Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thumbs down (but with room for improvement)

So, I've been dealing with this dastardly "thumb arthritis" (seriously, that's officially what it's called...I have the Mayo Clinic article given to me by the doctor to prove it) for what seems like forever, but is actually about 5 months now. My initial visit to the orthopaedist resulted in the diagnosis, and subsequent recommendations to ingest boatloads of NSAIDs and wear an immobilizing doohicky (NOT its patented name...but whatever). Well, I popped the pills for the prescribed 4 weeks, but when it made no difference whatsoever I wasn't comfortable continuing (especially considering that probably was more Ibuprofen than I'd previously consumed in my entire life leading up to that point).

And the hand-wrap-device? I tried it for a couple of days and found that it basically caused me to either A) avoid using that hand or B) force it to move in a different, awkward way...that led to an increase in pain. Yeah, that got ditched pretty quickly. Therefore I returned to my previous course of action: ignoring it when possible...or gasping and grimacing when something happened to trigger the ache. Then I reached the Fed Up Point once again, and decided to return to the medical experts for the next step in treatment...that's right, I'm talking about the dreaded cortisone shot.

I went back in and talked to the nice doctors again, and they reiterated their original opinion about the arthritis going on in there. But this time I had questions...such as "why does this happen?" (subtext: "without a precipitating event?") and the more pressing "I know I'm no teeny-bopper, but still, aren't I at least a BIT on the young...ish side for this?" (unspoken query: "And does this mean I can only anticipate it getting worse from here on out?") The very nice lady physician told me that this is the most common type of inflammation, in the most typical area, and that it happens more often to women than men. This was somewhat reassuring, but she added something even better: in and of itself, it doesn't in any way doom me to a lifetime of debilitating arthritis. In fact, it could just... eventually get better. (Yes, please, let's go with that sunny outlook...)

Then (all too soon) it was time for the big bad needle. Now, I'm not shot-phobic in any way. Nor do I believe I have a low threshold of pain. And I'm not some fainting damsel, by any means. But let me tell you what I told the nice medical people--I've received exactly one previous cortisone injection ...and I darn near passed out afterwards. As I remember it, I was sitting on the exam table when I got dizzy and lightheaded and the room started to go black. Fortunately I was able to inform the staff about what was happening, and they helped me onto my back instantly. Skip to the present, where my friendly medical team laughed and thanked me for the information, while confiding that "You don't fit the profile for people who tend to keel over on us." Oh, no? "No, the 6-foot-5 linebacker types usually take it worst!"

Ha! Okay, then, watch me be a big, tough chick! But they cautiously made me lie down anyway...which was probably wise, because those suckers Hurt. Like. A. (insert your favorite string of VERY BAD WORDS here). Seriously, it's relatively brief, but the agony is intense. And then, thankfully, it's over with, and you can go on your merry way. Or in my case, I could proceed to the lobby--where I wasn't required to check out, but needed to stick around a few minutes to make an appointment with another specialist (who's going to mold me a more wearable thumb-stabilizer that will hopefully assist in my recovery).

I stood around waiting my turn for a good 5 minutes or so...and it turned out to be very lucky that I did. As I spoke to the receptionist who was checking the scheduling calendar for me, I began to experience that telltale woozy sensation. The room began to tilt and spin and get fuzzy around the edges and I calmly, politely said, "I'm just going to sit down for a minute over there," gesturing vaguely in the direction of the nearest chairs. The concerned woman glanced up immediately (alerted by her finely-tuned doctor's office radar, no doubt) and asked, "Should I call the nurse back out here to check on you?" "Oh noooo," I waved her off in what I hoped was a breezy, carefree manner, "I'll be fine...in a minute."

And that was absolutely true...that is, until I attempted to stand up again. Never mind, I'm keeping my butt firmly planted in this here recliner. What's that? It's not a reclining chair? Well, let me assure you that it is now. (She stated firmly as she sprawled on an incline with her legs straight out and her head leaning against the back of the seat...an extremely graceful picture, I'm sure...but far preferable to "curled up in a heap on the floor", yes?) Meanwhile the nurse who'd been in the room assisting during my procedure came hustling out to inquire as to what she could do for me. (The receptionist sheepishly explained, "I tattled. Sorry!" Um...no worries! I'm sure having patients collapse in the waiting room doesn't inspire confidence. And...thank you!)

When the nurse offered juice, I jumped at the suggestion, admitting that low blood sugar might be part of my problem right then. 'Cuz...yeah...I didn't eat breakfast before heading off to the appointment. I know, I know--but in my defense, it was eeeaaarrrlyyy, and I wasn't even registering hunger at that time, so I just kind of...forgot....oops. My Florence Nightingale came back with water--apologizing that they didn't, in fact, have any juice--and a pack of those Lance cheese and peanut butter crackers. Those must have been magic, I tell ya, because once they hit my system, I felt as good as new.

How did I know I was okay? I was able to move on to tackling the next item on my agenda...Costco. So now, we wait for the swelling to subside and the ouchies from the actual injection to dissipate. I get fitted for a lower-profile, hopefully usable-in-my-everyday-life brace. Then we keep our fingers (carefully) crossed that this latest course of action makes the whole issue go the HECK away, permanently. As for the rest of today, having survived both the cortisone shot AND the warehouse quest, I think I've definitely earned...a nap...and perhaps some therapeutic chocolate...

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