Friday, May 31, 2013

How time flies...

So I realized that yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of me breaking my finger on the boat trailer winch at work.  Why do I remember?  Well, the weather was right at that perfect time of year when being out on the boat is glorious.  Naturally, that's when I broke my finger.  Of course I didn't break it during the miserable months of winter.

It's hard to believe it's been that long.  It was a long and arduous process of healing.  I had 2 surgeries and months of physical therapy.  My pinky will forever be somewhat crooked, but I'm thankful it wasn't worse (and it could have been).

Back during the time when I was dealing with the surgeries, worker's comp, physical therapy, and pain, I wrote these blogs.  Going through it certainly wasn't fun, but I tried to find a humorous side to it!  And so I present my "Never Break a Finger" blogs.  I hope it makes you laugh, because I certainly did while writing them.  And be forewarned - I'm including photos, so this probably isn't for the squeamish!

Part I: Never Break a Finger (October 2006)

Well folks, let me just give you some advice.

  2. Also, never have your finger too close to the handle of a boat trailer winch when there is tension on it, as this will lead to the problem mentioned in point 1.
  3. If you choose to ignore my advice in points 1 and 2, then break your finger at work (especially if you have no health insurance).
  4. But you REALLY don't want to do this, cause then you have to deal with worker's comp.
  5. Yes, I broke my finger back on May 30th, and I'm still in the rehab process. I did quite a job of breaking it too. You know you really did it when the doctor looks at the x-ray and says, "Wow, you really broke it, didn't you?". That leads to point 5...
  6. Never break a finger so badly that even the doctor is impressed.
Day 1.  Yeah, it was pretty swollen.  The emergency room doctor wrapped it up after giving up on setting it.
When you break it so badly that even the doctor is impressed, that means you get to have metal pins inserted into the pieces of bone floating around inside your finger. Yes, it IS as unpleasant as it sounds, just in case you were wondering. Now, the normal everyday person would just like to keep a bandage over the metal sticking out of the skin, since it JUST AIN'T NATURAL, but the doctor who was so impressed at your skill in bone breakage insists that you keep the site clean. So...not only do you have to change the bandage, but you have to clean where the metal is sticking out of the skin. If you're squeamish about these things....well, you better learn to do it with your eyes closed.

See?  There they are!

Three metal pins were crammed into my pinky.  I didn't think the swelling would ever go down!
So then....on the happy day when they announce they will take the pins out...they put your hand down on a lot of gauze and paper, and get the ol' pliers out. Yes. Pliers. So they douse your hand with iodine solution and tug the pins out. Notice I did not mention any sort of numbing agent. It didn't hurt. Not too bad, anyway. Just imagine someone scraping a metal rod through the middle of your bone. you're left with holes in your hand that lead to the bone. Amazingly enough, they close up in a couple of days.

But you're not done yet. You still have physical therapy. Now THAT hurts. You know it hurts when the therapist looks at you all of a sudden and has to remind you to breathe.

These are the reasons everyone should heed my advice and never break a finger. Oh, and don't pass out on pavement, cause that hurts too.

Never Break a Finger II: Revenge of the Scar Tissue (November 2007)

Well, it's now been 19 months, 1 frustrated physical therapist, 3 worker's comp case workers, and 2 surgeries since I broke my finger. I have learned much along the way…

  •  Never break a finger so badly that you need metal pins in it…because apparently this encourages the formation of scar tissue so insidious it will forever lock your finger into an immovable monument to your accident.
I think the tiny cast was my favorite
The "buddy strap".  Tethered my pinky to my ring finger to make it move.  That got old!
Still crooked
 Yes folks, the devoted hand therapists finally threw their own hands up in the air and ran screaming away from my stubborn digit. They tried every method possible to get my finger free from its state of perpetual…bendy-ness. They tried every exercise and splint available…and even fabricated a super-custom job that quite possibly ended up in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. I called it Franken-splint. Seriously…they took pictures and asked my permission to publish it.

  • Never break a finger so badly that your physical therapist has to custom build a contraption out of thermoplastic, guitar tuners, monofilament, and various spare parts in a last ditch effort to extend your finger.

So, when Franken-splint failed to scare my finger into submission, the therapists ran away screaming…after they told me I probably needed surgery to release the joint. At that point, I was ready to run away screaming, so I took a year off from the whole mess and lived my life, albeit with a crooked finger.

So, a few months and one new doctor later, I got some advice about surgery. They told me many scary things about cutting my finger open, releasing ligaments and such, and doing it all while I'm still conscious. And through it all, no one could quite explain the permanent bend in my finger. I did get to see their super-nifty real-time X-ray machine. I could watch my bones move! So finally, at the appointment right before my surgery, I received the first explanation that actually made sense. They told me that scar tissue had built up and locked up the joint. Super. So I signed up for the surgery.
For all you women out there who have never had surgery, I learned something else new.

