Follow Up 2 – Buddy tape, a 3-hour wait and the bone stimulator

I flew back to New Jersey Wednesday after work for my second follow up appointment on Thursday. I was excited to see new x-rays, find out how much more turning was left and talk to the doctor. I had a bunch of questions that I had been too lazy to e-mail and/or wanted to discuss in person.

My mom and I took the train into the city Thursday morning, took the subway up to the doctor’s office, and grabbed lunch at a sushi place nearby. It was a good thing we did, because while we arrived on time for my appointment it was at least four hour before we left the doctor’s office.

First the radiology room or whatever the place that does x-rays is called was backed up so I along with a few other patients needing x-rays were brought next door to another x-ray technician. Not a big deal, but I felt bad for the guy needing his leg x-rayed who got to walk to the next building in those oh-so-stylish hospital shorts/boxers. That x-ray waiting room seemed pretty crowded as well but I guess they had more machines and it really didn’t matter how long it took, because we had an even longer wait ahead of us.

It turns out Dr. R had some complicated surgeries that took longer than expected. When I got there for my appointment the waiting room was already pretty full with people and it continued to fill up. Despite the incredibly long wait, there really wasn’t a lot of complaining. People shuffled about to provide seats for people who clearly couldn’t stand and my mom and I occupied ourselves by applying our awesome crossword skills to a waiting room magazine puzzle.

After 3 hours passing, a few other patients being called, and several times of me thinking I heard my name, they finally called my name and we were brought to one of the examining rooms. This was quite a good thing, because that waiting room was getting crowded.

There I met the representative who provided me with my awesome bone stimulator that is going to heal my hand 40% FASTER. Earlier in the week I received a letter from my insurance saying that they would not be covering my bone stimulator because having a healed hand was not considered medically necessary or some malarkey like that. The letter also said that if I was a smoker and therefore was likely to have a harder time healing bone the bone stimulator would be covered. So I contemplated taking up smoking and tried to get in touch with my insurance company to receive the free documents that were used in deciding my claim coverage that were guaranteed to me as part of my appeal process. I talked with some robots and some people more annoying than robots several times, first to learn that their system was down and they couldn’t do anything for me and then to learn there were no such promised documents. Finally I did the smart thing and e-mailed Dr. R to tell him about the letter and he informed me I would be meeting the representative on Thursday and it would be of no cost to me!

Chris, the representative gave me the electric bone stimulator and explained to me how it works. It’s pretty simple. I velcro it to my hand and turn it on. I can use it up to 10 hours a day and the longer I use it better. Between physical therapy, pin care, fixator turning, and now 10 hours of stimulation my days are getting pretty full. I still haven’t tried to use it while I sleep so I’ve only gotten up to 5 hours a day so far. The best part is that it’s not costing me anything. The company will file an appeal with my insurance, but no matter what I don’t have to pay. I think this is because they are doing research on me, but that is fine by me.

After meeting with Chris they decided to move me to another examining room where my Mom and I got to practice our newly refined skill of waiting. We could hear the doctor talking with another patient. I hope that doesn’t mean that everyone could hear the inappropriate videos we watched on Youtube!

I was really exciting when the doctor came in, but was also nervous he would hurry out before I covered all my questions since he was on a tight schedule. Luckily I

After 13 days of turning

After 13 days of turning

had written them all down on my phone and held him hostage until he answered them. First he and a fellow looked at my x-rays. My finger had grown about 7 mm, which is pretty much on schedule. My doctor predicted that I would have another 10 to 14 days of turning left and told me to schedule an appointment in 2 weeks. He also tested my flexibility by bending my finger forward as hard as possible. He asked me if I had been doing that as part of my physical therapy. Through gritted teeth I told him I had not, because it really hurt. He pushed harder. Apparently I now get to really push my finger down as hard as possible 50 times a day. So much for not taking pain killers anymore.

Then we played a fun game of compare the hands of the fellow, the doctor, my mom and me. Maybe I should have been a little disconcerted that my doc doesn’t know what the end result should look like, but I just thought it was hilarious. I’m pretty happy with the growth in my finger already. Right now, it’s just shy of my pointer finger. Plus Dr. R says that if I did turn for too many days I could always just turn the other way. I guess the bone stimulator isn’t that magical.

I then asked the doctor a bunch of my questions. I was concerned that my ring finger was a little crooked; I was constantly unintentionally doing the Spock hand greeting so Dr. R provided me with the ingenious solution of buddy taping my ring and middle finger together. My pinky is enjoying the extra space and I always wanted to know how cartoon characters functioned with four fingers. It certainly has made typing even more fun now.

I also asked when my sutures were coming out and he got a nurse to remove them after I asked. I discussed when would be best to have the surgery on my right hand. While I’ve been getting by fairly well with this fixator, having two hands that can’t bare weight was beginning to seem like a pretty cruel infliction. While Dr. R would perform the surgery for me in September when I scheduled it if I wanted, I decided that waiting a couple months after the first fixator is removed to start the process all over would be best. I don’t want to wait longer than that so that I will be new and improved by next spring and my 25th birthday.

This decision has a couple pros and cons. By extending the process into 2014 I have to pay another thousand dollar deductible because Dr. R is out of network, but I get even more time to plan my epic recovery party. Right now I’m trying to think of the perfect punny theme.

I also asked the doctor when I could go swimming. I was surprised to learn I could go in a pool right away. Today before my flight back, my sister, mom, and I went to the pool for a bit. It wasn’t that hot and swimming with the fixator felt a little strange, but it was nice to be in the water again.

After asking the doctor all my non-stupid questions (because stupid questions don’t exist, right?) we finally let him address one his other patiently waiting patients. We waited to schedule our follow up til the next day because there was also a wait for his office assistant.

My next appointment is Tuesday after this one, which means I’ll be back in NJ in less than a week from now. I haven’t been home this much in a long time. I’d be concerned that all this traveling would be limiting my available date nights, but so far the external fixator has not brought all the boys to yard. Now that I have a bone stimulator, maybe that will change. 😉

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