How a Factory and a bottle of Liquid Bandage ruined my professional career
Working as an insurance professional, I was blessed with a clear complexion. Other than to accentuate my eyes, I virtually did not have to use facial makeup. That changed dramatically when I was unable to find a position in my industry after purchasing a house in a small town in Northern Minnesota.
Having loss controlled a multitude of factories prior to writing up specifications for new accounts, I decided at the age of 56 to apply to a nearby factory. After all, in the factories I had insured, loss control and safety of employees was primary, especially if it meant lowering Workers Compensation modifications.
I took a series of tests appertaining mainly to strength and hearing. I found I was fortunate to be chosen to work in the ATV Welding Department of Arctic Cat Enterprises, rather than on the line. Although exceptions were made, one was required to work at least six months on the factory floor before applying for an office position. Many of its 1700 employees who knew me as being strictly a salesperson took bets that I would not last two weeks. Yet I remained working as an assembler for welding robots for a period of two years.
Other than a few minor welding burns, my first few months were a breeze. My problems then began during the layoff period when, I was asked to work the evening shift under another supervisor buffing metal bumpers. Many with seniority elect to be laid off for the holidays to be with their families so I felt it was an opportunity because I had never applied for unemployment nor did I wish to.
Starting December 3, 2004, I worked for three days with a high revolution buffer which had a loose fiber abrasive disk. As each part was buffed, you could feel continual zings of foreign particles go into one’s skin and muscle tissue. It felt like flying slivers but obviously the majority consisted of particles from the actual buffing pad. Had there been more metal slivers, it could have been detected by x-ray machines and possibly removed with magnets.
After my face started peeling and showing various lesions, my letter of December 5, 2004 was delivered to the foreman and supervisor. I raised the question as to why they were not concerned with the safety of their individuals who performed such tasks. The buffers which we used were not those used by metal finishers and those who buffed were not provided protective face shields. I explained that the right side of my face swelled up with some of my skin actually peeling off. I had not only extreme pain (similar to several metal slivers imbedded deep through my skin layers, into my muscle and fatty tissue) but infected lesions as my white blood cells went to work to remove the foreign objects
The lack of protective shields was not the only violation of safety. There were insufficient fans to provide ventilation at the time. I recall a welder was denied ventilation through his helmet unless he paid for it. In the case of the December 3rd incident, there was a fan but it blew directly at the table where I was buffing parts instead of being directly behind me. Had the fan been behind me, perhaps some of the particles would have flew somewhere besides into my face. The table was a make shift table, utilizing a pallet over a metal rolling part’s tray. And because it was a pallet and not a plywood smooth surface, it was easy to suffer burns even through clothing when the bumper would get stuck in the lower part of the pallet. The two welders just kept piling one part over another on to the make shift table and on to the floor. At one point where I was unable to buff without the buffer being directly in front of my face. The supervisor did not seem to recognize there was a safety problem.
By the third day, the one side of my face was so infected and had so much pain that the upper layers of skin started to peel with lesions of blood visible. After my evening shift ended I went directly to the clinic, where the nurses gave me a drug test which is required when filing any workers compensation claim. What was unanticipated was the manner in which I was treated by the hospital staff. Knowing Artic Cat Enterprises was a self-insurer with an administrator handling such claims, I am certain the hospital staff was used to screening people. Yet, I did not expect the staff to threaten me before they ever received the results.
The nurses assumed I was on methamphetamines for months because of how the right side of my face looked. They told me I would not be covered, predetermining that I was on drugs before the actual test results. I was then seen by the doctor who told me the pain and lesions had to as a result of my use of drugs even though I tested negatively. I was livid, for lack of sleep and pain. I then pulled the hair back from the left side of my face which had no lesions. I asked “Why if I am supposedly on drugs was the right side of my face mainly affected” Never having taken more than an Aleve in my life, the doctor realized I needed to be checked by a dermatologist in Fargo ND, approximately 115 miles away from Thief River Falls, MN. My appointment was set and after working at the factory during the night shift, seeing the doctor in the morning and driving two and one half-hours to Fargo, I was beat and in pain, but expected to work the night shift.
