Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stupid Pinky

How do I spell kryptonite? P.I.N.K.Y.

I've debated for some time whether to write about this or not, because, it's just a pinky. A seemingly insignificant, fifth digit. And, let's face it, nobody - except perhaps me - cares about that little guy who used to reside so quietly on the far side of my hand.  - Oh dear, that sounds almost like he no longer resides there. No worries. He's still there. I cannot see him beneath the cast and bandages, but believe me, I feel him... and he's not quiet. In fact, he's quite ANGRY!

(WARNING: this post contains some medical images/wounds that might be disturbing to some...or, if you're like me, you might find them quite fascinating.)

The Event
It all started on October 24, a quiet Monday night in the suburbs I call home. Quiet is a relative term. I'm sure the stereo was on. And, kids, I've got a few of them. Teenagers and young adults, but kids just the same. It was getting late and most of my young peeps had settled into their rooms to do homework. The kitchen table was buried in paperwork and I was busily plunking away on my laptop, pushing a deadline, when the doorbell rang.

Typical protocol when someone comes to the door is to remind the dog where her spot is and instruct her that she is supposed to "stay" there until otherwise commanded. She is big and most visitors find her intimidating. After a quick sweep of the room, I determined that she'd gone to bed (she keeps a rigid bedtime schedule for herself) so I didn't think it was necessary to remind her of door-etiquette.

I unlatched the deadbolt and opened the door, failing to process that this very chain of sounds would register the dog's attention. Before I knew it, she was bolting out of the bedroom and loudly toward the entryway. I reached for her collar - a chain-linked choker fit for the princess she is. Somehow the first three digits on my hand missed, leaving the tip of one, tender, little pinky to catch hold. As one might expect, that lone fingertip stood no chance against the 110+ pounds of forward motion.

I felt a pop and instantly knew something was wrong, but being the tough (insert: stubborn, obstinate, bull-headed) girl that I am, I squared the dog away and finished my business at the door before pausing to look at the source of pain. It felt weird and looked strange. There was a small white bump on the inner crease of the joint and a rapidly bruising dimpled area directly above that. Knowing she'd still be up, I called my daughter Olivia down from her room with the plea that I needed her help looking at an injury. My other daughter, Talia, heard the call and excitedly followed. She was hoping for blood. She was disappointed.

I'd seen breaks and jams and dislocations before. This looked like none of those. We googled for a bit then I consulted a friend with medical training and decided I could probably wait til morning to get it looked at. This was good news. I had a deadline to meet and most certainly didn't want to spend any precious time in the ER. I made a makeshift splint and went back to my laptop.

The First Diagnosis
I got up the next morning and drove to the InstaCare with the hope that they'd take an x-ray, tell me it was just bruised, give me a lollipop, and send me home. We even laughed about it. "Haha, my silly pinky hurts."

Talia waited in the exam room while they took me back for x-rays. "If the doctor comes in," I joked when I returned to the room, "and says "Ooh!" then we know I'm in trouble." We both laughed.

And then it happened. He came in, logged onto the computer, and uploaded the x-ray. "Ooh," he pinched his lips and tilted his head to the side. "Ooh. Ooh. Oooh!" Talia sprang from her chair to get a look at what we were seeing. A fragment of my bone had broken off and was lodged sideways on the front crease of my knuckle. Suddenly the hard, white bump made sense. It was my bone!

A Detached Jersey Finger  is what the doctor called it. Football players get it from grabbing on to their opponent's  jerseys. A typical Jersey Finger injury happens when the finger tendons are actively flexing (making a fist) and something yanks them the opposite direction, causing the tendon to rip. Except, in my case the tendon was too strong. (Yay! Go me!) Instead of tearing away from the bone, it tore a fragment of the bone clean off! So, technically, I've got a sports injury. (Where's my trophy? lol) And surgery is the only way to fix it.

"Take 2 - or 8 - ibuprofen every 4 hours," the doctor directed as I walked out the door.

November 2. Nine days after the injury...

I arrived at the hospital excited to start my road to recovery and confident that I had chosen the best doctor for the job. They'd needed to wait 7-10 days for the swelling to go down. It had been 9 days of discomfort and pain - and having to be uber careful not to do anything that would push the bone out through the skin. I was antsy to start feeling better. My nerves were fairly at ease, I'd had hand surgery before. And by this same surgeon. No worries. This was going to be cake.... or so I thought.

