The Hand that Couldn’t Rock the Cradle

It all started with the hand. A mysterious injury that took me by surprise and is taking much longer to heal than anyone could have imagined, including the doctors.

While my injury stripped me of many day-to-day freedoms that we all take for granted like: dressing, eating, bathing, typing, and cleaning – you know, ANYTHING you need your hand for, it also provided me with an opportunity to look at my life from a different perspective. I wasn’t sure if I might lose the use of my hand forever.  I spent 4 months going from doctor to doctor, leaving with no diagnosis and sometimes only a warm “good luck” on my way out the door.  Although the injury seemed to start in my thumb, my other fingers were beginning to become affected.  At this point, my entire hand hurt, it was starting to atrophy, and the pain was starting to move up my forearm.  It got so bad that I truly wouldn’t wish my situation on anyone.  I felt so alone.

I am a worrier by nature and what scared me the most was that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I love to do anymore: cooking, writing, making jewelry, photography, gardening, and painting/redecorating my home.  Sure, I could learn to brush my teeth and hold my fork with my left hand. But working with metal jewelry? Holding onto a large vegetables while chopping with the other hand?  No more beautiful flower beds – I pictured our front lawn with 3 foot tall weeds growing around the perimeter.  What if I became: (gasp!) handicapped?  What if it had to be cut off!?

I Googled everything I could about my symptoms. Wouldn’t you if your doctors couldn’t help you?  I diagnosed myself with a multitude of conditions and diseases. I eventually convinced myself I had RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy).  I had all the symptoms.  In my defense, my sister (and former nurse) thought I had this, as well, and, for the record, she is sane.

By this point, my husband was getting annoyed at my constant internet medical research.  It was making us both crazy.  One night, he gave me The Serious Talk – you know – gave me a much needed kick in the butt, while I lay crying in bed over my assumed signed and sealed future.  Why?  Oh…um…I had us hypothetically selling our house and moving to Mexico where I could be put under an experimental coma via Ketamine (horse tranquilizer), which was the only success story I had read about RSD…and lest we forget, on the i-n-t-e-r-n-e-t.  No – I am not crazy.  Hysterical at this point, maybe.  It’s embarrassing that I let my mind go there, but I just didn’t have anywhere else to turn.  Although, I will warn you, the constant pain and emotional trauma of watching your limb fade away for months on end can make you act like an unstable nut.

Some advice: don’t Google it. You don’t have it.

After 4 months of multiple doctors, tests, and emotional breakdowns, I headed to Philadelphia to see one of the top hand surgeons in sports medicine.  I even prepared for this doctor’s visit like I was preparing for a job interview.  I rehearsed questions.  I role-played with my mom to practice asking these questions.  I will say it again.  I’m not crazy.  But the surgeons generally give you 90 seconds of their time and, if you haven’t been in this situation, let me you – it can be very intimidating.  And more importantly, I desperately needed this doctor to be the one.

I was diagnosed with simply: reversed trigger finger in the thumb. Meh?  A simple surgery would fix the problem.  Halleluiah.  Well, during the surgery, the surgeon determined that I had the most complicated trigger finger he’s ever seen.  I mean why not – why wouldn’t I have the most complicated case in the whole wide world?!  As if four months of pain and depression wasn’t enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if aliens landed on earth and the best alien doctor in all of our solar system had never seen such a chaotic trigger finger predicament. That’s me – everything has to be complicated.

So the plan was to wait and see how my healing progressed. Six weeks of physical therapy and my hand is only slightly better. Well, I shouldn’t complain. I do, thankfully, have “use” of my hand. But the healing is slow and my last visit revealed the possibility of another surgery. Something else needs to be “snipped” (to be precise with the medical jargon).

I currently work as a legal secretary with an enormous amount of fast-paced typing.  That’s another scary story altogether.  The bad news is, I can’t return to work. The good news is, I can’t return to work. 

I’ve trained my left thumb to press the space bar. I can type – but only in short increments. In fact, Siri has been helping me with my blog via dictation. Thanks, Siri. She says, “You don’t need to thank me.”  And, if you’ve made it to the end of this entire dramatic narrative, I thank you.

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