Two years later

September 21, 2014, marked two years of recovery from my accident. Looking back at my last major update, about a year ago, I see that, although the healing process continues, not a lot is changing on the surface. My appearance has improved a little more since my February surgery. The left eye now looks normal enough for people to feel comfortable asking why it’s so red—which the rim of the lower lid always is, to varying degrees. I don’t know if that will ever quite go away. My eye is still easily irritated, which can increase the redness. And it still waters a lot, as the cornea continues to dry out and overproduce tears. The eye still hurts at random moments, especially later in the day, sometimes sharply, sometimes deeply. The nerves in my cheek have almost fully regenerated. My eye crinkles almost normally when I smile.

The central vision in my left eye is still gone, though I hold out hope for future medical developments that may reverse the damage (come on, stem cells!). In the meantime, I use my peripheral vision as much as I can to keep my optic nerve active: I sometimes walk around with my right eye shut just for the practice. I still forget sometimes why I can’t see clearly, especially when I first wake up. I have recently been experiencing a fresh bout of grief about the impairment of my sight. I still often bump into things on my left and lose my balance easily. I continue to have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly. I am still trying to figure out how to see as well as I can while I work; my vision varies a lot, and magnifiers and lights only help so far.

I have not entirely recovered my turning skills. I got tendonitis in my right elbow (my dominant arm) in the spring and wasn’t able to work for several months. Add this to the many gaps in work caused by my surgeries and I guess my rustiness is understandable, if frustrating. It has been hard this time to get back into a creative flow, but I am working to hold a steady course through the latest challenges by remembering every day what I haven’t lost (family and friends, my sense of humor, my curiosity, a damn good life) and what I’ve gained (more love, gratitude, a greater sense of connectedness to everything).

New milestones

I have some new recent milestones to note.

First, last Monday, I drove solo for the first time since my accident. The weekend before, I practiced driving in a big empty parking lot and on the empty streets of an industrial park. I managed to park and corner and not run Karen over, so she granted me permission to drive myself to the dentist. I am using extra caution—my left-side blind spot really is a blind spot at the moment—but feel pretty good about being back on the road. I won’t be driving a lot or at night anytime soon, because I am not seeing well in low light and am not adjusting quickly to changes in light, as with oncoming and passing headlights, but it is good to know that I am not entirely dependent on others to get around.

Thursday, I finally finished the vessel I was working on when I had my accident. I epoxied it back together and filled the exterior cracks with turquoise inlay. It is now lucky number 13 in the commissioned series.

The vessel that broke and hit me, now repaired and finished.

The vessel that broke and hit me, now repaired and finished.

Another view of the vessel. I like that these sapwood patches look like eyes--and the left one (on the right in the photo) matches mine at the moment!

Another view of the vessel. I like that these sapwood patches look like eyes–and the left one (on the right in the photo) matches mine at the moment!

 

And on Monday, I started the first of the last four vessels in the series—from another highly cracked log. I used the wire guard on my lathe and wore my riot helmet for protection. The wire guard does interfere with seeing the curve I am cutting, so I probably will not use it for the final external shaping, but I will continue to use it for the rough turning of these vessels and while I hollow the interiors. I am pleased with the riot helmet. It is not too heavy. My head got a little sweaty, but that’s not a big deal for me.

Oh, and today, I used my chainsaw.

Finally, it appears that I will pass a major milestone at the end of February: Dr. Harris says the silicone oil in my eye can come out. She will perform another laser procedure next Tuesday just to make sure my retina is securely tacked down, and three weeks after that, she says, I can have the surgery. I was expecting to have to wait six months from the October surgery, but she says I am ready, or will be (it will be four and a half months by the time the surgery happens). My understanding is that she will replace the silicone oil with saline. I am hoping that this will improve my vision. When you compare photos of the retina in each of my eyes, the right is sharp and the left is dim and blurry, because of the oil. I still won’t have a lens, but I hope that what I can see will be a little clearer and brighter without the oil. And after I heal from that surgery, I can be measured accurately for a new lens, so maybe that will happen sooner than expected too. I don’t want to rush—I want to give my eye all the time it needs to heal as much as it can—but I am anxious to see better.

Milestones

On Wednesday, I turned! My friend Art supervised me. I started with some spindle work just to see how it felt to be at the lathe cutting wood. It felt completely natural. I have not lost any muscle memory, and I didn’t notice any obvious challenges from my limited depth perception until I used the bandsaw to prep a blank and then, hardest of all, the drill press. Matching the tip of the drill bit to a marked center point proved to be the most challenging task of the day. I was nervous at the bandsaw, but I’m always on high alert at the bandsaw, and the extra nerves calmed as soon as I got the teeth into the wood.

