Between injury and recovery

On Friday I had carpal tunnel release surgery in my right hand. The procedure required a long vertical slit through the palm, where the surgeon cut the transverse carpal ligament to relieve pressure on the median nerve, and also removed a fair amount of scar tissue from the area. The scar tissue was especially surprising. A majority of people who suffer from chronic CTS - many for years before they seek treatment - never build up scar tissue and have better nerve response than I did after three months of symptoms. Everything about my case points to acute CTS, except for I never had a damaging wrist injury. Or did I? The long tunnel of scars and bruises is becoming increasingly murky.

What the surgery did determine is that this was never going to get better on its own, and may not still. It's up to the nerve to heal now that the compression has been released. It was, however, badly compressed. As soon as the wound heals I can employ massage to prevent scar tissue buildup and hand exercises to improve strength, but most of the actual healing process is beyond my control. Knowledge of this has admittedly brought me down, but that sad feeling could just be the pain and fatigue from surgery, and dealing with what is currently an utterly useless right hand. I lost my temper today when I failed to wrap a band around my hair - so I threw my hat across the room and stomped all over it. Childish as it is, sometimes a temper tantrum feels good.

When my mom heard about my surgery, she offered to spend her birthday driving across Colorado with my dad so they could drive me to the clinic and stay by my bedside as I woke up in a recovery room, groggy and begging for apple juice. My mom was very sweet to take care of me over the weekend, and I feel lucky to have her. It was especially fun to show my parents our new home and the surrounding mountains.

The hat-stomping incident occurred after they returned to Salt Lake, when I decided to get some fresh air by walking up to my neighbor's house to deliver a check. The process of getting ready - changing into outside clothes, adjusting my new arm sling, writing and signing a check with my left hand to a satisfying level of third-grade-penmanship, applying sunscreen, and putting on shoes and socks - took a frustratingly large amount of time. By the time I got to the hair tie and hat, I'd had it, and let my hair whip and tangle in the wind. Dark clouds built overhead as I walked. After three miles I still hadn't found my neighbor's house (turns out he moved his street sign) but by then there was thunder directly overhead, and I needed to hurry home. When it started to rain I tried jogging, but that was far too painful and ill-advised. Then the sky opened with heavy rain and nickel-sized hail, and all I could do was duck beneath a pine tree and hold my good hand over my neck as hail pelted my head and back, and rain soaked the bandages I wasn't supposed to get wet.

"Mom would not be happy with me," I thought. (Sorry, Mom.) I felt like crying, but I'd already spent all my tantrum energy on a hat.

Instead I waited for the hail to subside, then walked the rest of the way home in a downpour to change my bandages and dispose of the disintegrated check that I'd spent such a long time writing and carrying up the road for nothing. Sometimes it just feels like there's a dark cloud hovering overhead. But things get brighter. I know that.

Comments

  1. Get well soon, Jill!

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  2. I had one arm in a sling for a week many years back, and can totally remember how helpless I felt w/ only one hand (try to button a shirt and put on socks w/ 1 hand...gives you new appreciation for people who are handicapped and live w/ it day to day their entire lives and don't complain one bit).

    I'm really hoping your surgery was successful and that you heal well and true...and can get back on a bike one day soon. I've been a follower since Juneau, and YOU of all people need to be on a bike. It's like it was what you are meant to do. Your superpower is that you can ride FOREVER, as most of us can't.

    Sending you my thoughts and prayers for a full recovery Jill...hang in there thru the recovery and don't get ahead of things and set yourself back. You have to let your body heal. In the meantime, enjoy the Colorado summer!

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    1. Thanks Matt. I actually haven't made much use of my right hand for three months, so I'm fairly used to it. My friend's son has only one hand and regularly rides bicycles long distances. If I don't recover, I will learn his secrets. :-)

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  3. Anonymous7:55 AM

    oh well, keep in mind it only hurts till the pain goes away... I busted my wrist just days away from a 7 day stage race (transrockies.com) some years back. Another time, my mom died just 2 weeks before racing La Ruta (www.adventurerace.com) and went through a nasty divorce a month prior, had to attend her funeral the same day I was moving out of the house...
    I got really bad sciatica a few years back and couldn't walk nor bike for weeks while going through my 2nd divorce (learnt my lesson there...)
    I survived it all though, things get better.
    At least you're not in the hospital for months on end.
    I know some that have cancer and have passed away and some that have had neck injuries and couldn't walk again.

