Months Later and Things Are Handy Dandy

Two years ago I would not have been happy with a picture like this with my hand in it.

Two years ago I would not have been happy with a picture like this with my hand in it.

A few people have asked how my hands are doing now that’s it’s been over seven months since I finished up my last procedure on my right hand. I just wanted to write a quick update to say that I am still very happy with my results. I was very lucky to heal quickly. My fixators were on and off in pretty much the estimated time and I didn’t suffer any breaks or need for surgery to regain flexibility. It was definitely a tough 10 months with infections, painful physical therapy, and tiring travel, but I would say it was worth it. I no longer feel self conscious about my hands. I still have noticeable scars, but for whatever reason those don’t bother me much. Later on down the road, perhaps I’ll get something done to make them less noticeable. Every once in a while I do get a weird sensation near my scar and more so in my left than my right. I also still feel a slight tightness when I do a full stretch in a work out classes. But that’s about it. I love wearing a ring on my right ring finger and if I ever get one for my left I’d be happy to wear that too!

My right hand

My right hand


My left hand

My left hand

 

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Who has 10 fingers and has been super lazy about updating?

ME!!!


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Once my fingers got more mobile I took them on the road and didn’t bother to bring my computer along with me, so I am due for one really big update.

It took me a long time to get out of my splint. I scheduled my x-rays to be taken after my first physical therapy appointment about 2 weeks after my pins were removed on my 25th birthday. I woke up at 7:30 in the morning for PT and x-rays and was so excited. I assumed that I’d get my x-rays taken in the morning, have them zapped over to Dr. R in New York via the super powers of the internet, he’d glimpse at them for a hot second and I’d be splint free in time to get drinks for my birthday that night. It took a tad longer than that.

My first Mani with decals!

My first Mani with decals!

Even though I told my x-ray technicians over and over again that these x-rays needed to go to New York, it took me actually overnighting them via UPS for them to get there. Apparently the magical technology of e-mail that dentists use to get x-rays of teeth from place to place does not exist for doctors. This would have been fine had I known that, but instead I went to work thinking that my x-rays were floating their way to the Big Apple and told Dr. R to look for them. I waited all day Wednesday and all day Thursday thinking that maybe Dr. R had been too busy operating to check out my digits. On Friday I decided to try to make sure he had actually received them. That’s when I found out one of  the top rated hospitals in the country (the teaching hospital connected to my Alma Mater even!) was just sitting on my x-rays. They had gotten one of their doctors to read the x-rays but even the reading was not sent out. Finally, after solving the mystery of what the hospital did or didn’t do with my x-rays, they sent out a CD-rom (what is this, the stone age???) via snail mail to Dr. R. I was starting to get a splint tan at this point, so after work I rushed to the hospital before the library of x-rays closed to pick up my own copy and pay about 60 dollars to ship it overnight so that I could make sure Dr. R saw the x-rays that Monday. The next week I finally received word that I could stop wearing the splint. The one good thing was that I was not very worried at that point about easily hurting my hand.

It’s been so great, finally being free of splits and pins. Physical therapy has been going really well. I think I only have one more session in a couple weeks. I went once a week throughout May and made really great progress. My grip strength is only 4 pounds short of what it was before the surgery and I have great flexion and extension. Plus I think this scar looks better than the first. I have to be careful in the sun this summer and apply lots of sun screen.

What break?

What break?

I saw Dr. R for the last time, fingers crossed, last week. He actually told me to get a manicure before the appointment because he would be taking pictures! I was intending to anyway, but that made my family and me laugh. I wonder if one day my hands will be  a case on his website. He told me to send him a picture if I ever got a nice rock of my finger. It might be a while before that happens, but later that week my parents did buy me a silver ring at Tiffany!

"I'm just crazy about Tiffany's!"

“I’m just crazy about Tiffany’s!”

While in New York, my mother and I went to go see Kinky Boots on Broadway. It was a great show and it felt fantastic to be able to give it the applause it deserved. After my first surgery on my left hand, we went to see Wicked and aside from feeling lousy because it was 2 days after my surgery, I also couldn’t clap at all. It’s amazing the things you take for granted that your hands do for you. Simple things like hand washing clothes, braiding hair, hammering a nail, and cutting food become very challenging when your hand is stiff,in pain, and has open wounds. And now I’m back to appreciating the bigger things I couldn’t do like riding a bike and playing golf too! Plus my golf glove finally fits :).