After the spindle work, I played with shaping and hollowing an end-grain vessel and then moved on to turning a new face-grain bowl. Using a gouge felt easy and familiar. Oddly, it was a square-end negative-rake scraper, one of the easiest tools ever to use, that felt the most awkward. I had to remain extra aware of where the points were at all times. It is one tool that I tend to look back at as I cut. When I use a gouge or other tools, I am looking at the far edge of the wood, not at the tool; I think that is why my limited depth perception did not bother me. On the inside of bowls, I am cutting by feel anyway.

One shortcoming I did notice: I do not see detail as well as I used to. This, I hope, will improve when I get some new glasses. The pair I have been wearing doesn’t sit quite right on my face because of the plastic guard I wear over my injured eye. In addition, the remaining lens (the left one popped out) is badly scratched right across the center of vision. I didn’t notice some small areas of tearout until I was well into sanding. I had to go back to cutting a couple of times to clean up both the exterior and the interior surfaces.

Here is my first monocular bowl!

A small walnut bowl, my first since my accident.

A small walnut bowl, my first since my accident.

My second milestone is that I am no longer wearing an eyepatch during the day. I still cover my eye at night, with both a gauze pad and my plastic shield, but while I am awake, my eye is naked! I cannot keep it open very wide for very long right now, but that will come. Using my forehead muscles as well as my eyelid muscles, I can open my eye maybe three-sixteenths of an inch—just enough to see through. It quickly droops to an eighth of an inch or less, but I am working those muscles, blinking and looking as much as I can. My lower eyelid looks pretty good, considering. The graft has taken, and the lid is looking more normal. I have not detected any movement in it yet.

I still have a ways to go with my recovery, but these recent milestones leave me optimistic. Recent photographs of my retina made me realize that my visualization of its healing has been backward. I had been picturing the black spot in my vision being eaten away or erased. Now I realize that the black spot reflects a bare patch where the cells were damaged, so I am picturing instead some new seed-cells taking root and beginning to grow. Help me grow my retina garden by picturing it too!

Safety gear

For safety, I use the Uvex Bionic face shield, which I bought from the Sanding Glove, and a small 3M 7500-series half-mask respirator with P100 filters (other half-mask respirators did not come small enough to fit my face properly—true for most women, I think). Even though I wasn’t wearing my face shield at the time, since my accident, I have looked into whether I could improve that protection. (I also wanted to find out how much protection my face shield would have provided.)

One of the possibilities I considered was the Trend Airshield Pro, which is very popular among woodturners. I discovered, however, that it claims to meet only the “low energy impact” standard for eye protection (http://www.trendairshield.com/specifications.html) and its stated respiratory protection is also lower than what I already have (and it is not NIOSH approved).

The safety standard for eyeglasses and face shields is specified in ANSI Z87.1-2010, which includes general specifications and impact specifications. It is the general specifications that the Trend Airshield Pro meets. My Bionic face shield is rated for the high-impact Z87.1 specifications.

I did the math (see below) and realized that, measured in kinetic energy, the mesquite missile that hit me delivered about 30 times the amount derived from the high-impact Z87.1 specs. Surely, my face shield would have absorbed some of that energy, but I almost certainly would have been injured anyway. Polycarbonate isn’t supposed to break or shatter, but all that energy would have had to go somewhere. Could I have escaped with bruising and a concussion? Would my face bones still have broken? Would the impact have contacted my eye? Does anyone have any experience they can share?

Anyway, I went further with my research and looked into ballistic face shields. These are expensive and heavy and seem to me like overkill (they are also not readily available to civilians). But they did lead me to riot helmets and face shields, regulated under the NIJ 0104.02 standard, with about 15 to 27 times the impact resistance specified under ANSI Z87.1. I ended up buying the lightest one I could find, the Max Pro RD1002X; it weighs 2 lb 3 oz, just a little more than the Trend Airshield Pro. Others weigh 3 lb or more, which I thought might be a bit heavy for prolonged wearing. I should receive it in a week and will report on how it feels.

Max Pro RD1002X anti-riot helmet

Max Pro RD1002X anti-riot helmet

You may notice that the impact resistance of the riot helmet is still not equal to the impact I sustained in my accident; at best, it is 15% too low. I balanced the impact resistance against potential comfort (weight) and cost and also reasoned that damage to this helmet would still mean considerably reduced damage to me.

