Monday, April 23, 2012

Until Today

Until Today
by j l mo

I can’t paint.

Well, honestly, I never truly could. I mean, Picasso or Rembrandt never had anything to fear as far as having the name j l mo come up alongside their ranks. No, I mean I can’t hold a paintbrush.

 Or write with a pencil.

Or sweep with a broom.

Or swish a mop. OK, those last two are not necessarily a bad thing.

Anything that requires closing my right thumb for support or operation is impossible without an inordinate amount of pain.

I miss painting, though. A room could be completely changed in an afternoon with paint, a paintbrush and rollers. Much to my husband’s chagrin.

The last time I painted must have been five years ago. I’d been suffering pain in my right hand for a few years. I told myself I was getting old and weak and I needed to work through the pain. So, I bought the paint and determined to paint the foyer of our home. After all, it’s only an eight foot-stretch of wall. I told myself I could do this.

I painted half the wall and could no longer hold the brush. Each and every time I stroked up, a jolt of pain shot through my hand and I dropped the brush. I tried again with a down stroke. The brush dropped again. I picked the damn thing up, clenched my teeth and tried again. And again. But the brush fell again and again.

I stared at my half-painted wall and at the brush splattered on the drop cloth with a feeling of utter defeat. My wrist hurt tremendously, and the frustration was so overwhelming. I started to cry. I called my eldest son, who happened to be free that day. He came over, and consoled me. Then he took the brush and finished the wall.

The doctor said the pain may be from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A couple of different ways existed for diagnosing CTS, and when I was ready, she would help me pursue those options. Well, I wasn’t ready for surgery, and arthritis means I’d take meds, right? My husband protested my decision to hold off.

For the next five years I wore a wrist support and learned to use my left hand. I developed a greater sympathy for those who are naturally left-handed in a right-handed world. When my husband suggested the surgery, I suggested he do it first. The pain continued to worsen as my right hand became weaker. I couldn’t even rest my hand on my hip.

Then came Doctor White.
I first heard of Doctor White while having to spend a week in the hospital with my dying father-in-law. A nurse asked me about my wrist support, then told me of a hand surgeon by the name of Dr. White who has a radically new approach to CTS. At the time I was not thinking about the wrist support I wore, or the pain in my hand.

A few months later, when my husband and I spoke of it, we researched “Dr. White” online and couldn’t find him. I thought perhaps I didn’t remember the name correctly.

Another year went by and the pain intensified. My hand became so weak, I needed to do something. Bring on the surgery. At my next doctor appointment, the Physician Assistant administered a quick test to determine if it was CTS. Let me tell you, the PA hurt me. The test comprised of bending my wrist, hand and thumb in various directions. It hurt. Diagnosis: CTS. A business card of the ‘best hand surgeon in the business’ was given to me. Yes, it was Dr. White.

When I called I was told the first appointment would be a consultation and the next available was in six weeks. I took it.

At seven that morning, I went to the doctor’s office for the consultation. In the waiting area was a poster displaying small pictures of pre- and post-op x-rays of patient’s hands. To look at my right hand, you would not know anything was wrong. The x-rays on the poster were a completely different story. These were people who truly suffered. Hands so deformed as to make a person gasp. I did not feel I had any right to be there. This doctor had far greater cases than dealing with me, a whiney woman with an ‘ow-ie’. As I thought of grabbing my purse and running, they called my name.

An x-ray was taken of my hand and in the next few minutes I sat at a table with the doctor looking at results.

“You have beautiful bones,” Dr. White said. “And here, do you see this?” He indicated a point on the x-ray that didn’t have clear, separating lines like the others. “This is the beginning of arthritis. But what you’re suffering is tendinitis.”

My heart skipped a beat. That’s all? I thought, excitement building because I wouldn’t need surgery. Tendinitis? I have a friends who suffer tendinitis in their elbow. Another friend suffers tendinitis in her knee. I won’t need surgery!

Dr. White is explaining something and pointing at papers in front of me. I probably need to be listening, but my heart is positively racing! Realizing tears of relief were building in eyes, I blinked and took a deep breath. He was still speaking. He wants me to sit next to another machine. I sat down and he put a gel on my wrist, then he rubbed a wand in the gel. I realize I’m getting a sonogram on my wrist.

“Huh,” the doctor said. “Would you look at this? You have two tunnels.”

“I’m sorry?”

Dr. White said, “It’s not highly unusual, but it is unusual. Well, we’ll just make it two shots to be certain.”

I realize I should have been paying closer attention. He has a needle in his hand and I quickly glance away. The papers are in front of me. I read the shot consists of Xylocaine, Marcaine, and Kenalog, as the needle hit my bone. He pulls my thumb and I’m certain the needle has now penetrated and become one with my wrist. Oh. My God. The pain. I can’t breathe. He pulled the needle out and my body sagged with relief.

I tried not to cry as he said, “Okay, one more.”

After the second torturous shot, he said, “The pain should be gone in the next four to seven days.” I ask if he’ll remove the embedded needle then. He grinned. I keep telling myself , It’s better than surgery. It’s better than surgery. It’s better than surgery.

I had been so scared of what a hand surgeon would do to me. Until Today.

It is now three in the afternoon and my hand is starting to recover feeling. I am so excited I will not need surgery.

I’m more excited that I had not been born with, nor did I develop the types of deformities those people in the x-rays suffered.

I think I’ll paint my living room ‘sage’ next weekend.

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