  • Absolutely, positively don't listen to the person who tells you to pee before your surgery and doesn't hand you a sample cup. Apparently, testing for pregnancy is required procedure.  So, I listened to the first lady who told me to go pee. She failed to hand me a sample cup. I finished, and upon opening the door was berated by lady 2. Here's how the conversation went:
Lady 2: Did you just pee?
Me: Yeah…
Lady 2: Did you get rid of it all?
Me: I generally try to do that when I pee…
Lady 2: But I need a urine sample!
Me: Oh.
Lady 2: We need to know if you're pregnant.
Me: What if I can tell you I'm absolutely, positively, 100% not pregnant…
Lady 2: (While handing the cup to me) Just see if you can squeeze some out.

So, I go and manage to "squeeze some out", much to her delight, and she subsequently determines I am not with child. They then begin prepping me for surgery. It's at that point I really start to worry about the whole "being awake while they cut into my finger thing". They start poking me with needles, which is never good, and inform me they are about to start the "nerve block". So, they insert some sort of electrode thing into my armpit (thank God I shaved the night before…) and my hand starts twitching wildly. Huh. So somehow that numbs up my arm, they wheel me into the OR, and much to my relief, give me something that at least makes me very drowsy. Here I was worried about being awake, and the stuff relaxes me so much I fell asleep for part of the time they were working on me. I vaguely heard someone say "Done!" and was wheeled into the recovery room. At that point my arm is so numb I can't even move it and it just flops wherever. It's an odd feeling having someone hand your own arm to you and say, "Hold it, and whatever you do don't let go!" Then, they hand me various forms to sign, one of which is instructions not to sign legal documents while still loopy from the surgery. Huh.

The very next day, I began physical therapy. The doctor ran in briefly and said, "Yeah, it was pretty well stuck down". I had kinda figured that out myself. So here I am, a few weeks later, with a grotesquely swollen, yet slightly straighter finger. Was it worth it? Stay tuned…

Pre-surgery #2.  That was as much as it would straighten.
Post-surgery and grotesquely swollen.

Never break a finger III: Exercises, Lies, and Surgical Tape (November 2008)

Well, it’s been one year since the second surgery. I’m sitting here with a healed, scarred, and a not-so-crooked-as-it-once-was pinky finger. Ah, yes, the physical therapy. Well, after the surgery, the giant opening on the side of my finger was being held together by some sort of tapey-stuff. I wanted to keep it on there at least until everything had scarred over so there was no chance of my finger popping open, but the doctor wasn’t so keen on that idea. After a few days, they told me to use it like normal and just wait for the tape to come off. And it did. It was somewhat unnerving since the flaps of skin weren’t quite closed up yet. I didn’t really want an X-ray vision of my finger…without the X-ray. They assured me this wouldn’t happen, and for once, they were right.

I must say, I’ll be happy if I never have to attend a physical therapy appointment again. Since I changed doctors, I had to go to a different therapist. My assigned therapist was named Chip. My apologies to anyone out there named Chip, but all I could think of when he talked to me was that talking teacup from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, who was also named Chip. It’s hard to take someone seriously when you get a mental picture of a talking teacup whenever he opens his mouth. He was kinda whiney too. While I manipulated putty, he elaborated on his personal problems. Maybe that’s part of the therapy? He makes his life sound so crappy, that suddenly the debilitating pain you’re experiencing doesn’t seem so bad!

Another distraction was the prison inmate that seemed to have the same appointment times as me. Seriously, they had his hands and ankles cuffed and everything. Not to mention his armed buddy that stayed by his side at all times. In order to drown out the Talking Teacup’s whining about his life, I imagined creative ways to use therapy putty as a weapon if the need arose. At least I knew that Prisoner Guy had an injury. I also imagined interesting ways in which he may have come by the injury. Maybe he was running from the cops, and a K-9 unit pulled him to the ground! Maybe he got into a prison brawl!! Eh, he probably just slipped in the prison shower.

So, after I finally got in enough therapy appointments, since Talking Teacup was often not there when he said he would be, I got the stamp of approval to go back to full duty at work!! Oh happy day!! I would not be caged in the office entering data every day!! I could kiss Corvel Corporation goodbye!!! No more putty!! No more Talking Teacup!! I was so excited to go out in the field again!! So, wouldn’t you know, the first day I was scheduled to go out was the day the worst cold front of the year came through, and we had to cancel the trip. So, I entered some more data. I still can’t reach the “P” with my pinky.


The final product.
Pinky in the air!