My intention is to wear my Bionic face shield with my respirator when turning most things (most of what I turn is small and light), but to wear the Max Pro with my respirator when turning heavier pieces, especially when working with cracked wood. I also installed the wire guard that came with my Jet 1642 lathe and will see how that feels. I have read that others don’t like using it, but I’ll try it to see if it interferes with visibility or tool use.

The wire guard on the Jet 1642 lathe.

The wire guard on the Jet 1642 lathe.

For the technically minded among you, below is a summary of the kinetic energy figures derived from the specifications and my calculations. I give the foot-pound equivalents for kinetic energy for those more familiar with the units used in ballistic specs.

KE Unit Accident Z87.1 High Velocity Z87.1 Penetration 0104.02 Impact 0104.02 Penetration
Joules 127 4 6 111 88
Ft-lb 94 3 5 82 65

Formulas:

  • velocity of falling object = √(2 × height from which dropped × acceleration due to gravity)
  • kinetic energy = .5 × mass × velocity²

My accident:

  • 1-kg piece from a 10″- (.254 m–) diameter vessel turning at 1200 rpm
  • velocity = (.254 × 3.14 (pi) × 1200) / 60 sec = 15.95 m/sec
  • 1 kg traveling @ 15.95 m/sec
  • .5 × 1 × 15.95² = 127.201 joules (93.82 ft-lb)

ANSI Z87.1 tests (Bionic face shield):

    High velocity:

  • ¼-inch steel ball (.001046 kg) traveling @ 300 ft/sec (91.44 m/sec)
  • .5 × .001046 × 91.44² = 4.373 joules (3.23 ft-lb)
    High mass impact:

  • 500 gm (0.5 kg) pointed projectile dropped from 50 inches (1.27 m)
  • velocity = √(2 × 1.27 × 9.81) = 4.99 m/sec
  • .5 × .5 × 4.99² = 6.225 joules (4.59 ft-lb)

NIJ 0104.02 tests (riot helmet):

    Impact:

  • 5.1 kg traveling @ 6.6 m/sec
  • .5 × 5.1 × 6.6² = 111.078 joules (81.93 ft-lb)
    Penetration (pointed striker):

  • 3 kg dropped from 3.00 m
  • velocity = √(2 × 3 × 9.81) = 7.67 m/sec
  • .5 × 3 × 7.67² = 88.243 joules (65.08 ft-lb)

This is a simplification, of course. The numbers don’t take into account air resistance, drag, pressure, or other factors. They just gives me a means of meaningful comparison.

Addendum

Australia and New Zealand have higher impact standards. (Their medium impact standard is close to the ANSI Z87.1 impact standard—at least for eyeglasses. Cannot find their face shield specs.) Their test for high velocity uses a 6.35-mm (¼-inch) steel ball traveling at 120 m/sec. This yields a kinetic energy figure of about 7.5 joules, compared to 4 joules under Z87.1. The Triton Powered Respirator meets this higher standard, and its shield is indeed thicker than that of the Bionic face shield. I did not check the helmet or respiratory standards for this device.

Oops! The Triton respirator may no longer be available: I can’t find it even on the Triton web site.

What happened

I was turning an end grain hollow vessel from a short segment of a badly cracked mesquite log. The final form at the time of the accident was about 10 inches in diameter at its shoulder and 6 1/2 inches tall.

I knew it was a dangerous piece of wood from the beginning, and I had been treating it as such. The only reason I was turning such a dangerously cracked piece of wood was to fulfill a specific commission that called for a lot of stone inlay.

I had turned down the exterior and shaped it between centers, including cutting a tenon to chuck it for hollowing, at speeds ranging from 150 to 450 rpm. I had wrapped the exterior with duct tape at the shoulder and along the taper before beginning to hollow. (With 20/20 hindsight, I would instead have swaddled the piece in plastic wrap.) I had hollowed the vessel at varying speeds up to 550 rpm. I had deliberately left the walls very thick, an inch and a quarter to more than two inches thick, out of caution because of the cracks. After hollowing about as much as I planned to, I turned up the speed to close to 1200 rpm to make a couple of clean-up passes on the interior. Note that when I was making these interior cuts at the high speed, I was positioned out of the line of fire, should the vessel have broken at that time. Although I normally dial my speed up from and down to zero, in this case, after I found a nice fast speed without vibration that allowed me a clean cut on the interrupted interior surface, I hit the power button to stop, check my cut, and restart for another cut or two. I stopped and restarted in this way once or twice, possibly three times.

