Thumb Update: It’s a Process

A brief thumb update: thankfully a friend suggested I seek a second opinion on my ruptured tendon, given how critical that opposable thumb is. I was referred to the UC Health (Denver) Orthopedic Hand department, with a reputation for excellence. Although this extra step extended the overall process to move forward with the tendon repair, it was definitely worth it.

Having lived with my mostly non-flexing thumb for over four weeks, I admit I’ve been scared, worried, and concerned about a possible invasive operation, the long recovery time and rehabilitation commitment, the impact on my ability to continue to do what I love (including a planned vacation with the grandkids to San Diego, a birthday celebration for a sister in NYC, a half marathon, the National Senior Games competition in New Mexico, my philanthropic work, but most importantly, the daily tasks for which this thumb is vital), and the ultimate success (or not) of the operation.

Finally, after waiting for over a week for an MRI appointment (a special machine was needed because of the metal plate in my right forearm, near where we believe the ruptured tendon is), the results, and then scheduling an appointment with a hand orthopedist (my second opinion doctor became the first opinion through a referral), I am relieved. The doctor is very experienced, kind, and a good listener; overall I feel good about putting my fears, hopes, and hand in his hands!

I will have the surgery next Monday, where they’ll open my hand along the scar from my broken arm surgery, remove the metal plate (good-bye friend), and either repair the ruptured tendon directly or reconstruct it using the “third vestigial” tendon that most of us have in our arms. We won’t know the extent of the damage or which course of treatment until my forearm/palm are open, but I have confidence the surgeon will make the right decision for me.

A bright light in all this is that he does not recommend a hard cast (what I thought would be required) but a splint for a few days and then a removable soft case. He will start very light physical therapy three days after the surgery. Once the ends of the tendon begin to grow back together, the physical therapy will become more aggressive. His goal is to get the thumb moving, albeit slowly, as quickly as possible to enhance chances of good functionality.

Walker Ranch Running Camp: I want this joy again!

Walker Ranch Running Camp: I want this joy again!

While I’d also read that I might be restricted from almost any physical activity for 10-12 weeks, he assured me that should not be the case. Whew! I will need to be very careful and perhaps not be able to continue the half marathon training or lift my grandson or granddaughter when I see then in two weeks, but overall I will be a functioning human.

In the scheme of things, as one friend reminded me, I am healthy, I do not have chronic diseases, I have a good support system of family (Doug has had to become somewhat of a cook as result of the broken arm and now, again) and friends, decent health insurance coverage, good health care professionals close by, and a active life-style. I can wish this hadn’t happened to me, that plans didn’t have to be interrupted or cancelled, that the original fall hadn’t happened, but magical thinking isn’t reality. One doctor said that, of course, if I weren’t active these things wouldn’t have happened, but isn’t it better to strive, to push oneself, to have goals, and to occasionally fail (or break something), than not to have tried at all? My philosopher son is better suited to answer these questions, but for now, I will try to be positive, even those times when trying to button a shirt or open a jar will not be possible!

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