Goodbye ExFix, Hello Cast

Monday was the big day. The hospital called the Friday before with the time of my surgery. Up until then it didn’t seem very real that I would be getting the external fixator off.

I flew in Sunday this time so I could celebrate “Halloween” in St. Louis on Saturday. I had a very early flight Sunday morning and between the World Series, the St. Louis Marathon, and my alma mater’s parents’ weekend, I had quite a challenge getting to the airport and on my plane.

A word to the wise, even if you book the night before with St. Louis County and Yellow Cab, don’t expect them to actually come pick you up. Half an hour after the time I requested to be picked up, they still hadn’t dispatched a cab for me. Luckily Laclede Cab  came within a reasonable time and got me to the airport.

I had never seen Lambert International so swamped! And now running half an hour later than I hoped, I was anxious about making my flight. I requested assistance because of my hand in the hopes I might get past the behemoth of a security line a little quicker. Southwest insisted that they could only assist me if I went through on a wheelchair. I swallowed my pride, hid my face, and slithered past all the proud Wash U moms and dads.

When I made it home, I took it easy with a nap and dinner with the family. I didn’t think to take advantage of all the mobility I had slowly regained while externally fixated as I had done before my first surgery. I thought better days were just around the corner, not another 10 days away!

On Monday morning we woke up early to drive into the city. My surgery wasn’t scheduled until noon, but everyone is always so much more cheerful when they are exhausted so we decided to leave at 7 AM. We once again got to the hospital an hour earlier than instructed.

Having gone through the whole ordeal 3 months earlier I was less anxious than the last time. Eventually they took me to a bed, I peed in a cup, put on a gown and read a book until they gave me an IV and brought my parents back in. I like my nurse. She commented on my Cardinals shirt and said she hoped they won. Not because she was a fan, but because she hated the Red Sox, but I’ll take what I can get. Then a PA came in and talked about what I was having done. She mentioned in addition to the removal of the ex fix there would be the application of a plaster splint. That’s just a sugar coated way of saying a cast you can’t get wet. At the last appointment there was mention that there would probably be some sort of support for my hand while it continued to heal, but the implications seemed to be that a cast was a worst case scenario, not a definite before they even x-rayed.

Dr. R’s fellow came in and told me more about the process and the horrible terrible cast. I begged and pleaded for a different option. A med student named Remy came by to introduce himself. I appealed to him,”please don’t let them put a cast on me.” Dr. R himself finally stopped by right before the surgery and I told him something horrible would happen if they put me in a cast, I just knew it. But did any of them listen? No, and guess what the Cardinals lost game 5.

Sometime in between all the futile negotiations not to be bound in plaster the nurse also stabbed my right hand with a needle and brought in my parents. The anesthesiologist came by too. It was the same doctor as before. I told him I wanted to stay awake this time in a last ditch attempt to make Dr. R see that wrapping my hand in bubble wrap and caution tape was also a viable option. The anesthesiologist told me that I wouldn’t have a block this time so if I stayed awake it would be very painful. In the end, I was awake for a lot of it, which meant I probably hit on Remy and revealed several incriminating secrets. Yesterday I suddenly remembered asking Dr. R if we could make a youtube video together. I think he said we could for the next hand. Earlier I had suggested I wouldn’t do my right hand if he put me in a cast, but maybe I’ll reconsider if I have a chance to become a youtube star. Orthopedic surgery videos are the ones that go viral, right?

Because I was alert, it felt even worse that I ended up in a cast. My sweet talking in the OR had no effect and I willingly posed my hand for the fitting of the plaster splint. One second they were unscrewing the fixator and asking if I wanted to keep it, another second I was being x-rayed and then, before I knew it, they were wrapping up my splint in an ace bandage. And I thought I still had the pins in my hand! What a cheap trick. What was most disappointing was that I didn’t even get to steal a peak of my hand before they wrapped it up. Now I’ll have to wait til next Thursday unless I find a way to slip in and out of my cast. It’s already so gross, but if I wiggle enough maybe I can slip it off and back on without Dr. R ever knowing. After surgery I immediately identified that the plaster was digging into the back of my fingers, but the nurses couldn’t do a thing so I had to wait another hour for Dr. R’s PA to come back just to bend the plaster back a bit.

Yesterday after showering with an umbrella bag elephant condom on my arm, the cloth part of the cast got a little wet. The nurse said I could come in in a couple hours for a new cast, but it was such a hassle that we dried it with a hairdryer. Today’s shower went better, but I’m terrified something will happen when I’m back in St. Louis and I’ll be stuck waiting in the ER. I wrote that I was worried about my hand being fragile, but this solution does not calm my nerves. I was hoping for a splint like the one my physical therapist gave me. What’s even worse is I had to cancel my PT appointment tomorrow and with my hand stuck in a cast I have no clue what my flexibility is like sans ex fix. By next Thursday I’ll probably be stiff as a board or at least I’ll pretend to be when I see Dr. R.

Thumbs down for plaster splint

Thumbs down for plaster splint

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