And the pins come off!

"Get Well" card from my parents

“Get Well” card from my parents


I had the pins removed almost two weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. The fourth time around the OR you begin to run out of things to write about. My pin removal was at 9:30 this time. I was glad I didn’t have to starve all morning before hand. I tried to not be super early to the hospital and with all the traffic we ended up being half an hour later than the time they told us to arrive, but I don’t think it really slowed anything down. The hospital finally called to see where I was just as I walked into the waiting room!

Probably as punishment for not being on time, once they sent me to the pre-op area they didn’t send my parents in until right before I was about to go into surgery. They missed seeing the whole gang: the nurses, physician assistants, the anesthesiologist, the anesthesiologist’s fellow and even Dr. R. I was a little disappointed because for my first 3 surgeries I had the same anesthesiologist, but this time it was someone new. I immediately expressed my disappointment when he introduced himself and was even more let down, when he didn’t convey the same confidence that he would be able to keep me alert for most of the procedure and wake me  up right after the pins were removed, as my previous anesthesiologist had done. The fact that my anesthesiologist seemed less confident about being in complete control of when I would wake up was even more disturbing because they were giving me propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson and is used for capital punishment in Missouri!

Right before I was about to go into surgery they finally sent in my parents. I went to take off the beads that I used as pin protecters. Throughout the last few months these beads were a life saver, protecting me from scratching myself and others and keeping me from tearing clothing, but they also did not always stay on. Time after time I applied Elmer’s glue in hoped that would somehow keep the beads on the pin, but I spent many a night looking all over the bedroom floor or even a restaurant bathroom trying to recover a stray bead. I even lost one on a date once, but somehow I always found them. Now, minutes before the pins were being removed I couldn’t get one of the beads off! I’m not going to claim that I pulled as hard as I could, because well the bead was stuck to a pin that was still in my bone, but I gave it a good yank. The nurse assured me that the doctor could remove it in the OR, but it cost me that bead and I never did find out how he removed it because the anesthesiologist slipped me something.

Plaster Splint For a Day

Plaster Splint For a Day

Coming out of surgery I was in a much better mood than most of the other times. Probably because it was the last one, and I knew I was going to get a different splint than the plaster one I currently had in just one day. The nurse even suggested I could go get the orthosplint that day, but I was hesitant to do this. Dr. R and I had discussed the game plan to get the orthosplint the following day already.  After waiting around in the recovery room for an answer from Dr. R about the change of plans, we finally decided to go up a floor for a splint to be made. The nurse promptly found us to inform us that in fact Dr. R said I should wait. I was in a little bit of pain after surgery, but I only took one pain pill the whole time and they even let me walk out of the hospital!

Orthosplint - unfortunately HSS didn't have any fun colors.

Orthosplint – unfortunately HSS didn’t have any fun colors.

The next day, my mom and I came back to the hospital and had the splint made as planned. Having my hand bare made me very nervous at first, but it’s been so nice being able to shower or even just take the splint off for a couple minutes to get some breathing room and at this point I’m a little less nervous. I start PT and get x-rays in a couple days. Dr. R said I could get x-rays taken in St. Louis finally, which was a great surprise. I’ll go back to see him one more time in June for a follow up and I happen to be in town then anyway.

Now that I’m in a splint, once again everyone is asking me what happened to my hand. Some people don’t seem to remember that I had pins in my hand for three months and others think that I must have done something worse now. People are strange.