The dermatologist stated she could not find metal or any other particles; yet one could feel the abrasive materials in each of the lesions, the insides of which seemed like ground hamburger. She told me I needed only to place a salve upon my face to allow any particles to seep through. I was then given some pills to take, possibly for pain. I was tired but do not believe I was told what the pills were for. Also unlike other workers compensation claims, I was expected to pay for the medication up front (What if I had not had the money?). Also, I never was reimbursed for my mileage. With an upset stomach after taking the pills, I stopped at my home for about fifteen minutes and returned to the night shift without sleep.
Because of my letter of December 5th, I was called into one of the offices at Arctic Cat after my shift was over at 3:00 am. The safety man tried to blame me for the factory’s lack of safety. You may have guessed. Arctic Cat Enterprises was not a Union Shop. He told me (with my foreman and supervisor present) that in his orientation he discussed safety helmets. This was one of various attempts to have me fired or be denied my workers compensation claim because of his shortcomings in making certain safety is adhered to.
I have worked in an insurance loss control department and have loss controlled various risks, in my career so it’s a natural tendency to notice circumstances which may result in injury or damage. Feeling that without sleep, I would succumb to weakness, he implied that I did not recall the original orientation. I reminded him that in his orientation, he only discussed safety glasses and shoes. Never did he discuss other safety precautions or safety equipment which may be available to us. That is when I was given the plastic helmet you see in the photo. With the lack of ventilation in the way of fans, you can imagine how hot and unventilated the mask was. Yet I tried it for two days before the heat in the unventilated mask almost made me faint. Since the mask was open at the bottom, I am certain the particles instead hit my chin area. As a result my chin area in six years peeled at least five times. A photo I had taken showed accompanying scratches on the shield which I could only use for two days without fainting. If the abrasive materials can cut into plastic, what do you think it was doing to one’s face?
After the layoff, I elected to go into assembly in the rack robot area where I would not be prone to buffing fragments. It was an area where only men worked because of the numerous parts which had to be assembled and the weight of each finished rack being approximately 45 lbs. A good day would mean that you would run at least 187 parts. Soon I felt like a body builder because I could not even get my arms in business suits which previously fit me.
Fortunately in the Rack Area, there was far less shrapnel going through my face since the welding and buffing areas were separated by plastic screens. The only time you would feel zings would be when the shields were removed or you lifted the racks on to the hooks. I had a wonderful foreman who gave me the opportunity to be the first woman to work in the area and no longer be exposed to buffers.
It was noticeable that those who buffed all day had numerous bumps in their skin. The two women in the rack area appeared to be developing acne. I would imagine after some time, one’s outer skin with continual exposure would harden like a callous. One of the men on the night shift who handled the buffing job in Racks for years almost appeared to have a face of stone. It was grey in color with large upward closed lesions. One could have thought he suffered from acne except that it looked differently and pelted. Although my workers compensation claim no 44-47-521313-B8 was closed, I still was cleaning something similar to black short fibers, cotton like fibers and abrasive materials similar to sandpaper out of my skin but it improved for a while.
For people who incurred injuries which would not show up again for years, Arctic Cat Enterprises made out under their self-insured workers compensation insurance. In fact when I developed double pneumonia, it was attributed to the cold weather and not to the real cause, improper ventilation and fumes from the welding process. I know this to be the case because when hospitalized the doctors could not find a solution until they administered an allergy medication. Yet no responsibility would be taken and one had to pay up to $1,200 for the health insurance deductible.
Having viewed various factories, including the Ford Motor Plant, I have never seen a factory treat its employees so unsafely. Bay doors stayed open in the winter so people who actually assembled the ATV’s had frozen bleeding fingers. The U shaped line moved faster and faster to increase production and the assemblers would have to either work at ridiculous paces or be backlogged and written up. The employees on the line complained but there were not that many companies in the area who offered jobs. One even had to push in grommets in by hand. Bloodied hands were normal until you developed callouses; hurt hands in jigs shut by other parties not watching; parts in stacked bins where you had to crawl up to reach them and occasionally you could lose your balance when the bins were hit by a backhoe; and cords everywhere to trip on were the norm. I was told one of my former friends, a welder, ended up with a blood infection due to the buffing process. She was hospitalized and could no longer buff.
