Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Revenge of the NMR tube

Well I guess it had to happen to someone sooner or later. It appears that I applied slightly too much pressure when I was sticking the lid on my NMR tube the other night. As a result the tube snapped and proceeded to go straight through my glove and into my finger. Now that's obviously annoying but can be fixed with band aid. However, when the tube had finally embedded itself in my finger it decided to snap for the second time. In other words I had a piece of NMR tube thoroughly buried in my finger. This is not the sort shit you want to happen to you at 11 pm on a Monday. Trying to fish the glass out myself only resulted in pain and blood everywhere so off to the hospital. Fortunately, the hospital is only a short walk from the Chemistry Department. After waiting for an hour amongst screaming people on various drugs and/or totally shit faced with blood coming out of various openings I was attended by a very nice Doctor. She told me straight away that X-ray was no good for glass so she would have to dig around for the glass bits. At this point I would like to say thank you to whoever it was that came up with anesthetics. Anyway, after some serious digging and cutting a big chunk of NMR tube was extracted. This is what my finger looked like at 1.30 am when I was finally out of the Emergency room.
No my fingers weren't really blue. I have no idea why it keeps uploading the picture like this but it looks kind off cool and scientific. Anyway, it really wasn't particularly dramatic and if it wasn't for the glass I would never have gone to the Emergency Room. I have always heard that impaling yourself with an NMR tube is a particularly common accident amongst chemists. Nevertheless, I'm the first casualty that I know off. Does anyone else know of similar incidents? Finally, I have to say that there wasn't really anything I could have done to prevent this from happening. I used a brand new tube and applied a minimum amount of pressure when putting the lid on........just got unlucky I guess. And by the way what are people thinking off getting drunk and on drugs on a Monday. Save it for the weekend people. D!

22 comments:

ElwoodCity said...

I think I've cut myself, but never really been impaled. It has happened to a couple of people I know.

Amanda said...

As an undergraduate, a girl in my lab brushed her leg up against an open sharps container. Somehow a good inch of a glass pipet (contaminated with some unknown chemical) broke off in her leg. After a trip to the ER to dig out the glass and a few stitches she was as good as new. That's one of the many reasons why I don't wear shorts in lab.

silverback said...

Alright! That's it! Time to ban all NMR tubes. One accident is one too many. Just think what a broken nmr tube could do in the wrong hands. You could hijack a plane.

Anonymous said...

I know you were running out of ideas for new posts, but come on, no need to stab yourself to keep us coming back.

taitauwai said...

Hey Daniel, sorry about your freak accident. Hope you are alright now. There was once when I was a TA, a first year was trying to fix the pipet pump onto her pipet. Unfortunately, she was using too much force, the pipet broke and the broken end kinda stab into her hand. Unfortunately, the glass managed to slash one of her vein and resulted in excessive bleeding. She fainted. The rest of the class screamed. She was rushed to the emergency room and got 3 stiches.

So...take care.

milkshake said...

Stil better than the eyeball-on-the-end-of-the-tube kind of lolipop. I once bleached my hair and eyebrows (and shirt and jeans) with a large-scale Hoffman degradation; I can confirm that hot hypobromite in your face makes you run for shower. There was a guy in Prague who doused himself with liquified anhydrous amonia, reportedly he completely undressed himself within q second and jumped into the lab sink and rubbed the affected areas under the flowing water in front of the assembled lab personel.

Alica said...

A postgrad at my uni sliced through his hand while trying to remove/add (can't remember which) hosing to a condensor. Too much pressure and wham! no hand use for 2 weeks!

d_orbital said...

Once I was removing the glass adapter to a column. It was stuck and with a little force it broke and took a slice of my finger (about the size of a dime) right off. After an hour and half and thirteen stitches, it was back in place and good to go. Needless to say, I now have a teflon adapter for flashing!

The Canadian Chromatographer said...

Well, both of the types of accidents herein described happened to me, sadly! In my first year of grad school, I used a glass pipette to poke glass wool inside another pipette. It broke, and didn't require stitches, just yet... After 2 months of feeling pain in my thumb when applying pressure, say, to unscrew a peanut butter jar, I went to a doctor, who had no choice but to cut my thumb open and fish out a 2-3 mm piece of glassware.

Then, I still hold a record - that no one wants to contest! - in my former lab. I was trying to put tubing on a piece of glassware, which broke, and transformed itself into a weapon of skin destruction. Required the record 7 stitches. And when I came back to the lab, 4-5 days later, that stupid distillation was STILL waiting for me!

Lakshmi said...

How does having a fully-glass high vacuum manifold, in which you are trying to evacuate a bomb (a pressure-robust glass container, not quite the terrorist thing) blowing up on you on Sunday afternoon sound like? Been there done that ! And the gazillion pieces of glass embedded all over the shoulder to be removed the way you described. One piece of glass over the left shoulder was overlooked and it peeped out a week later in the middle of group meeting, psyching everyone out!

kiwi said...

fell victim to glass tube about a month ago - adjusting a piece of dodgy antique apparatus for an undergrad, a piece of bent glass tube in a bung snapped, and the now razor sharp end sliced across the top of my hand and into the knuckle of my index finger. no worries about left over glass - i could see right inside thanks to the incision. good fun

Anonymous said...

Daniel - caused serious blood flow in the same manner .... at least half a dozen times.... but never with pieces snapped off in the meat! Nice one!