    At least you have a heart beat and can still enjoy nature as it is... enjoy life no matter what is thrown at you, life is short. Enjoy it fully. Nature and all, breath in the air... enjoy. Cause some can't.

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    1. I know. A friend of mine who is my age and dying from colon cancer sent out her last goodbyes on Sunday. She's been very candid through the process of battling cancer over the past few years, and her observations have helped me shape my own perspective on what it means to live and love life.

      At the same time, we all take our own journeys and harbor our own emotions, and I don't believe in delegitimizing the things we feel just because others have it better or worse. It's healthier to acknowledge our own states of mind and body, while continuing to embrace a broader perspective.

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  4. Glad to hear your surgery went well. Best wishes for a full recovery.

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  5. Jill! You got this. Our bike tour WILL happen one day soon...even if it's one handed. (But it won't be.) Countless other adventures, too. xoxo

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  6. Get well soon! Your writing is such an inspiration to me. I really appreciate that you share the bad along with the good. It's sunny in Juneau today - I'll be thinking of you tonight in the mountains!

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  7. I'm glad that the surgery is behind you. I've unfortunately been through a lot of surgeries, and my mood is always volatile in the short-term afterwards (perhaps a side effect of the anaesthesia?). Tantrums are par for the course! Hang in there - it will get better. And we'll all be rooting for your nerve to heal on its own.

    It seems like it might be a fun time for you to get to know your land really well, figuring out where the animals come through and other cool stuff like that. It might help pass the time until you can exercise again. (BTW - I have a Lemond recumbant indoor bike trainer that I keep for use after my many spine surgeries. You don't live that far from me now so feel free to email me if that's something you might want to borrow. It's big but possible to move.)

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    1. Thank you. Beat actually ordered a trail camera that we planned to set up, although we haven't determined a good spot yet. And thanks for the offer to borrow your bike trainer. I'm hoping to start running again soon, but I may take you up on that.

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    2. Anonymous4:01 PM

      Be patient and follow the recovery instructions and restrictions exactly--it'll be worth it in the long run.

      And if you aren't already, see a sports oriented physical therapist to get their take on recovery.

      I don't know about carpal tunnel specifically, but for many things simple range-of-motion exercises you can do almost anywhere can really help--just don't do ones that hurt at all. The idea is to keep things loose and fluids moving.

      For wildlife cameras, if you have a location you'd like to watch that's less than 1,000 feet from the house, it can be fun to use the newish Ethernet over power line with a wireless extender on the end adapters.

      I got a pair for about $50, then ran 500 feet of outdoor extension cords. The over power line wasn't reliable past that, but I gained another 150 feet with the wireless and have a $50 network camera with pan and tilt out on a spruce tree with software on a computer in the house that records stills on motion. The other day it caught the mama moose with her calf trying to catch up and often gets our neighborhood fox.

      Everything is cheap enough that it isn't a big deal if something breaks or is stolen, but the cheap cameras have worked fine as cold as -55 below just hanging on the tree.

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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  8. Wishing you a complete and fast recovery. Jay

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  9. Recovery can be remarkably quick! I have had both hands done (no, not at the same time, that would be very unpractical ��) And within a few days surgery (under local anaesthetic.) I was back at work... A strict regime of 6 weeks no housework and opening of jars was however applied... I have very mild loss of grip and power in both hands, but nowhere near as incapacitating as the actual CTS. Get well soon!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. My angst comes from the fact that after five days my carpal tunnel pains have gotten worse and my ability to move my fingers and hand at all has been diminished because my wrist has been sliced and scraped. I am having surgery regret. But the doctor has insisted this is normal and I don't go in for a follow up until next Tuesday ... so all I can do is wait and feign patience. I appreciate the note.

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  10. Jill, Glad your surgery went well, I hope you recover quickly and fully!

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  11. Nice to hear about your parents support.

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  12. Jill, hoping you can heal well and again find yourself doing the things you love. Your body has taken a lot of hard work and knocks over the years, as you have reported here. Time for a break to rest, heal and reflect. Hoping next week is a much better one post-surgery.

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    1. Totally agree with Julie. Best wishes for a positive outcome.

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  13. As regards your issues 5 days after surgery I had similar problems with a pinched nerve in my ankle after surgery. I spoke to the MD, because I was not happy, and he stated that because of the "scraping" it would take some time to heal but I would feel much better in 2-3 weeks. I took little comfort from his comment since I wanted to be pain free and start rehab right away but in the end he was right. The nerve has it's own schedule. Good luck and we look forward to great bike and run stories soon. Fitz

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