Carson City graduate wins skeet championship with 1 thumb

In this June 24, 2019 photo, Carson City-Crystal senior Aiden Adkins uses a small piece of wood to demonstrate how he was using a chop saw when he accidentally cut off his left thumb in Carson City, Mich. After losing his left thumb just two months prior, Adkins returned and won the clay target team's first-ever individual state championship, winning in a head-to-head shoot-off on June 15. (Alex Freeman/The Daily News via AP)

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CARSON CITY — The thumbs up — a universal sign that everything is all right.
On June 15, Aiden Adkins, 17, a recent graduate from Carson City-Crystal High School (CC-C), posed for photos with a championship belt buckle courtesy of the Michigan Scholastic Clay Target Program after he won the state championship in skeet shooting in the senior/varsity division.
Although he could only show a single thumb up in the photos, everything was right in the world from Aiden’s perspective. In his final sports season with the CC-C clay target team, he was able to etch his name into the record books as the first state champion in the young history of the program.
This run was all the more improbable due to an incident two months prior, when Aiden lost his left thumb while cutting wood, the Daily News reported.
It was the morning of April 20, the day before Easter Sunday.
Aiden had set himself a task of making a box for his girlfriend to ask her to prom. With his father, Ben, providing him instruction and with Aiden’s experience in using the chop saw in the family barn, he thought nothing of the task.
“I’ve made cuts with that more times than I can count,” Aiden recalled.
Aiden was hoping to finish the project before leaving for a competition with the clay target team, which was set to compete in Belmont that afternoon.
Ben and his wife, Heather, were at the grocery store in Crystal when they received a phone call. It was from Aiden, and immediately, Heather knew something was wrong.
“Ben answers and I just hear Ben say, ‘OK, we’ll be right there, you have to find it,'” Heather recalled. “I knew immediately something was going on, so we jump in the car and we’re coming home from Crystal and he said (Aiden) cut his thumb off.”
It was a moment of shock, not pain, for Aiden, who had seen something fly from his peripheral vision, but assumed it was a piece of wood.
“I thought maybe I nicked my thumb or something because I knew it didn’t feel right,” Aiden said. “I tried to fold it over and grab it and when I did that I still didn’t know that I didn’t have it.”
After a double-take at his hand, Aiden realized it wasn’t a piece of wood that went flying, it was his entire thumb. Cutting it about halfway through the second knuckle, Aiden did his best to remain calm.
Heather, who was still driving, saw the injury for the first time when Aiden called his father on FaceTime.
“Ben shows me the phone and we know, I mean, Aiden said it was his whole thumb but it was really his whole thumb,” Heather said.
Aiden was given a few instructions from his father — find the thumb, get it on ice and don’t drive anywhere. Ben and Heather rushed home to get Aiden to Sparrow Carson Hospital in Carson City.
While Heather drove Aiden to the emergency room, Ben looked for the missing thumb. By this point, Heather and Ben had contacted several family members to make them aware of the situation, many of whom stayed at the house to help Ben in his search.
“We now have 11 people at our house going through our shop. They’re trying to look through every box, everything, they finally start taking stuff from the barn and they put it in the driveway,” Heather recalled. “I kept telling them at the hospital, ‘You have to tell me a timeframe because if they find this and then you say to me, ‘No, it’s too late,’ you know, I have all these people looking.’ So they gave us a six-hour window to have Aiden and his thumb in Ann Arbor in an operating room.”
As the hospital staff assessed the damage, they gave Aiden an IV, some pain medicine and told him they’d need to transfer him to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Heather remembers Aiden being surprisingly calm, even joking with a buddy he saw at the hospital.
“While we’re up there waiting for the ambulance, a guy comes in that Aiden knows that’s on the ambulance,” Heather said. “And Aiden says, ‘Hey, how ya doing? I’d give you a thumbs up right now but I just cut it off.'”
Keeping calm and joking around was a coping mechanism for Aiden. He was like that throughout the whole process. He never panicked and didn’t shed a tear. He didn’t want to have a pity party. He knew it wouldn’t help.”