Daniel Sejer said...

Good news! It's been over a week now and finally my finger has decided to heal up nicely so that I can actually use it again. Looks like I'll be getting myself a nice little scar. Anyway, I really appreciated all the gore guys. I particularly liked Milkshake's Hoffman degradation or was it Hoffman's Milkshake degradation perhaps? D!

miz said...

Probably about the same time it happened to you, it happened to me, well, everything except for the breaking off in my finger. Got a good deep puncture wound though, I had been twisting the cap on and that made a VERY sharp point. I probably have a scar if i can remember which finger it was now, it took over a week to heal up enough i could use the finger w/o pain.

Anonymous said...

Well guys,

The moral of the story is to hire a summer student or intern to do all the work FOR you, so you can 'outsource' your injuries.

good luck!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I know this is an ancient post now, but I just thought I'd add my two cents (or ører, as it may be). I have never had any serious glass-related injuries, but I have come across an ... interesting ... way to avoid them. I was working for *unnamed big pharmaceutical company* which obviously has some pretty hefty safety procedures in place compared to academia. I do miss them sometime. One of these safety procedures was a gadget developed inhouse, for avoiding nmr-tube-related injuries. It looked a little like a stand for holding kitchen roll (only smaller). Basically, it was a thick plastic tube of a size to fit an nmr-tube inside, mounted on a this plastic disc. You inserted the filled nmr-tube in the holder and then put on the cap, thus avoiding actually holding the nmr-tube in your hand while capping it. It even had a little metal cone for expanding the cap slightly so that it would fit over the tube more easily.

It does seem a bit excessive and funny, but well, if it saves you a useless hand for weeks?
very good blog, btw, I just found it and will add it to my regular reading.
Marie

Daniel Sejer said...

Marie, Please leave comments on old posts. People still read them (including yourself) and I always get alerted to them. I try my best to answer all questions.
Regarding glass cuts or accidents in general, be it in the lab or at home: if you want to eliminate all risk you may as well curl up and die. I am all for safety and I have been extensively involved in setting safety procedures up in academic intitutions and industry. However, the best safety measure is responsible people and common sense. I was extremely unlucky to cut myself on that tube and I still put NMR tube caps on the same way. The gizmo you are describing sounds excessive to me. Sure if it was there on the desk for me to use I would use it. However, I'm sure here are much more pressing safety issues in any instution that deserves more attention than this. I can't help getting the feeling that that company must have had an NMR tube accident and then introduced the apparatus to satisfy safety officers etc. Thanks for the comment and keep it coming. D!

p said...

Once I was cleaning the fume-hood floor with hexanes (I was stupid) and it caught fire and burned part of my hair and eyebrows.

Nana said...

Oh my God!!!! I thought I was the only one that got an NMR tube in my finger!!! The EXACT same thing happened to me a couple of years ago when I was undergrad. student. Blood everywhere, I was so pale and thought I would faint. I had to go to the hospital to remove pieces of glass, quite nasty. I still have a scar on my thumb and I actually can't bend it properly. People that know me still joke about it and say: "this could only happen to you" and even the phd students at the department still joke about it. Well, now I know that there are more unlucky chemists. Great blog, btw. And about Marie's post, in my company we have these holders from Aldrich that you put your NMR tube into so you can carry it around, I use them in a similar way as Marie so I don't get injured again. Good luck with your chemistry, I will definitely read more on your blog!
//Nana

Anonymous said...

Ancient post, I know, but still.
A coworker dropped a 500 ml round-bottom flask on the edge of lab sink. He has fairly good reflexes - he tried to catch it. "Fairly good" weren't good enough, though - he was a fraction of a second too late, and he caught two handfuls of glass shards... More bleeding than actual damage, apart from one piece of glass that broke off under his skin. He extracted it himself, though, using tweezers. No stiches were necessary.

Kyle said...

I totally did the same thing in undergrad... the day before graduation, and I had to go to the health clinic for stitches. My family was in town and were freaking out because they couldn't find me (this was before we all had cell phones).

I find regular NMR tubes to be waaaay to thin in general, especially considering what happened to me and so many others.

I like getting and using medium-walled tubes (you can get them from Wilmad for about the same price), and they are more robust and take less of a sample. There are some arguments about the quality of the NMR spectrum, but I've never found it to be lacking. I highly recommend using them.

MasterOfDisaster said...

I once managed to incorporate a glass shard about 3 x 3 mm in size for about 8 months into my thumb. At the time the accident happened (classical NMR-tube mishap), I was aware of the risk of retaining a piece of glass in the wound, but couldn't find any remainders on "inspection" and also didn't feel anything of it. Three days later, the cut was readily healed but some weeks after, I felt a stinging pain in my thumb whenever pressure was applied.
Being somewhat reluctant to visit a doctor, some months later I started 'Operation Excavation' and carefully scraped off the skin above the artifact with a scalpel. I was very careful not to cut myself and avoided any bleeding. Luckily, the glass was right underneath the upper skin layer and I was able to remove it without any bloodshed !
My mother (who is working as a nurse btw)stood beside me during the action and was completely horrified from what I removed from my finger.
It turned out the glass shard had completely encapsulated itself and had no binding to the surrounding flesh.
Kept the bad glass piece as a lucky charm on my desktop...
Lesson learned: never ever force a lid onto an NMR tube with an even slightly damaged brim.