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  • Writer's pictureJeff Eaker


“Do you realize? That everyone you know, someday, will die. And instead of saying all of your goodbyes. Let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last. You realize the sun don't go down. It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning ‘round.” 

  -The Flaming Lips 


Every morning starts with a sharp prick to the finger. I have a spring-loaded lancet device that I use. It has a couple of different settings where you can adjust the speed and depth to which the tiny needle impales the tip of your finger.  


I use the highest setting. I’m right-handed and don’t have the dexterity to use the device with both hands. So, every morning, my right hand wields the lancet and my left hand takes the jab. I play guitar, so the tips of all the fingers on my left hand are fairly well callused from the strings. Hence the need for the highest setting. 


On the glucometer, I’m looking for a number as close to 100 as possible. Most mornings I’m around 150 – 175, which is decent but some mornings I get a 120 or even a 110 and it makes me feel as though I’ve really accomplished something. It’s a great way to start my day.  


I do a lot of woodworking. Back in August, I was working on a picture frame that I was going to give my wife for her birthday. There were other gifts in addition to the picture frame. This was the heartfelt, lovingly hand-crafted portion of the birthday package. 


Making a picture frame is all about the miter cuts. Hitting a perfect 45° angle four times in a row is trickier than you might think. Even with a miter saw. Once you get the angles right, before you assemble the frame you need to flip each piece over and cut the groove in the back for the glass and the matte to fit into.  


For this task, I use a router table. 


On a router table, the router is mounted upside down beneath the table so that when you turn it on the spinning blade of the router bit emerges at the desired height and you slide your wood over it to cut the groove.  


I now own a proper router table with lots of safety features. This incident happened before I owned a proper router table with lots of safety features. One could even say that this incident is the reason I now own a proper router table with lots of safety features.  


This particular incident happened when I was using a DIY set-up that I had learned how to make from watching a few YouTube videos. Proper router tables with lots of safety features are expensive and woodworkers come up with a lot of DIY solutions to achieve the same result without the cost. I had used this set-up hundreds of times without incident. This time, however, the DIY fence slipped. 


I’m usually able to drive myself to the emergency room. For the most part, I handle myself quite well while in shock. I once fell off the top of a fully extended twelve-foot ladder while using a chainsaw. I saw no need to wait for medical attention to arrive. I didn’t even bother to turn off the chainsaw. I just got in my car and drove to the hospital. 


This time was different though. This was pretty bad. A router is a pretty gnarly tool. There was a lot of blood. Plus, my car has a manual transmission. Driving myself was not an option. I bit the bullet and called my wife. 


The key to getting good service at the emergency room is to injure yourself in a very visible manner. You go in there with the flu or a sprained ankle and it’s going to be a really long wait. But you walk in there dripping blood all over the place and you’ll at the very least be taken to triage quickly. 


The nurse sat me down in a chair and started to unwrap the blood-soaked dish towel that I had arrived in. Things get a little fuzzy at this point. I remember telling my wife not to look because I thought it would be a turn-off. I remember hearing the word, mangled. I remember hearing the phrase, fast-track.  


The next thing I know, I’m being wheeled back to where the doctors are and hooked up to an I.V. I recall being told something about dilaudid and how I might start to feel a little funny.  


In the movie Drugstore Cowboy, one of my all-time favorites, there’s a scene where Matt Dillon gives William S. Burroughs his paper bag full of drugs. Burroughs rummages through the various bottles of pharmaceuticals, casting them all aside except for the dilaudid.   


“This, my son, should earn you an indulgence,” he says to Matt Dillon. 


I end up with 37 stitches across two fingers and a request from the doctor that I let her take a few pictures of her handy work to show off to her colleagues. I ask for a little bump on the dilaudid. In one dose it’s become my new favorite drug. Now I know why Bill was so grateful. I’m ready to score another hit and live life as a dilaudid junky. 

A different doctor comes over with a concerned look on her face. I’m told that they’re not worried about my finger. They tell me it’s going to be a little ugly, but eventually it will be fine. What’s not fine is my blood sugar.  


My levels are over 400. Which is not good. They tell me I could slip into a diabetic coma. I tell them I won’t slip into anything if they give me a little more dilaudid and put on Beggars Banquet. Eventually they release me with a promise that I’ll go see my doctor as soon as possible. 


My doctor adjusts my diabetes medication the next morning and refers me to a good endocrinologist. I purchase a glucometer, the spring-loaded lancet device I described earlier and schedule an appointment with a diabetic dietician.  


We talk about my journey with type-2 diabetes which began in 2016. I’ve been pretty successful managing it with metformin, weight-loss and lifestyle changes. 


The dietician asks me what I eat and I tell her I survive mostly on protein bars and nicotine gum. She says that needs to change and we work out a meal plan that I can handle.  


By the time I get into see the endocrinologist my A1C goes from 14 to 7.2 and my blood sugar levels have stabilized under 200. Which is good. If I can get that A1C under 6.5, technically I’ll just be pre-diabetic.  


When I first came into the emergency room and was explaining the nature of my injury to the nurse, she told me I needed to find a new hobby. I told her, no way.

I have a theory about woodworking and power tools. If you want to be a good woodworker, you need to really understand your tools. What I’ve come to believe, is that you can’t truly understand a power tool until you injure yourself with it. You need to know what it feels like to be the wood.

After about ten years of messing around with this stuff, I now have a really, really good understanding of the table saw, the router, the nail gun and the electric hand-planer (which I unfortunately used quite literally).  


I’ve seen The Flaming Lips in concert maybe six or seven times. They put on an incredible show which I’ve heard most accurately described as a traveling birthday party. That must be true because one time when I saw them it actually was someone’s birthday and the band sang “Happy Birthday” in quite possibly the most unusual way I’ve ever seen it performed.  


Wayne Coyne is the lead singer of The Flaming Lips. To prepare you for the impromptu birthday celebration, he warns you ahead of time that what he’s about to do is going to seem very unusual and possibly disturbing, but it’s all in good fun so just ride it out and everything will be fine. He literally says that and then the stage lights go completely dark.  

You can’t really see him, but you can tell he has his back to the crowd. You can barely see his silhouette on stage, but if you have very good seats, you might be able to make out that he’s applying something to his forehead. 


Before you know what’s going on, the lights come back on bright and flashing as the familiar birthday music starts up and confetti begins to rain down from the ceiling. At the perfect moment, just as the lyrics are about to begin, Wayne Coyne triumphantly turns to the crowd, his face dripping in blood and begins singing “Happy Birthday” as it streams down his smiling face. 


It’s disturbingly beautiful and if you ever happen to see a show where they do it, I’m confident you’ll agree with me when I say, it’s bloody fantastic.  





Thanks for reading. Happy holidays. I’ll see you again real soon. 

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