 

 

Seven more sleeps, Two and a half more works

The end is near! In just one short week I will be back on the east coast getting my external fixator removed. So excited! It’s weird to think that just over a year ago I was going to Dr. R’s office for the first time to see if he could help me. And by my 25th birthday in May I will be almost done with it all. Sure, I’ll still have to work on physical therapy and reducing my scar, but my finger will be the right length and I’ll no longer be sporting this horrid piercing. Checking out at a store the other day at the mall, the sales attendant told me my fixator was cute and asked how I got it. That made me chuckle a bit! Anyway I’m quite close to Surgery #4 so I thought an update was due. I almost forgot to mail my check in for the final surgery. I had my last physical therapy appointment before they take the ex fix off. My range of the motion was the best it’s been in a long time! Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m going to get through this (knock on wood). I’m already pretty happy with the results. Can’t wait to be biking and kick balling and golfing and volley balling… Continue reading

One Month To Go!

I had an appointment a couple weeks ago. Apologies for not writing sooner, it was one of those quick in and out of New Jersey appointments so I was quite tired the whole time. I really hate 7:00 AM flights, especially when you have to go straight to work afterwards. I was going to stay longer and meet my brand new nephew, but he had other plans and took his time being born. So now I will get to meet him in a month from now when I get my external fixator removed. I was very relieved when the doctor told me it would be six more weeks. I had started to worry he might decide it should be longer, since I had turned more slowly this time. But it’s pretty much the same timeline as before which means it’s possible I’ll be fixator and splint free by my birthday the first week of May!

Today I even made an appointment to have a splint made in New York the day after my surgery. I couldn’t make it for the day of, because I won’t know what time I’ll have my surgery. I hope my physical therapist doesn’t mind that I’ll be cheating on her. In case you were wondering I’ve now had a total of five splints. I think at the end of this whole ordeal I’ll line up all the weird things I’ve had to take care of my hand and take a picture of it. Most recently my physical therapist has just had me wrap velcro around my finger and wrist to help extend my ring finger. It’s hanging quite low and I have a lot of scar tissue which worries me a bit. Here’s the x-ray of my hand from 2 weeks ago. You can see the bone filling in!   IMG_1032IMG_1037

I also had my doctor office photoshoot. Dr. R was quite impressed with my matching nails and fixator. I wonder if one day I’ll see my pictures up on his practice’s website. Then I’ll know I’ve really made it.

Two more things: I just tried to open a bottle of saline, but the lids messed up (I swear it’s not because my hand is broken) and I can’t get it open. This is quite frustrating, because I have a whole bottle of saline yet I can’t get to it. Oh the agony. On a happier note I got my short term disability sorted out and even managed to get my right hand covered under the same claim as my left so I had to use less sick days than I initially thought I would be using.

Infection Blues

Last week I was cursed with what seems to me the one-month-post-op-infection. The same thing happened with my left hand. Luckily I don’t think it was quite as bad this time around, but I still was in some pain for a few days and back to popping pain pills after work and to sleep.

Captain Kirk's Swollen Hands

Captain Kirk’s Swollen Hands

It started probably last Monday night, but I was in denial of the increased pain. When I woke up on Tuesday it still hurt but I took some tylenol and told myself it was just due to the distraction. By the end of the workday my hand was so swollen and getting stiffer, which made me nervous because I had physical therapy in the morning and did not want to disappoint. I tried putting heat on my hand to loosen it up, which was foolish since it was swollen and most likely infected but I was still hoping the swelling would disappear. Then after a painful session at the Apple Genius Bar (worst bar ever, not a drink in sight!) I got home and called my mother to complain about my hand hurting. Denial wasn’t getting me anywhere so I also e-mailed the doctor with pictures of my swollen hand and the pins. My hand was incredibly swollen, think Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, but the pin sites seemed nice and neat still.

Actual swollen hand

Actual swollen hand

I woke up to an e-mail saying to start a course of antibiotics. I had an appointment the next day, but Dr. R asked if I could come in that day, because New York was expecting a huge storm. Sadly I could not, because I was still in St. Louis. Like I expected my physical therapist was very concerned about the look of my hand. Because the pin sites weren’t bad, but there was swelling she worried it might be celluitis. I didn’t know what this was and when I got to work and looked it up I did not like the sound of it. My physical therapist also made me a new splint to help keep my metacarpal extended since the ring finger is hanging a bit low. Before I was sleeping in a splint that kept my fingers bent. Now it’s the other way around.

