his life as if everything were okay. But he was wrong—he was not going to be okay.
Lawrence suffered from many finger problems a few months after the accident. He experienced severe pain in his finger that eventually spread throughout his entire left hand. Lawrence knew he needed to get help, but as his brothers said, “…he was just too stubborn to do it.”
He told his brothers about his finger two months after the fact and they insisted he go see a doctor or take a visit to the small military base where there was a nurse. But Lawrence didn’t. Instead he continuously practiced military drills.
When Lawrence’s finger started changing to a blue/purple color in October, he knew he needed to go to a hospital. The day he was going to leave for one, there was a battle and Lawrence was forced to fight in it. It was not until December, six months later, that he actually went to the small hospital.
The nurses there couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They weren’t well trained so they shipped Lawrence and his brothers back to America by boat. And by the time they got there Lawrence was in great pain. He was suffering severe swelling at the end of his fingertip. Lawrence was suffering from felon.
Felon is a common skin disease in the finger caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It is so common because a bacterium simply has to enter the finger and then once the finger closes, it becomes trapped. In Lawrence’s case, his finger became swelled, it turned red and it became uncommonly warm, it discharged pus, and he felt great pain when his finger was bent.
Lawrence’s parents, Theodore and Gloria Smith, were terribly worried about Lawrence’s condition because they were afraid if he needed any surgery or anything that the family’s budget could simply not afford medical costs. And they were right. They couldn’t afford the needed surgery for Lawrence.
The Smiths took Lawrence up to Pennsylvania, where they had more experienced, yet cheaper doctors there. Lawrence got Dr. Pepper, one of the eastern United States best doctors. Dr. Pepper took a look at Lawrence’s finger and knew he had felon, and knew he needed amputation immediately. But once the Smith family took a look at the cost, they went back to their hometown where they let Lawrence rest.
His brothers went back to serve for our country, and Lawrence was left home most of the time with his younger sisters, Gwenivere, 11, and Helen, 9. But Gwenivere did something unthinkable one day. And that unthinkable thing was that she got out her mother’s finest kitchen knife and brought it over to Lawrence telling him she could perform surgical amputation and get the job done all by herself. Lawrence repeatedly told her no, so she put the knife back in her mother’s drawer.
But when Lawrence took a nap that afternoon, Gwenivere took back out the knife. She went to where he lay and chopped off his left ring finger. Lawrence immediately woke up of great pain and Gwenivere dropped the knife on the floor and she fainted due to the sight of her brother’s blood.
Hours went by until 9-year-old Helen came home. She found her brother and sister on the floor and got her parents immediately.
Theodore and Gloria Smith came home not too long after and found two of their children lying on the floor. One was breathing, one was not.
And not long after that it was declared that Lawrence T. Smith passed that night and his sister suffered only from a bump on the head and a few bruises from her fall. Their brothers were sent back to America again, for Lawrence’s funeral and now Lawrence rests in peace.
So next time you put a ring on your left ring finger, be sure you think of Lawrence Theodore Smith and all of the young men and that few percentage of women fighting in this war. Hopefully it will be over sooner then we think.