But First, This:

One of Mr. Murphy’s Infallible Laws states: “No matter what you want to do, you have to do something else first.”

And what I gotta do first, before I can get back to life as we know it (maybe by July) is this: My left trapezium–a bone at the base of the thumb–will be surgically removed (we part with bones so rarely) and a perfectly good wrist tendon “harvested” from the same forearm (the blue in the diagram.) That length of sinew will be coiled up inside the empty space where the arthritis-wasted trapezium used to be (the cartilage vanished years ago. Ouch!) and keep the pain-receptor-bearing bones apart. And some other new architecture will happen in there; you really don’t want to hear about. And I don’t want particularly to think about, but…

I saw the orthopedist yesterday, And the *LRTI surgery is scheduled for March 15. I had underestimated  the time I will be, for all functional purposes like dressing, typing, and photography, one-handed, thinking I would be in a cast  for a week, then a splint.  It sounds more like six weeks in the cast, hopefully a bivalve number that velcro straps hold together–or release, for showers, etc. He told me that the first week I would be on pain medications pretty much constantly, so I blocking that one out to pretty much be home bound and out of it. But I can drive as soon as I no longer need the meds. The manual transmission of both our cars will make that more fun.

I have three speaking events plus Earth Day already on the calendar for April. The first of those is on April 7 at the Christiansburg Library–3 weeks post-op. I’m  seeing that now as a bigger challenge than I had appreciated, but we will just have to take it one fumbling, awkward day at a time.

I’m trying to make myself use the dictation software  as I’m doing now, since if I do any e-mailing or blogging for those weeks in the cast, that will have to be by way of dictation. This will take no small readjustment to the flow of mental to visible words.

I know all of you are immensely interested in the nature of the surgery, so  here’s a link to the surgery description with cartoon pictures——vague enough so that it should not make you feel uncomfortable; I’ll be in charge of that happiness in a month.

I looked at the x-rays when the doctor put them up on the screen and said that it looked like the hands of an old man. He corrected me and said it looked like the hands of an old woman——cause this kind of basal-joint arthritis is about eight times more common in women than men. I knew that. It doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I’m part of the suffering sisterhood.

This will be a predictable, survivable, temporary disruption of life as we know it inside one household and one pair of hands, one temporary breakdown in the efficiencies of bilateral symmetry that can be an opportunity. I just have to learn to see it that way, even while I will be dependent on my wife to put on my socks. And just for giggles: the right one, the Main Man, is gonna need this too. The Golden Years: they ain’t fer sissies.

* Ligament Reconstruction with Tendon Interposition

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oi. Well, it’s something else to write — er, voice dictate — about!
    No offense, Dad, but I’m kinda hoping I didn’t get THOSE genes… 😉

  2. I’ve only recently noticed a problem with the thumb on my right hand. (I’m left handed) If it is flexed inward, as if to pinch with the index finger, it functions perfectly. Should I straighten it entirely, it snaps into position and will snap back again when I try to pinch something again. At times it makes a popping noise audible to the ear. I’ve never heard of anyone else having such a problem. Is this something rare? At times, there is slight pain associated with the snapping action of the first joint but not always. My left thumb flexes smoothly in all motions. Got any info as to what might be the problem here?

  3. Oh boy. Sounds rough, Fred. The hardest will be avoiding any use of the hand until it has had a chance to heal. Be good!! No matter how much you want to “do it myself,” resist that almost irresistable tempatation so you will get a good result.