Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's not always sunny in SoCal

Before I start telling you about my last couple of weeks I want to let you all know I am fine and looking forward to another trip to the Bay Area to check-in with Half Moon Bay and swimming with my friends at the San Mateo Athletic Club.

Now back to the story.
The problem with someone taking your arm and most of your other hand is that your recovery involves a lot more than having the stitches removed and a few weeks or even months of re-hab.
I am embarrassed to say that I've envied the people with one good hand that I've read about and seen on the internet.

But the promise of a new thumb has always been there.
The surgeon on Maui had made it seem like it was no big deal.
Once my hand had healed from the initial trauma -
(and the all-nighter required to re-assemble my wrist & middle finger plus the touch up in week 2)
a hand surgeon in CA would snip off a big toe and connect it to my left hand.

Sure a toe on my hand would not look normal,
but that stubby non-finger on each of your hands does more than help you hitch-hike or show "like" on FB. 
It makes up 40% of your hand function by providing (improved) pinching, griping and grasping.

Forty percent!
Now factor in that it would be my ONLY thumb.
Yeah, It's a big deal.

So I found a great hand surgeon and have been seeing him monthly waiting for the... green light.
Then two weeks ago I actually asked about the surgery and that is when the dark clouds rolled in.

First he says that he does 1-2 of these per year.
(Mostly people from the construction and rodeo crowd from the nearby states.)
Then he starts telling me about the risks:
About an 8% failure rate (No thumb and now I'm only able to count to count to 9 with my socks off)
Then my thumb tendons might stick which would require more surgery.
Or my thumb may not have enough sensation (requiring nerve grafts) or too much sensation (= more pain)

And my foot...

I've never thought very much about my toes and doubted I'd miss one, but
They don't just take the toe.
They take the bone up into the foot.
And then he started to talk about gait.

As everyone that's seen me walk knows, I'm not graceful.  How would I do without a toe?
Taking the 2nd toe vs the greater toe (big toe to non-medical people) could limit the effects, but it's harder.
And with any amputation I'd be at risk for forming neuromas (nests of nerves that are really painful).
And then to top it off...
But before I could walk I'd need to be in a wheelchair for about 3 weeks. 

Then he hit me with Taiwan.
I guess they do lots of microsurgery in Taiwan (No OSHA???).

As if it were not enough to start thinking about being a willing triple amputee, I now had to consider flying 15 hours and staying who knows long in a foreign country.

Then my massage therapist (who is amazing) tells me:
"If you get a limp I'll kill you."
Why?  A limp usually leads to back problems.Yipee.

And that's when I started thinking about skipping the entire thing.

There are so many people out there that would love to have strong legs, both shoulders and a pair of fingers who am I to gamble for more.

Lots to think (and worry) about, but I feel much more at peace with it and will be talking with another surgeon soon.


  1. Cant begin to imagine the dilemma. Wish it could be as described on Maui....Hope the very best for you in this decision. I would think the Taiwan choice would be a last option.

  2. Wow...the video of the guy with the two toe thumbs made it look so easy. bummer.

  3. 40% is quite a nice number John. My first instinct is that it sounds worth it... But I'm not walking in your [well balanced] shoes.

    Don't forget to just breath, close your eyes and meditate on decisions like these.