There was no heat or air conditioning in the factory section so that people in long sleeved clothing who welded would have to endure ninety some degree heat and humidity; some dropping off from the extreme heat and being taken by ambulance while others were offered a ten minute break every hour, to keep up production. For me, a bit of self-hypnosis worked.
Yes Arctic Cat Enterprises makes some of the most stylish, high performance snowmobiles and ATV’s in the marketplace. Any employee could be proud of the finished product. Yet there was much turnover except for some of the workers who had no choice and could not make money farming. I was told that the reason Arctic Cat operated differently than other factories in their treatment of employees is due to high management’s relationship with the Japanese.
I took the following photograph on January 18, 2006, before terminating my employment with Arctic Cat and moving to Miami. This photo is seen on authorsden.com/Karin Fleischhaker-Griffin.
My skin was relatively clear for the photo but would break out periodically in one or two spots. What seemed to come out of my skin were small glass or diamond type particles which shined in the right lighting. Along with this abrasive material short black fibers and sand or other abrasive material could be found. If one placed any of the particles on the tip of your tongue, it would make small paper type cuts. This will give you the magnitude of the pain one went through within one’s facial region. Yet the pain and the lesions subsided for a short time.
One day in mid-June, 2007, the pain again began. It was so intense; you would have to try and alleviate the pain even though it meant getting up in the middle of sleep. One would have to rub out whatever was trying to get out or place a fingernail in the area to try to push out the abrasive material which was hurting the nerve endings in the flesh. At the time the eruptions started again, I was working in an Account Manager position for Brown & Brown of Ft. Lauderdale. I knew that my face had definitely taken a sudden turn for the worse, when customers or co-workers did not appear to see me but rather the imperfections, especially on the left side of my face now. My family could not believe something could not be done or why I could not heal. Had it been metal, I am certain a magnet could take it out but how can one remove such particles from the fatty tissue and muscles of one’s face?
I had friends who were previously in the military or FBI who explained that shrapnel and glass would come out of their bodies’ years after the incidents but I never expected the same thing to happen to me. Even though I was not big on make-up, I started wearing whatever I could to cover the lesions on my face. Again the sand, glass and fibers started pushing their way through my dermis and epidermis. In fact at one time I had saved a sandwich bag which had about one-sixth of it full with black fibers, white cotton like fibrous material, glass, metal, black particles and sometimes even materials representing the sand of course sandpaper. These particles had to be rubbed or pulled out by fingernail causing extreme pain, since even each pore in one’s body consists of muscle and nerve endings. The problem was that one did not know when the pain would start. It just happened day or night.
Please see the photo taken on September 8, 2008 and you will understand why I would have to do anything I could to cover it up in a customer contact position. I left my position with Brown and Brown in November of 2007 and moved to Ocala, FL mainly because I was tired of large metropolitan areas and the commute. At the time the economy started tanking. Knowing I would need to find a job and that I could not interview with a bleeding face, I elected to do something which I soon would regret.
It was at this time that I elected to use New-Skin liquid bandage to seal in the oozing infection and areas of bleeding. I couldn’t blame the age factor for not securing a job, even though I was sixty. All they had to do was look at my face and they made excuses so that they would not have to see me again. These excuses stemmed from being over qualified to never returning a phone call.
The liquid bandage not only ran through each crevice which held foreign particles but sealed the dermis to the epidermis as well as attaching to face tissue. It appeared I had a hole in the left side of my face. Yet with each application, the liquid bandage attached to the skin and the exterior layer was notably like a glued piece of cardboard. Ultimately, the areas compressed except for the upward lesions which were popped out, dried and hard. I no longer had soft skin but rather a face which seemed like it had been glued with super glue.
No one could take their eyes off of the abrasive large hole and scaring on the left side of my cheek. The right side of my face which had been affected in my work compensation claim had deeply imbedded particles as well and liquid bandage application gave me a look of an additional cheek. What I did not realize is that the liquid bandage would become solid into my fatty tissue and muscles; it virtually went into my pores and it melded with the debris which was within my face.
