We’re three+ weeks out from the beginning of Zombiehandapalooza, and I can now definitively say that I am absolutely tired of this nonsense. Sure, sure, if it was a simple break, I’d still be a cast (probably poking pencils down in there to try to scratch it, because that’s the sort of difficult patient I tend to be), but my understanding of this whole bionic being-screwed-back-together thing was that I would be FINE in record time. And while it’s true that I can type again (hallelujah!), it’s also true that 1) my left hand still has a chronic case of The Stupid and 2) it huuuuuuuuurts.
That said, today I am prepared to add “and physical therapy will hasten your recovery” to the list of Dirty Lies Surgeons Tell You.
Listen, my physical therapist is a lovely woman. I’m sure she’s a good citizen and kind to kittens and all of that. But she’s trying to kill me and that just seems wrong, especially because it’s just my HAND, it’s not like I’m recovering from a spinal injury or anything. In fact, the entire ROOM I am now spending several hours in each week is the Hand And Arm Clinic, dedicated specifically to torturing those of us with compromised digits, probably because our hands are too weak to slap her.
The first couple of visits, she lulled me into a false sense of security. She handled me gingerly, repeatedly asking if she was hurting me, and giving me advice on wound care. I was sucked in, assuming she had my best interests at heart. Last week she gave me some simple stretching exercises and that was fine, too. “Don’t overdo it,” she said. “If it starts to hurt, stop.” What a nice lady, I thought.
Today I got there and one of the assistant torturers wrapped my hand up in a heating pad and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Ahhhhh. This was like being at a spa! How nice! After the timer dinged I was unwrapped and directed to spend some time crumpling up a scarf. Oooo… kay? My fingers happily cooperated, and I crumpled the HECK out of that scarf for the prescribed two minutes. Then I was brought over to the bin table.
The bin table is stocked with a bunch of colored bins of various substances, and for two minutes apiece I went through a sequence of different ones, dragging my hand through little plastic beads, then larger plastic beads, then beans, then macaroni, then shards of glass. (I don’t know. I stopped paying attention by the end. But something pointy, for sure.) This was supposed to “desensitize” my scar, or something. Because what’s awesome when your hand already hurts and your incision site isn’t even fully healed is dragging it through bins of sharp stuff a bunch of other people have touched with their sweaty gross hands. The good news is that it didn’t hurt my hand much. The bad news is that I’m pretty sure that by the time I was done I had developed OCD. (I washed my hands twice afterwards, just because… oh, shut it.)
So that was all fine, and then I was seated at yet a third table for the PT to check me out and “work” my hand. She opened up an industrial-sized container of shea butter and began massaging it into my incision site. Wasn’t that nice? She’s concerned about scarring! And the massage was kind of nice. She then progressed to moving my hand/fingers this way and that. She’s smooth—it was a slow progression, and at first it didn’t hurt at all. Then she started saying things like “little stretch, here” and “just breathe through it.”
[Sidebar: At one point, she asked me how things had been going and I said my mobility was pretty good, but I still can't open jars with that hand. She looked at me like I'd just confessed to eating babies. "You can't be OPENING JARS with that hand!" she scolded. "That's TOO MUCH! Don't DO that!" Oh, I see. You jabbing your pointy fingertips directly into my scar tissue is fine and dandy, but I'm not allowed to get into the gherkins? That doesn't seem arbitrary AT ALL!]
I was just about to smack her with my good hand when she put my gimpy hand down and cheerfully announced, “Great! Good work today! I’ll have one of the girls ice you down and you’re good to go.” Hmmmm. Fifteen minutes of ice later and I walked out of there completely numb. (When I stopped at the checkout desk to give them my copay, I tried to accept the receipt with the afflicted hand and ended up dropping it because I couldn’t coordinate my fingers. Whoops.)
By the time I got home, a couple of hours had elapsed. Huh. This is kind of taking a lot of time, I remember thinking, as I sat down at my desk to get some work done and stuff some lunch in my mouth. Type type type, eat eat eat… everything was back to normal. For a few hours.
I don’t know if my morning dose of Tylenol wore off, or if the heated/cooled muscles just rebelled, or what. All I can tell you is that a few hours later I was contemplating chewing off my own hand AND telling off the physical therapist. EVERYTHING hurt—the incision site, my fingers, even my wrist. SHE BROKE ME. I took more Tylenol but it didn’t even touch it. I’m swollen and miserable and thinking VERY unkind thoughts about the physical therapist.
Do you think I could get out of next week’s appointment by telling her I have to stay home and wash my cat? Or something?