My doctor’s appointment went super well! My parents and I woke up early to take the train into the city and caught a cab uptown to the office. We arrived ten minutes before the appointment and the office was open, but dark. The doctor, Dr. R, came out to introduce himself, took a very brief look at my hands and sent me across the hall to get x-rays.
From that first introduction I already had a pretty good feeling about the rest of the appointment to come. In January, I made an appointment to meet an orthopedic surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital who corrects a lot of upper extremity congenital defects in children. Besides thinking I would feel a little out of place playing with the blocks with the other kids in the waiting room of his office, I read a comment on his blog that made me feel very discouraged and led me to cancel the appointment. He wrote, “I do NOT believe in lengthening for appearance”. Seeing that “not” in all upper case really disappointed me and I decided it would be best to just wait to meet with the doctor in New York, who in videos of him with patients came across as very supportive of this type of limb lengthening.
I went to get my X-rays taken and the technician further confirmed that my decision to come to New York for the appointment was the right choice. He told me how great Dr. R was and that he treated all types of cases. The technician took three x-rays of each hand. At first he said something about both my ring fingers and pinky being small, but then he corrected himself when he saw the x-ray. I guess my pinky gets dragged into looking strange by being next to my ring fingers. All the more reason to get it fixed!
Dr. R’s assistant showed me my x-rays. They looked just as I expected with the metacarpal bone in my fourth finger ending much sooner than all the rest. My parents and I immediately began bombarding him with all the questions we’ve been waiting to ask for so long as he explained the way they correct the length discrepancy. Most of the answers were as I expected, but it was good to hear them here, especially for my parents. He showed us the external fixator that would be used. When Dr. R returned he said it was the smallest external fixator and that my metacarpal bones were just large enough for the procedure. I never thought that might be a problem, but I guess it’s for the best that I wasn’t worried about that since Dr. R said he could do it.
My metacarpal bones are about 13 mm or about half an inch shorter than they should be. It takes about a month to lengthen the bone, turning the pins twice a day or half a millimeter until the desired length is reached. After that the external fixator remains in place, keeping the bone strong as it grows to fill in the gap. Dr. R says it is probably best not to initially have the surgery on both hands, but depending on how impaired I feel with one external fixator on I could decide to overlap getting my hands fixed. I think that’s probably best. Even though I want my fingers to be normal as soon as possible, having one good hand until I get used to the external fixator will probably make the process less stressful. I was pleased to find out that I would have pretty much normal function of my hands and would be able to shower and get the fixator wet. Dr. R said that I should be able to work and while I might not be 100% productive I would probably be 90%. I couldn’t help but think, “wow, somehow this surgery improves productivity!”
Dr. R showed me pictures of a woman who had fingers lengthened on both hands, three fingers total. Her hands looked great in the end! He said he would try to get me in contact with her, which is something I was really hoping for. The one thing I wish I could have done was schedule my first surgery, but the woman who does that wasn’t in the office. She should be calling me tomorrow and I hope I can schedule surgery for my left hand for sometime in July! After that, the next step is telling work that I’m going to take a bunch of sick days this summer for doctor’s appointments in New York. I’m not sure how much other time I will need off since it really varies how people feel during the process. Because this is a preexisting congenital defect I’m having corrected, I’m hoping that my company won’t be able to object to me having the surgery. For that same reason, the insurance companies should be paying for a lot of the costs, although I’m sure there will be a few hoops I have to jump through to get everything approved. In general, I’m a little nervous just to tell anyone, because already some of my family members are less supportive than I hoped.