Then I stopped to answer a phone call.

Without the interruption, what would likely have happened next, based on previous practice, is this: I would have felt the interior surface, sucked the shavings out, taken a last look, and, deciding to call it quits on the interior, I would have reached over at that point to turn the speed dial back to zero without turning the lathe back on. That would have completed the rhythm of that sequence.

Answering the phone call interrupted that sequence. Further, it changed the protection I was wearing. Up until that point, I had been wearing my half-mask respirator, my glasses, and a full faceshield. I took off my faceshield and dropped my respirator to answer the phone. After hanging up, I pulled the respirator right back up, out of habit. Instead of putting the faceshield back on, however, I used the opportunity to take a careful look at the vessel.

I had cut as much as I dared from the interior. I saw that the exterior curve near the mouth wasn’t quite what I wanted. I repositioned the tool rest from inside the vessel to parallel to the top, and I pulled the power button on. I wanted to look at the vessel spinning so that I could see beyond the duct tape to see if I wanted to make any other cuts before calling it quits for that stage of the turning.

Now, despite what I just implied a couple of paragraphs back, I can’t really blame the interruption for what happened. Interruptions happen, and I knew from previous experiences the danger of turning on the lathe when it is already set at a high speed. I have in fact been trying to train myself to habitually and automatically check the relative position of the speed dial before turning the lathe back on after any interruption. This I plainly failed to do, and I have to take full responsibility for my failure to do so.

When I did turn the lathe on, the high speed didn’t trigger any alarms for me. I often turn at high speed, because I normally turn much smaller, more delicate pieces, often with interrupted surfaces. And I was only looking, after all. I confess I always thought of faceshields as protecting my eyes from flying chips, not as protecting my head and face from random missiles.

The irony is that my next step would have been to turn the lathe off. I have a clear image of the piece as I was last seeing it. I couldn’t have touched up the surface I was dissatisfied with even if I had wanted to: the duct tape was in the way. I would have turned off the lathe and waited till a later stage to touch up that curve. Although I had a tool in my hands, it wouldn’t have been the appropriate tool for such touchup, and I didn’t have it raised for use. If I had, my forearm might have provided some defense. As it was, I was just looking. I may have even been leaning in to look. It was a peaceful, unthreatening, undangerous moment.

Until it wasn’t.

An accident

I had a terrible accident with my lathe last Friday afternoon, September 21. A large (10-inch-diameter), heavy, partially hollowed mesquite vessel came apart while rotating at about 1200 rpm (too fast, I know). I knew the wood was cracked, and I had wrapped the outside with duct tape, but apparently not enough to hold it together. I didn’t even get a catch, wasn’t even touching a tool to the wood: the crack just gave. The vessel broke into three pieces; I think one piece split when it hit the wall. The piece that hit me weighs a little over a kilogram. I had removed my faceshield, so only my half-mask respirator and glasses (with polycarbonate lenses) were between me and the wood. Pretty much all of the bones in the left half of my face were fractured. My jaw doesn’t seem to have been injured. My eyeball did not rupture.

Surgery the following day repaired the bone damage. I lucked out in having as a surgeon one of the doctors who pieced Gabrielle Gifford’s eye orbit back together. He used four titanium plates to reconstruct my face, and he also stitched my eyelids back together. I’m told I look “100% better” than before the surgery, so he did a great job. And he did the surgery through the roof of my mouth, so there won’t be any scarring apart from my eyelids. Remarkable! The ophthamologist who saw me presurgery and two days after was astonished at how good I looked. He had expected me to be swollen to the size of a watermelon, based on my presurgery state. I can talk and eat soft food with small bites, and my energy level is good and improving daily.

I’ve since learned that the lens in my left eye has been displaced, which will require surgery to correct. The real question is whether the retina and optic nerve are damaged, for concussive damage to them would not be reparable. There is still too much blood in the eye to see what’s going on, so it may be a few weeks before I know if my vision can be restored. I am hopeful, because when the accident first happened, I couldn’t see anything. After the surgery, I could see some light, and by the next day, I could detect motion as well, with a black hole in the center of everything; that’s the holding status of my vision for now. So, please, concentrate any positive thoughts you want to send me on my having an attached, intact retina and healthy optic nerve; this will offer me the best chance at full recovery.

