Trapeziectomy

I didn’t even know I had trapezia, but in fact I had two; and back at the end of June my orthopedic surgeon cut one of ’em out. It’s a little bone that’s caused a lot of misery in the carpal tunnel, and in my case the pain had been going on for a couple of decades, which was long enough that I finally reached the end of my tether and decided to go to my guy and inquire about what might be done. A bucket list item.

Turned out that there’s been an advance in science, and for only $20,000 (of which my insurance covered all but $175) the trapezium could be cut out and a cord anchored to the bottom of the first metacarpal and run around the third metacarpal and back to the other side of the bottom of the first to provide some anchorage so that the thumb doesn’t just flop around uselessly but rather opposes the fingers according to the original design.

Sounded like a plan to me, and since the surgeon had operated on my right hand several years ago and got great success, I turned him loose on my left hand on the 20th of June.

The procedure did not start off all that encouragingly because a nurse tried without success to start an IV on the back of my hand. when that didn’t work, she worked her way across three more veins but none worked. If I hadn’t been so excited about the prospect of having a pain-free left hand, I might have put up a fuss; but as it was the nurse reached the end of her patience before I reached the end of mine, and she called in backup. Alas, he tried a vein in my wrist to no avail, but by this time the anesthesiologist had arrived and took charge.

So what did she do? She swiped my upper arm just below the bottom of the bicep with an alcohol pad. Whaaat? No vein is visible there, not a hint of one. Even so, she stuck the needle in there and immediately, painlessly hit pay blood. It is always such a joy to be in the hands of an expert. And to amplify her expertise, the bottom of my bicep is much harder to find now than it was when I was 40, there being so much less of it.

I dozed off at that point and missed watching the surgery, but the surgeon said it went well and sent me home with a detour to Walgreens to pick up the pain meds, the most important part of any surgery.

And then it was just a question of oh-so-carefully using the hand more and more while it healed. Alas, progress has been much slower than I’d anticipated. It was five weeks before I could tie my shoelaces, so I got around the building barefoot and wore flip flop shower sandals outdoors. Not exactly a fashion statement.

Worse yet, it took another couple of weeks before I could button my shirt since I could touch my thumb with all the fingers but could not exert much control or pressure. Buttoning levis all the way up is still impossible, so I have to button the two bottom buttons with the pants down (takes less pressure) and then pull them up with the right hand only. I cinch the belt to keep the pants up. The shirt hangs down enough so it’s not obvious that I’m running around with an open fly, and besides, when you’re 80 nobody is looking at your crotch anyhow, fearing that if they looked there, they’d see something.

So here I am, three months after the surgery, and still the hand is hurting. I guess I foolishly imagined that I’d be healing like a teenager, but at least I’m happy that I’m making progress, albeit slowly. I saw my surgeon the other day and he got me clear about working to regain function. Now I’m trying things until they hurt, but instead of stopping I’m gently making it hurt somewhat more.

And I remind myself that life could be a lot worse than I have it. I could be a resident of Kherson daily brutalized by the occupying Russians. In addition to everything else they have to endure, even their culture is under attack. For example, their language. I’ve read a great deal about horrors of the occupation, but to me one of the worst parts is their being forced to speak Russian. A lot of the residents are native speakers of Russian, but for those whose language is Ukrainian, it’s not easy to learn Russian. A linguist could help me with this, but it appears to me that Ukrainian is to Russian what Dutch is to German, the original language stripped of most of its grammatical “complications”. I was struck when I stayed in Amsterdam to hear that they had to memorize the prepositions that govern the dative case (aus, außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu) just like English speakers. Better yet, a Dutch musical group wrote a delightful song including that string. I love grammar so much that that would be a distraction from the shelling.

The doctor also told me to stop wrapping the hand up like a swaddled baby, and we agreed that I can keep doing that at bedtime since it feels so comforting, but not in the daytime. Besides, that way I get to show off my scars.

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2 Comments

  1. David Queen
    Posted 18 September 2022 at 11:29 | Permalink

    Get better soon. Holding good thoughts for you.

    • Posted 18 September 2022 at 18:32 | Permalink

      Just pushing on a bit after the first twinge of pain is already improving my use of the hand.

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