The anesthesiologist put me out for about three minutes - just long enough to deaden my arm - then woke me up and kept me mildly sedated. From my perspective behind the blue surgical curtain, all was going well. There was music, subtle talking between the surgeon and his assistant, and a few drilling sounds. I felt those - not in my finger, but in my elbow!

And then I heard the words, "Well, that was unexpected." In case you're wondering, those aren't very comforting words to hear while laying on the surgical table. Suddenly the 50 minute surgery felt like it'd been going on all day! The blue surgical curtain started to feel oppressive. My mouth was dry. My muscles tightening. My anxiety was building by the minute.

Then we were done. They bandaged me up, removed the claustrophobic curtain, and all was right again. The surgeon explained that there had been some unexpected obstacles to the surgery - mainly, you know, that the whole top portion of my finger was actually broken off right above the knuckle. No big deal, right? Just a complete change of plans. They could no longer do screws (can't screw a broken bone into another broken bone). I ended up with a couple pins to hold the big (unexpected) break and then a suture through my tendon, up through my bone, out through my finger nail, and finally, threaded through a button to hold it all together. Delightful...delightfully painful, that is!

The 50 minute surgery had actually taken 90 min.

Post OP - Week 1 
November 10

Hell. That's pretty much where I spent the first couple of days after surgery. I've delivered four babies, had my share of surgeries, and even suffered some pretty painful injuries (like the time the top half of my ear had to be reattached to my head), but this stupid pinky was going to be the death of me. The pain meds barely touched the pain, but they did a superb job making me sick. I couldn't walk. I couldn't read. I couldn't even watch TV. All I wanted was to curl up in fetal position and cry... and I couldn't even do that! Everything from my elbow to my fingertips was a swollen, painful, mess!

I bargained with the surgeon before going under the knife. You know, cause that's what all good patients do. Typically the post op bandaging would include the entire hand. But I needed some fingers... and this was just a stupid pinky, so couldn't he give me something to work with? We struck a deal. He agreed to give me 3 fingers (2 plus my thumb) and I agreed to take it easy.

And I'm sure he chuckled all the way home that night. There's no way I could use those fingers if I wanted to. First, they're swollen. Second, pretty much all the nerves in your hand are interconnected. So, essentially, moving my index finger causes pain in my pinky. Having them free is essentially pointless. The jokes on me....

At my one week post-op, the doctor asked me how the pain was. "Worse than anticipated," I said. "How come you didn't tell me it was going to be this bad?"

"I kind of did," he grinned. "I explained that you were going to have to take it easy for about 12 weeks."

I glared at him. "Take it easy" and "turn into a thumb-sucking, whiny, convalescent" are two entirely different things.

"I'm sorry," he said. "You DESTROYED the entire tip of your finger. There are a lot of nerves there. Damage like this doesn't heal overnight. And, unfortunately, it's painful."

Thoughts of amputation started to sound appealing.

The good news is, everything looks to be healing correctly. The doctor removed my post-surgery splint and bandages, and for the first time I got to see the button. It looks like a normal, everyday shirt button. He pulled out the stitches then I headed to physical therapy... and now I don't know what's worse: the pain or the stupid, ugly, uncomfortable split. Stupid pinky!

Post-Op week 2
November 17

It's been 2 weeks since operation pinky-reconstruction. Not gonna lie, it's been miserable. Imagine feeling like your hand is in a vice and no matter what you do, you can't seem to release the pressure. If you've ever slammed your finger in a door (or with a hammer) -  take that pain and multiply it by every minute of everyday for 3 weeks and you'll start to get the idea. Then add the button. This may be the worst part! It feels like someone is trying to press a thumbtack through my fingernail. Yah, not so pleasant. Every night I go to bed hoping that the morrow will be better. And every day I set a timer to know when I can take my next ibuprofen/acetaminophen cocktail. I've pretty much ditched the pain pills except when it reaches a point where I can't handle it anymore.

But something wonderful happened yesterday. For the first time in 23 days I felt pretty much nothing in my pinky. Now this lack of pain wasn't constant, but it happened frequently enough that I took notice. A couple of times I even reached down to touch it, thinking perhaps it'd gone to sleep. (It hadn't and I definitely felt it then!) But the point is, I think I've reached a turning point with this whole stupid pinky ordeal. Oh how I hope this is the case.

And, if its not? Sigh...
This stupid pinky could be the death of me.

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