I never liked pusher sticks and have always used some form of shop made pusher that held the work down as well as pushed it forward. Sixty years ago when I was first learning how to use a table saw and other power woodworking tools, my uncle told me to "never ever do anything on a table saw that requires putting any part of you within 6 inches of the blade or bit.Stop, and find another way to do it." That rule was deeply embedded into my brain while working with him and it has kept me safe all these years. He also showed me how to make pushers that held the work down as well as pushed it forward. You need to hold the whole piece down, not just the back edge.
About 8 years ago I bought two Grrippers, but it was almost 2 years later before I could get myself to use them close in and for small pieces. When you use them your hand passes above the blade, and frequently it's only about 1 1/2" above. This violated that 6" rule that was so deeply engrained in my head and it made me very nervous about using them until I managed to convince myself that there was this heavy piece of plastic between my hand and the blade, and that as long as I hung onto the handle I was safe. Adding to this, if you ever cut into any part of a Grripper, you will discover that it emits a very strong and unique odor which will immediately tell your brain that something is wrong. It's an unadvertised safety feature. I've never smelled anything like it, and I only nicked one of the side pieces.
Once I got past the 6" rule to accept the Grrippers I began to appreciate how well they worked, if I took a moment before each cut to adjust them and the blade height correctly. I made a doll house size horse barn for my grand daughter that required making many 1/8" strips and L shaped corner trim. I doubt that I could have made them safely without the Grrippers. I even made corral fences glued together from 1/8" thick strips.
Along with and before the Grrippers, I have frequently made push blocks, sometimes even from 2 X 6 and 2 X 8 or thinner material, like 1/4 - 3/4 Baltic Birch that always has an L shaped cut in the bottom so it will hold the work down as well as push it, and a handle high enough to be above 6" from the blade. These pushers are always long enough to be a minimum of about 1/3 of the length of the cut and I always set the blade height to be about a tooth above the work, and always do a kind-of dry run to make sure everything will go well. If the blade will be passing closely along side of my pusher I will glue a block below the handle piece that the blade will hit before it reaches my hand.
I've seen guys hold little tiny pieces of wood and push it along with their fingers while hooking a couple of fingers over the top of the fence, and I cringe when I see them do this. Then I try to convince them of a safer way to do it.
Herb, I'm sorry to see that you had this unfortunate experience, but I'm glad that you didn't loose any body parts in the process. I hope you completely heal soon. I also hope you have learned a lesson about push sticks and saw safety. Grrippers are great, but bigger shop made pushers that also hold the work down are quite safe too. I'll have to take some pictures of some of mine and post them.
Central North Carolina