I was planning to leave for the airport after work, but around lunch time I found out Southwest cancelled my flight because of the weather. There wasn’t a single snowflake in sight between St. Louis and New York yet and it wasn’t scheduled to start until after I landed, but they decided that their planes not being snowed in was more important than me going to the doctor to get my infection checked out. Luckily I snagged a flight through Chicago to Newark. It wasn’t cancelled because it was flying straight back to Chicago. I left work early and landed the same time I was originally scheduled to get in.

Getting into New York for my 9AM appointment was its own adventure. The train wasn’t bad, plenty of seats for once, but the subways were super crowded and the walk to the office was comparable to when Dennis Quaid goes to save his son in The Day After Tomorrow. But we made it! And a little bit after my scheduled appointment Dr. R made it in too. He had a few other patients to see that day, but I was most likely the only one he actually saw, because I imagine anyone with lower extremity issues would have had too much trouble getting there in the weather.

What New York Looked Like

What New York Looked Like

Dr. R didn’t seem too worried about my infection. He prescribed me a stronger antibiotic in case I didn’t see results in the next few days, but I haven’t needed them. We looked at my x-rays and determined I needed 3 – 5mm of turns left. It’s pretty much up to me when to stop. I asked if I could slow down turning, because I was still in a lot of pain from my infection and thought the turning might be a part of it. We decided to knock it down to only three 1/8 turns a day.

24 days of turning ~12 mm of distraction

25 days of turning ~12.5 mm of distraction

Getting back into New Jersey was even more trouble. My mom and I smartened up and took a cab from the hospital to Penn Station. At the train station we learned that all our trains were leaving from Hoboken and we’d have to take the Path to get there. We wondered around Penn Station contemplating finding a place to eat and trying to figure out exactly how to get to the Path before walking a few blocks to the entrance to the Path. We went to Hoboken and caught the train back to our town’s station. The car was covered in snow in an unplowed lot. At least we didn’t get a ticket for not having the correct parking permit (it’s a new car)! We grabbed a very late breakfast at one of the few places open in town and then walked home. My mom later managed to get the car out of the lot and the swelling started to go down the next day. I definitely think resting it helped.

I’m not scheduled to go back til March 12th. Finger’s crossed I have lots of bone growth between now and then!

Broken hands, Broken insurance companies

I haven’t updated in a while. I had a doctor’s appointment a week and a half ago and so far things are going fine. No infection yet which is great. I wonder if that has anything to do with the weather, it’s so dry here so maybe my wound dries faster after I clean it? I’m probably just crazy, but the skin around the wound seems to be a lot drier and there isn’t any open skin besides at the pin sites even though I’ve been turning.

Day 10 of Turning

My flexibility also isn’t bad. It’s getting worse now that I’ve been turning for a while but I can still bend the finger quite a bit and I haven’t noticed a need for buddy tape. My physical therapist modified my straightener so that I could get a tighter grip more easily. I was so happy when she came up with that solution because that was struggling with especially when I wanted to try to curl my hair which involves a lot of wrist movement and gripping.

Straightener modification, made with a foam tube cut in half and stretchy gauze

Straightener modification, made with a foam tube cut in half and stretchy gauze

Differences from last time are that I have pain in the palm of my hand, especially when I open doors, turn faucets, stupidly try to nail paintings to the wall. I think it might be because the pins are a little bit deeper or that I just use my right hand for more.

The other big difference is Prudential, my short term disability company, has been a huge pain in the ass. I didn’t qualify this time because I accidentally went back to work a day too soon and the jerks there only try to make your life miserable. I have yet to be able to get a comprehensive understanding of what their policies are there because they constantly give me contradictory information and they make it so hard to file a claim, thus the reason I worked a day sooner than I should have. Try calling them and reporting a claim if you don’t believe me when I say they are terrible. You have to sit through the longest menu ever and then dial in your life history before talking to a real person, not that the real person is ever helpful. I hate how user unfriendly insurance companies aim to be. On top of it all I’m out of sick days sooner that I thought I would be. All of this is making me bitter which is why I haven’t posted. I was waiting to see if they would approve my claim but they didn’t so now I have to appeal it and if that doesn’t work, take them to court. They really know how to treat someone with a broken hand. Prudential sucks.