In reading the bottle and the internet on the New-Skin Liquid bandage, it was stated that if you place more liquid on the existing bandage and it would soften up so that it could be removed. I tried that doing so but it would not budge. It became, however, progressively worse. I was able to pull some out with my finger nails, some of which went sideways into my pours, giving an impression of removing the bandage from inside gills. Yes, some areas of my skin opened up like small gills. The surface was so hard and abrasive; one would have to imbed a fingernail into the area to cut a line. There was no bleeding, just liquid bandage. Throughout, I must have removed at least ten layers of skin when there are only two such layers. But this gave opportunity to rub out some of the bandage. And each time some of the bandage came out, some of the particles from within which had loosened started their way upward. But because all of my pores were clogged, there was only pain and one would have to again start the process of digging, digging and digging out liquid bandage, some of which held abrasive material.
The black strips of buffer particles were interesting and there appeared to be a material such as cotton which when pulled out frayed. When the liquid bandage surrounded the particles, it seemed to appear as a soft wax because of the chemical composition of the buffing material, the length of time it was in my skin and the fact that it encompassed liquid infection.
Some came out in the form of what one would call a white head. It was a capsule of sand or glass particles surrounded by liquid infection and covered with hard wax or chemically changed liquid bandage. Every pore in my face found one or more of these as I dug into my face for six years. One group of liquid bandage would have to be removed horizontally and another vertically (the fish gill approach). You could scrape and try to remove these particles and it was like a new skin which did not bleed and in fact my face did not even turn red from the abrasions.
I decided the information on the product stipulating it could be softened and removed by another application was misleading. Because each time I applied it my condition became worse. So I took fingernail polish remover on the bandaged parts. I rubbed it in trying to have the liquid bandage removed and all that it did was burn my skin. There was nothing I could do except dig, dig and rub all the affected areas of my skin. But now it was worse. I still had factory shrapnel deep inside encased by liquid bandage and I would not know until 2013, just how much abrasive material there was below these layers of skin and liquid bandage.
To explain this in a simple manner, envision your face as a piece of steak with fatty marbling. Take then a sand blaster filled with fibers, sand glass and other materials and pulverize the steak until it looks like hamburger. Place the liquid bandage on the surface. Try and remove the bandage once it has dried. When some of the bandage slivering is removed you still see the up and down hamburger effect, which when rubbed out, looks rough and pitted. You try again another day, no blood comes out but another section is removed but the steak itself has shrunk because it is compressed and you now have to remove the top layer or try and scratch it out so it decompresses.
I didn’t wish to take any more photos of me. I worked on my face at least two hours a night while multitasking. I purchased a product by Clinique that promised to exfoliate. It appeared to be working but it was extremely drying so that I would find particles in my pillowcase and on my eyelids What I did not know is that it also affected my vitreous humor (baby liquid)and I had to see a doctor to make certain I did not have retinal tears. I was told that such occurs with aging as the vitreous liquefies or in some disease states, but however, mine was strictly my right eye and it has caused peripheral flashes at night since that time. Whatever was exfoliated blew into my eyes and eyelids. My skin was so dry that it would crack when I would talk. Although I worked in a call center for 16% of my usual salary, at least I was not around the public and still could use my sales ability. It still was embarrassing when other employees stared at me and my face hurt a lot.
My chin and face would bleed because I used my facial muscles for a long length of time while selling product by phone. The eruption on my chin happened five times and the area was filled with abrasive particles. My face from the liquid bandage appeared to be wrinkled everywhere. My face changed and there were creases in places I had never seen before. It was also surprising that even though I wore long sleeved protective clothing, the abrasive materials would cause lesions in my arm near veins and in other areas which would or should not have been affected by flying shrapnel. I didn’t go out of the house except to occasionally shop because I was self- conscious for the first time in my life. What was really embarrassing was that a friend asked me to join him for a church function and shortly after the service; my chin started bleeding in front of everyone. I virtually, besides working at the call center, became a hermit. Yes, I remained alone and at home because I felt ugly.
