I Can Type Ten Words a Minute!!

Actually that’s probably an exaggeration unless it’s something like “The Cat in the Hat”.

If you are a fan of old movies, you might remember the stereotype of the star reporter with a hot story. He (remember, it’s an old movie) types furiously with two fingers, finishes in a couple of minutes, tears the paper out of the (manual) typewriter and hands it to the errand boy. I am soooo jealous of that reporter right now.

I taught myself how to type on a 1903 Royal typewriter (with its corresponding manual). No, it was not a current version. It had been my grandmother’s and was old then. It’s one of those machines that allowed solicitous men to say that women could not be secretaries because their baby fingers were not strong enough to push the end keys. It probably would have been an excellent thing to drop on the heads of those men to show how wrong they were about women’s strength.  It was made out of iron. I recently saw a relative at a museum (I still have mine).

Anyway, you would be amazed at how much faster you can type on an electric typewriter (to say nothing of a word processor) if you have strengthened your fingers on the manual one. (The men were right about that – the keys were hard to push at first, especially if you’re a preteen.)

Aside – I do not want to hear from you if you do not know what a manual typewriter is. Look it up on Wikipedia. Or Google/Bing it.)

The point of all of this is that I have been reduced to typing with two fingers. As you may recall, my doctor (the one with the recessive bedside manner) ordered an EMG. It showed mild to moderate bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. So she sent me to a medical supply store to get two cock-up splints. I only needed one since I had gotten the spica splint for my thumb a couple of weeks earlier. (My insurance company loves me.)

I sent her an email after about a week asking when they would start making my hands feel better rather than worse. I guess it was supposed to be sooner than a week because she referred me to an orthopedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.

I can’t see anyone in ortho until September. Guess summer’s not a good time to see someone who can take multiple weeks of vacation. Went to see the occupational therapist on Wednesday.

Apparently the good news about medical-supply splints is that they are relatively inexpensive ($100-$200) and fairly comfortable to wear (soft felty material with metal bars to hold your wrist in place). And I only had to wear them at night. It really only impacted the cats who do not like to be petted with soft felty material (no one attached a warning to the cats, so I had no idea).

The bad news is that the reason they are so comfortable is that they really don’t do a very good job of keeping your wrists in place. And an even worse job of keeping the thumb in place. The pain in my thumb was getting better, but I was having a lot of trouble with my wrist. Turns out the tendonitis had just moved to  better neighborhood.

You may know where this story is going. The therapist made me two custom rigid splints (more good news for the insurance company). It was really cool to watch. They take some kind of heavy fiber board and put it in a steamer. Then they mold it to your arm so it fits. Once it cools off, it doesn’t move (hence rigid splint). I was supposed to wear it 24/7 for two weeks, then only at night.

OK. The sensible person would think: Rigid split. I need to modify how I work. Not so sensible person: Rigid split. I can work the way I usually do, and the splint will set the limits. Guess which side I fell on. Rigid means that in a contest between your body and the splint, the splint wins. Hey, I’m not an engineer.

After 2 1/2 hours, I was so sore I had to go home. I called the occupational therapist. She said I was working against the splint. (It only took her 1.5 minutes to figure out what I was doing wrong.) She said to wear the soft splints during the day, and the rigid splints at night. It worked really well yesterday.

Not so much today when I took the wrong soft splints to work. That’s what happens when you don’t take the old splints upstairs when you get the new splints (they all look pretty much the same). I gotta tell you – having a semi-disorganized brain is a pain. I never know when it’s gonna flake.

The old splints were worse than no splints. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. So I iced my wrist when I got home. And got the right splints. Much more comfortable. But still detrimental to typing. Thus the two fingered typing. My brain is going crazy. Some of my best snarks are getting lost in the time lag. Don’t feel bad for me – I’m enjoying them even if you’re not.

I wonder if any of those old newspapermen would be willing to come out of retirement?



Some Doctors Should be Researchers

I finally went to the doctor yesterday for the numbness and pain in my hand and arm. I had an appointment with my own doctor last week, but somehow thought the appointment was at 3p when it really was at 2p. Unfortunately, it isn’t one of those places where you always have to wait 45 minutes so I had to reschedule.

But my doctor is on vacation this week. And she’s really busy next week because she’s on vacation this week. I had the same problem when I was sick awhile ago. She’s pretty popular. I think she’s really in the office, but they’re trying to give patients to some of the other doctors. The one I saw yesterday could use some help.

She walked into the room and asked if I had seen her before. She said she thought I had. I had no idea who she was, but said I wasn’t  sure. I felt like a bad first date. But it had only begun.

She asked why I was there. I don’t know if she didn’t read the intake the medical assistant had done 3 minutes earlier or wanted to see if I gave the same story twice.

So I told her about the numbness in my hand and the pain in my thumb. Her first question was which one I wanted her to treat. I’ve never had a doctor imply that they would only treat one of a possible number of problems. I didn’t bother telling her about the recurrence of tendinitis in my shoulder.

So I explained that I had had the numbness for several months but when I tried various braces they had caused pain in my thumb. The first one I tried is something they call a cock-up splint (that name has always embarrassed me). It forces your wrist to bend up slightly and is used for carpal tunnel.

She asked why I tried it. I told her that when I previously had wrist pain it had helped. Oh, OK. I don’t know if she’s had patients who used it for illicit purposes or what. Maybe there’s a black market.

It caused my thumb to hurt so I tried a regular brace from the store. Same result. She feels around the base of my thumb. It’s tendonitis and arthritis.

How long have I had the numbness? About six months. Which fingers are affected? All of them. That doesn’t make any sense. Each of the fingers has a separate set of nerves. I’m not sure what to say. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. She gets irritated. We can only work with the information you give us. In that case, believe me when I say that all of them get numb.

She says that it sounds carpal tunnelish, but that usually only affects some of the fingers. Do I want an EMG? Do I know what an EMG is? Apparently she didn’t really have an opinion.

We can’t treat the carpal tunnel until we fix the tendonitis. So she orders a thumb spica splint. (Who names these things?) I should take anti-inflammatories and apply ice.

I tell her cold make it hurts worse. She asks me if I mean that it makes it better. I say no, worse. Am I sure? Then apply cold. Cold makes it worse. It shouldn’t. Are you sure it doesn’t make it better? I work in a cooler. Trust me. Well go as cool as you can. ??

I ask about work. She says not to worry, it will keep my thumb stable. I mean I use my thumb at work. Well, you’ll have to make accommodations. Gee, thanks.

You’ll need to use the split for several weeks. Let us know if it doesn’t work. Really? You don’t believe that all of my fingers are numb or that ice doesn’t work. Do you think I’m really dumb enough to tell you the treatment doesn’t work?

She can’t decide whether she needs a hand x-ray. Decides to go with the EMG and splint. Tells me to talk to the receptionist about how to get them. Thank goodness we’re done.

Definitely should have double-checked the time on the original appointment.