Thank you so much for your prayers and positive wishes. Your individual and collective support means so much to me. I have high hopes for full recovery, thanks to all your good wishes.

“Beyond Containment”

The official press release (hence the use of the third-person):

“Beyond Containment,” an art exhibit of paintings and sculptural turned wood vessels, will open February 2, 2012, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (JCC) Fine Art Gallery in Tucson. The exhibit will be up through March 13, 2012.

Woodturner Lynne Yamaguchi of Tucson will be showing her sculptural vessels at the JCC exhibit. Yamaguchi says that the “Beyond Containment” theme applies on several levels. “Though the vessels that I make are literally containers, I approach them as sculptural objects, beyond their traditional function. I also treat them as metaphors, primarily for aspects of the human condition. And much of my new work directly explores the idea of refusing to be contained; for example, a new series, titled ‘Becoming,’ includes works that play with shedding or breaking out of or emerging from an old form to embody a new one.”

Yamaguchi exhibits locally and nationally. She most recently exhibited her elegant wooden vessels at the Shemer Art Center in Phoenix. You can see more of her work at www.lynneyamaguchi.com.

C. J. Shane is best known for her oil paintings and monotypes. Her color- and texture-intense abstracted landscapes are deeply informed by the Sonoran desert landscape. To Shane, “Beyond Containment” refers to her experience of the natural world. “My hope is that the viewer of my art will be reminded of the serenity and depth to be found in the natural world.” Shane exhibits locally and nationally. Her work can be seen at www.cjshane.com.

“Beyond Containment” will be up through March 13, 2012. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The center is closed on Saturdays. The Tucson Jewish Community Center is located at 3800 E. River Road, Tucson, AZ.

The Tucson JCC Fine Art Gallery presents C J Shane and Lynne Yamaguchi: "Beyond Containment"

"Beyond Containment" at the JCC Fine Art Gallery: "Starry Night on the Prairie" by C J Shane and "Pirouette" by Lynne Yamaguchi

Shemer Art Center show

This month, I have 12 pieces in the 1st annual “Home for the Holidays” invitational show at the Shemer Art Center and Museum, located at 5005 E. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. The show features work from selected Arizona artists and runs from December 2 to 31, with an opening party Thursday, December 1, at which I will be one of the artists in attendance.

Here’s what the Shemer says:

If you are looking for unique, one of a kind, hand-crafted gifts to send to your family and special friends this holiday season look no more! The Shemer Art Center presents its 1st Annual Invitational Home For The Holidays Show & Sale, December 2–31, 2011.
The exhibit features high-quality work from 35 talented Arizona artists working in metal, clay, glass, beadwork, wood, paper, textiles, print and other diverse disciplines that will be for sale during the month of December.

AND … if you would like to be one of the first 100 VIPs (Very Interested Patrons) to get a sneak preview (1st chance to buy), a Holiday Party is scheduled for Thursday evening, December 1, 2011, from 6 to 9 p.m. Artists will be in attendance!

Celebrate with holiday music, wine, appetizers, desserts, and good friends! Enjoy the camaraderie of friends new and old. Area resorts have also donated silent auction items including their signature gift items, a one-night stay, and spa privileges. Cost is $50/person ($35 membership included with the purchase of two tickets). Please help us celebrate our first successful year of managing the operations of the Center without City support. We’re on our own! Your continued support is vital to helping us sustain and grow this beautiful and vital community asset.

Starting December 2, items will be available on-line for purchase at
www.shemerartcenterandmuseum.org.

The Shemer will be open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday afternoons from 12 noon to 3 p.m., and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Stop by if you can!

Shemer

Fall events and beyond

My next public event will be the Flux anniversary celebration on Friday, October 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. Come celebrate our 2nd birthday with us and help kick off our third year with a bang.

Following that are my fall shows:

  • the St. Philip’s Outdoor Art Show, October 22 and 23 (my first time here);
  • the Tucson Artists’ Open Studio Tour, November 12 and 13;
  • and the Tucson Museum of Art Holiday Artisans’ Market, November 18 to 20.

I will post details for the shows and events as I get them. Please note that one of my usual fall shows, the Big Brothers Big Sisters Southwest Flair A-Fair, scheduled for October 28 to 30, has been canceled this year by the organizers.

And looking further forward, come next year, from February 2 to March 13, I will be showing my work at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, in a two-person show with fellow Flux artist C. J. Shane.