Deer in the Headlights

One week. That’s exactly how long I have, pretty much to the hour, before I learn (or not) to go without using my right hand for very much. I am scheduled for surgery on October 11, for the other-side version of the left hand procedure done April 1, 2011. (The problem is basal joint arthritis, and the surgery is an LRTI–ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition. The trapezium (hand bone at the base of the thumb) is removed since it no longer has its cartilage surface. The tendon o the flexor carpi radials forearm muscle is “harvested” and used to 1) form a spacer where the trapezium used to be to keep bone away from bone, and 2) to stabilize the thumb in a way similar to the ligaments of the removed bone.)

I’m counting on a similar outcome in the end, but a harder bit of coping in the interim, being severely right handed. I had no pain after the left hand surgery, and have regained pain free function at some significant percentage of a healthy 64 year old thumb and hand.

The decision for this surgery is made more difficult by the fact that I don’t have the pain (frequency, intensity or duration) that compelled me to suffer the unknowns and go willingly ahead on the left. OTOH (literally) the x-rays are equally motivating: no join space, mal-alignment of the hand and finger bones on the thumb side–not a good prognosis, without surgery, of retaining an acceptable level of use and freedom from pain during the years remaining. Keystroke ability is also sort of important, and the thumb figures in there for sure, as I can feel every time I hit the space bar with my right thumb this morning.

So I’ve tried to think ahead–taking down the garden, winterizing the mowers, tiller, and such; and even pre-wadding the newspaper pages I will use to start the morning fire in the wood stove. I have a pretty good stack of kindling split to get me, hopefully, to the point in January maybe when I can use a splitting maul and chain saw again.

But now the date is so close, I feel like the deer in the headlights, frozen in terror and indecision. I’ve stopped writing feverishly, because it’s all coming to a sudden halt in one week no matter how many words I generate now. So why bother? So I’m frittering away my morning wandering down pointless trails online. Any serious writing will just have to wait until I’m bilaterally symmetrical again. Soon. And very soon.

CAPTION: I’ve decided NOT to dump the unhusked walnuts in our driveway after all, remembering how the empty husks stain shoes. Instead, I’ll gather them under the tree where they fall over the road anyway, and try to beat the squirrels to the kernels.

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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. Speaking as a housewife, I don’t think your walnut stained shoes would be appreciated in the house.
    Here’s wishing you another good surgical outcome!
    By the way, I will not be on the Internet until I return Oct. 29, so there will be a noticeable absence, because I tend to comment on every post!

  2. I’m hoping this second surgery goes at least as well for you as the first did. I’ll bet you’ll learn how to use that left hand a bit more in the interim, too!

  3. Hope the surgery goes well for you, Fred. In the meantime I’ll be missing your regular posts. Maybe this would be a good time to try speech recognition software?

  4. Fer Shure, Hilke, I’ve had Dragon Dictate for a while, and it is okay for emails etc but not very satisfying for “creative” writing. Beats nothing, and be forgiving of poorly edited Dragon sentences that make no sense. What I say and what it types can be laughingly (or frighteningly) different.

  5. Hi Fred, New to commenting, but not new to you as I purchased both your books several months ago and they touched something in me, a longing to see your world, if only very briefly. Since hubby and I will be in Boone, NC next week, I managed to get us two nights at Grassy Greek cabooses, which by my calculations would give me a slight feeling of what you experience in your lifestyle. I just wonder if once it gets dark at night, being out there in the “middle of nowhere” (and all the real world around us) I am going to freak out without lights. We are looking forward and hoping that we get a clear night as hubby is bringing his telescope to set up on the deck. He has used it twice since I gave it to him. We never seem to get far enough from “lights” to enjoy it. It appears that Grassy Creek area is somewhat close to Floyd. We will be driving around Floyd and Floyd county so I can capture with my Nikon. Thanks for sharing your world and again, good luck with the surgery!