Monday, August 20, 2012

CARPEL TUNNEL HANDICAP

I started my career because I wanted to be an artist but had no talent at all.  The only way I could draw was to go into drafting, which I did at the age of seventeen.  It was great for many years.  I was drawing with ink and pencil and had triangles and straight edges to make nice clean lines while at the same time making a drawing that was producing metal parts that would go into products.

I was able to see my art come to life in a way as my dad took my drawings and made physical parts that you could hold in your hand.  My "art" was being created in three dimensions parts that I could hold in my hands.  It seemed like the ultimate art project and it was fun.

Time went by however and technology began to speed up.  Before I knew it, they were replacing my drafting board, triangles and pencils,  with some of the first personal computers.  I had to relearn how to draw using a computer.  Soon I was using the computer eight hours a day, if not more and found myself with a personal computer at the house.

It was while the internet was slowly coming out and so I began using a computer almost all my waking hours.  The idea of using computers in the early days did not raise a red flag about it actually causing harm to the person over using the computer.  It wasn't too many years before an injury began showing up from using a computer keyboard too often.  After many years of working with the computer that I began to show symptoms of the new syndrome.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, from what I understand, inflames the tendons that the nerves to your hands slip through.  The inflammation begins to squeeze the nerves making the nerves not so nervy.

The first symptom is pain in the wrists.  When I was younger I could hit a baseball pretty solid with a good grip that didn't shake my wrists and arms every time I made contact.  When I first noticed the pain in my wrists I was playing golf about two or three times a week.  I still had a good grip on the club but every time I hit a golf ball the wrists would sting a little.  I started noticing numbness in my fingers, very light at first but steadily getting worse. I didn't think much about it until one summer Saturday morning.

We were painting the house, something that had become a father and son project over the years.  Brett was beginning to get older and was doing a better job, but still not big enough to get on the ladder.  The ladder  was my perch while Brett stood below me doing a fine job.  As I continued to move the brush back and forth my wrists began to hurt.  not unusual for this kind of activity and so I continued to paint.  Then it happened.  The brush fell out of my hand and nearly fell on Brett's head just missing turning his blond hair barn red.

It was a strange feeling.  I tried to grab the ladder rung to start climbing down and found I had no grip at all.  I leaned forward on the ladder and slowly made my way down.  It took about three hours before I could grip anything.  It was serious now.  The carpel tunnel was restricting my ability to do things with my hands. 

I decided to see if the condition could be filed under workman's compensation since I was on the computer for over eight hours everyday and computer use had been recently linked to carpel tunnel.  I ended up going to a clinic for workman's compensation claims to determine if it would qualify or not.  After waiting several hours I finally saw a doctor who ran me through some test on my hands, including electric stimulus in my hands to see if the nerves were reacting properly.  They weren't and so I was approved for being injured on the job.

I went to see a surgeon who specialized in  hand surgery and he ran the same test over again.  He took an instrument that looked like a boot spur and ran it down my fingers.  I could feel the pressure but no pain.  More electricity was run from my fingers to my elbows.  Even though the test came back as positive for nerve damage, it still is not a fun test too go through.  It re-enforced my dislike of electricity on the human body if anything.  Finally the surgery would be set up.  I would have both of my wrists operated on at separate times. 

The first surgery went okay.  While I was waiting to be wheeled into the operating room, an old man was brought back to prepare for his own surgery.  The nurse gave him a gown, told him to take his clothes off and put the gown on.  When he came out of the room he had indeed taken his clothes off and put on his gown.  However apparently he did not consider his long thermal underwear as part of his clothes as he was still sporting them under his gown.  It took the nurse a while to explain that he was to have nothing on under his gown.  Unfortunately I was wheeled off to the operating room before seeing the result of the nurses lecture to the old man.

They did not put me out for the surgery but used a blockage on my arm to numb it down while the surgery was taking place.  When my nurse brought me in a warm blanket I fell asleep almost instantly and do not have any recall of the surgery.

My hand was bandaged up and it would be six weeks before my next surgery would take place.  Meanwhile I learned to work without the use of my right hand and saw my production at the office go down.

Six weeks later I went in for my second surgery.  This one did not go as smooth.  While they were applying the block to my left arm, they were removing the stitches from my right wrist.  So far so good.  Then they began the surgery on my left wrist.  The block was not working as well and it hurt.  It hurt very bad.  I was screaming while they continued to fix my left wrist.  Soon it was over and I went home to wallow in self pity and pain.

When I went back to the surgeon for follow up he ran tests on the strength of my hands.  They were a lot stronger then before the surgery.  He then took that spur thing out and ran it down my finger and it was a totally different feeling then before the surgery.  It hurt like crazy.  He then pronounced the surgery successful and I was sent on my way.

I then went to the negotiator who would determine how much loss in my hands I had suffered because of my job.  We agreed on a certain percentage that was worth so much money because I had loss partial use of my hands.  I was satisfied and things began to go back to normal.  I could hit a baseball and a golfball again with out pain.  I could feel what I was touching and holding.  I felt like it was worth going through the surgery to regain my hands once again.

Since that time my carpel tunnel has returned.  It is worse than it was before.  Carpel tunnel has been taken off the list as being workman's comp eligible and so I am stuck with my hands the way they are or are getting.

My wrists are effected by vibration meaning I have a rough time cutting the yard, trimming bushes and holding onto to anything for very long.  My fingers are numb again.  Golf and baseball are gone from my life.  After a hard days work on the computer my hands are tired and they ache.  It's as though I never had the surgery to begin with.

Now a days, the surgery isn't as invasive.  They don't slice open your wrists to get to the tunnels.  It doesn't take six weeks to recover but just a few days.

My wrists and my hands are weak and they hurt.  They will for the rest of my life.  I am good with that.  I have grown use to it and it has all become a part of me.  I don't think I will get them fixed again.  I am of the age where I probably won't be around long enough for it to be worth it.

2 comments:

  1. You will be around long enough, each day of your life does make a difference.
    I have read that you played the piano. I am sure you would like to be able to continue that.
    If I remember correctly, you owe a song to your mom! :)

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    1. Can't really play the piano either much anymore either. Totally forgot about that aspect when I was writing. O can play for 15 - 20 minutes before the hands start to get tired and hurt.

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