I then purchased Ovio products which assisted somewhat in softening up the regions of my face where it was damaged. Continually rubbing and scraping out hard slivers of liquid bandage, wax like liquid bandage and buffer particles for at least two hours a day, I realized I was not getting anywhere and the product was expensive. It was extremely depressing.
In July of 2011, I met my future husband Joe Griffin on the internet. Although I did not wish to meet him face-to-face, I did and the nice thing is that he saw beyond the crevices in my face. In fact, the very first night we met, he told strangers that I would become his wife. Who said love wasn’t blind? Yet some of the town’s people where I lived were not so kind. They called me ugly, wrinkled, a swamp ape, a troll and someone so ugly I should have been killed at birth. No one would expect that from adults but these were the types of comments made in anonymous e-mails.
It was after our honeymoon cruise that my daughter introduced me to Landcome’s Visionnaire. Correcteur Fondamental . It started to work on each layer of liquid bandage; softening it or eating into the crevices where it could not be softened, allowing one to dig the hard and soft wax like material out. It did not dry out particles like Clinique so I did not find harsh products in my eyes or lids. It started working on my pores as I rubbed and removed the infected bandage white heads. Along with Visionnaire, I used hydrocortisone, my own solution of preparation h, vitamin e and Porcelana, and Lancome Genifique. The only make-ups which helped the exfoliation are those by Landcome and Dermatologic. My own solution and Coppertone sport would sometimes move the sand-glass like particles from my epidermis by loosening the abrasives from the pores.
Where I never could sweat, my pores for the most part now are sweating and producing oil. My face has changed its shape to that which it once was. No crevices, no scars, no second cheek and the final abrasive materials are finally coming out of my cheek area with considerable pain. It’s not easy because I have to scratch one layer of skin from its attachment to another but it is so nice to see my real features again. Most of the time when working on my skin I must be seated or lying down; otherwise, I could faint from the pain.
My purpose for this article is to make you aware that your safety is important. Any employer, which places your safety second to its production, is not an employer you wish to work for. Most accidents result in continuous and repeated exposure to the same circumstances and may not show up for years. For instance, the girl I trained did not listen or watch whether all parts were in a jig and shut the jig twice on my fingers. Although the pain is only slight after eight years, it still can be felt…plus no one gets paid that well for the risks taken, including loss in hearing. I am lucky that I have a great immune system which tries to remedy itself. Hopefully, more safety has been implemented at Arctic Cat Enterprises.
If you work at Arctic Cat or any other factory which makes you buff without proper shields with ventilation or face masks, be aware that you may be incurring the same type of problems I have incurred. Be aware that whatever particles come in contact with your body may move through your body system and may cause you substantial damage throughout your body. It may not be age or acne which is damaging your skin.
Further be careful of using products such as liquid bandage. It is said you may remove it but once it is in your skin, you cannot get it out. My daughter recently applied it to a cut and said she had to dig it out because it pooled inside her finger.
Also be very careful when you use liquid bandage because your skin may suffer irreparable damage with scar tissue which may not be removed. And if you are able to remove it, it will cut and peel your fingernails into shreds. I have had fingernails that look as though I have bitten them for years, except for my thumb nails. It would seem as though the FDA would require warnings as it does with other products. In my case, it should not have been used if it could not have been removed easily. Instead, it acted like glue which hardened and could not be removed.
You are in control of your environment as I was. Do what you can to move out of a bad situation before your health becomes worse. It isn’t easy but your health is important. Remember the statement “If you have your health, you have everything”…and you do. Because I did not have my health, I lost thousands of dollars which I would have earned had I been able to perform my duties of my career.
Nevertheless, I am happy for the experience because I have a broader understanding of what individuals go through in certain circumstances like not having an education. I have met many fantastic people who worked harder than anyone I have met through the years to make some of the most fantastic products for Arctic Cat Enterprises. Likewise, I also have concern for your safety and pray you will not suffer as I have.
This is a recent photo of me and I am now Age 66 .