A sobering experience, for sure. Thanks for sharing. Happy that your injury was, in the end, not as serious as it might have been.
Say it with me: the table saw is the most dangerous tool in the shop.
FWIW, I am obsessed with safety in the shop, but when I have to remove safety gear from the table saw, I get conflicted. Here's my situation.
I have a Craftsman table saw, 10 years old. Very nice saw, but no splitter behind the blade if I remove the blade guard, which I hate to do. When I do remove the blade guard for a dado or narrow rip, I always use the GRR-Ripper. I have 3 of them, set up for different cuts & thicknesses, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this product.
When the blade guard IS in place (always preferred), then I can make rips as narrow as 3/4". I always use a push stick, of course, and I have a pair that have an aluminum blade with plastic handle. The metal blade is much stronger than plastic, of course, and I've thrown away every plastic push stick I've ever tried when it bends. They all do.
The aluminum blade slips between the blade guard and fence in a narrow space, allowing me to keep the blade guard in place down to a 3/4" rip. On the one occasion (one!) that the aluminum blade (barely) touched the blade, it deformed slightly on the tip, and the work piece went through the blade without a hitch. The Woodworker II was not damaged either.
So, for me, a GRR-Ripper for rips under 7/8", and a blade guard & aluminum push stick for every other rip.
Your mileage, of course, may vary.