I have been humbled.
Yesterday was my first day of OT (yes, Occupational Therapy). When I was in the hospital (12/9-11, 2014) to remove my cancerous prostate, my Ulnar Nerve received a trauma. For those of you who may not know what the Ulnar Nerve is or what it does, I have stolen the following from Wikipedia:
The Ulnar nerve runs near the ulna bone. The nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the human body (meaning unprotected by muscle or bone), so injury is common. This nerve is directly connected to the little finger, and the adjacent half of the ring finger, supplying the palmar side of these fingers, including both front and back of the tips. One method of injuring the nerve is to strike the medial epicondyle of the humorous from posteriorly, or inferiorly with the elbow flexed. The ulnar nerve is trapped between the bone and the overlying skin at this point. This is commonly referred to as bumping one’s “funny bone”. The Ulnar nerve also helps fire the muscles for the grip.
We are not sure exactly the injury occurred. It may have been banged during or right after the surgery when they moved me. I may have banged it on the rail of the hospital bed, or I may have compressed the nerve while struggling to get myself up from a chair in the hospital room. The cause does not matter, the result is irritating.
I have constant pins and needles in my pinky and adjacent half of the ring finger in my right hand. I cannot touch my pinky to my thumb. My wrist/grip is weak because this nerve helps fire the muscles of the entire hand. During my OT assessment, the grip in my dominant right hand was 70% LESS than my weaker left, and the pinching tests (finger to finger) in my right hand compared to my left had similar results.
I am having difficulty with many of the tasks I love. I am having difficulty playing the piano, not just because of my weakness but because my right pinky can’t keep up with the rest of the hand and lags behind the instructions my brain is giving it. I can’t bowl because while I can grip the ball, when I go to the release it falls off of my hand. My horrible handwriting is now worse, and simple everyday activities such as handling a fork, typing, shaving and brushing my teeth are now a chore.
My neurologist (yes, I have a neurologist now!) said that the nerve will heal and the symptoms should go away, IN A FEW MONTHS!!!! In the meantime I am going to OT to help re-strengthen the muscles that are not getting the signals from the damaged nerve.
So, I said humbling? How about it took me 15 minutes this morning to try to button my shirt sleeve button on my left arm (I was stubborn, I wasn’t giving up!). How about how difficult it was for me yesterday in OT to pick up toothpicks with my third and fourth fingers and thumb and press them into putty, or using a hand-held spring tensioned vice device to pick up 100 cotton balls and put them back into a box. How about sitting at a table performing these therapies with three other people, all stroke survivors, who have it much worse off than I do. I am doing OT just for one injury, they are doing OT as part of a regiment of therapies to recover from their injury.
We all take many things for granted. The air we breathe, the food on our table, etc. We don’t even think about the countless things we do each day. It’s easy to forget about these simple things (they are just there for us), until we lose some of that ability. Like a fish out of water who can’t process oxygen, this simple injury has had a major impact on almost everything I do each day. Even now, as I type this I am unable to use my pinky (I am a 10 fingered typist) and it has taken me twice as long to write this as it would have two months ago. But then again, two months ago I wouldn’t have given a second thought to type this out quickly, or button my shirt, or pick up toothpicks, or touch my thumb to my pinky, all activities that require much more work or are impossible right now to achieve.
I have been humbled.