Notes from the (temporarily) disabled list

Still life with claw on moving day.

Way back last summer, in order to tempt fate and speed up the long-delayed sale of our home, I scheduled surgery on my left hand for the fall. An arthroplasty, for those who are interested. In my case, removal of an achy, arthritic thumb joint. Yuck. I would be on the disabled list for about six weeks, splinted or cast with pins sticking out for much of that time. I knew what was involved. Nine years ago I had the same procedure on my right hand. The good news is my strategy worked. The house sold, we found another, and set a moving date—precisely one week after my surgery. Yay?!

My war with drugs. (Warning: TMI)

For the first twenty-four hours, I was under the influence of lots of lovely numbing agents as well as the remnants of a general anesthetic. It was only after those wore off that I needed serious pain meds. I have an unhappy history with Percoset and rarely take opioids (narcotics.) I tend to break down in tears for no reason at all. My brain turns to mush. They also slow my—ahem—“digestion” down, basically grinding it to a halt.

I tried to get by without them as much as possible. Pain, however is taxing. It makes me tired and sad and cranky. So after trying to limit myself to just a few small doses, I realized I needed to take more. My third day consisted mostly of Percoset, nap, Percoset, nap, Percoset, nap…

That couldn’t continue. Besides, that “digestive” issue I mentioned was growing increasingly troublesome. I cut down the Percoset in half and added Aleve twice a day. Pain was now manageable, but my gut was still stalled–completely–in spite of all the water, fiber, Miralax, Colace, and Milk of Magnesia I had ingested. What finally worked? Stopping the darned Percoset. Or almost. I settled on one-half of one tablet at night to help me sleep. Aaahhh.

What (not) to wear.

Having gone through this before, I planned ahead. I knew that dressing myself would be a challenge. You know– zippers, hooks, buttons, shoelaces. With that in mind I stocked up on sports bras, yoga pants, and slip-on shoes.

Yes, I have a darling and helpful husband, but how many times a day (think trips to the bathroom) do I want to bother him for a zip-up? FYI, as sweet and supportive as my husband is, he is much more adept at undoing a bra than hooking it up. Perhaps it’s motivation?

As luck and El Nino would have it, wintry weather arrived the day of my surgery. I discovered that NONE of my long-sleeved shirts, jackets, or coats fit over the giant claw at the end of my left arm. No long-sleeved shirts and no coats meant I mostly stayed inside for a week. Or I wore numerous short-sleeved layers and tossed a not-very-warm and anything-but-chic poncho over everything. And I hoped I didn’t run into anyone I knew.

The second and third dressing changes resulted in a somewhat smaller claw, but I still can’t fit it into my big snow coat.

Keeping it clean.

The dressing can’t get wet so I secure a plastic trash bag over the thing with large rubber bands. All with one hand, mind you. Luckily I do have the use of four fingers, but without their buddy the opposable thumb, they aren’t much help. Squeezing shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel is accomplished by holding the bottle against my slippery chest and exerting pressure with my forearm, squeezing the goop into my right hand. And I’m using disposable facewash cloths to remove my make-up. Yes, I’m still wearing make-up most days. I wouldn’t want anyone to scare any small children or be mistaken for a corpse.

olivia pie 2015
Pumpkin pie making with my, left-hand girl.

Feed me.

Sure, I can get food to my mouth, but have you ever noticed that containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, and soups all require two hands to open? Yes, my darling husband would help but he’d likely have to climb down from the ladder, or crawl out from under a sink to do so. Not fair. He shouldn’t have to do all the fix-it projects AND help me. Sad to say there have been a lot of take-out meals, just to make things easier. I can still make toast. I can still butter it and squeeze on the honey.

I apologize for whining, but at four weeks out from surgery, it still hurts at times and is testing the limits of my sunny disposition. I find it difficult to focus, let alone write. HOWEVER–I am grateful to be in my new home, married to that sweet guy, and half-way through my confinement. I’m especially grateful for the skillful surgeon who–in the end–will make my old hand feel like new again.

Merry Christmas from me and my thumb!

9 thoughts on “Notes from the (temporarily) disabled list

    1. I tried for classy (and slimming!) all black, but after the black fiberglass hardened and they’d cut a little window over the remaining pin, and needed to secure said window with that stretchy, adhesive tape, I was informed they were all out of black. I had my choice of bright neons or red. So much for my fashion instincts. Now it’s got a tan stripe too, since the tape rolled up when I pulled on my shirt this morning. Grr. Looking pretty sweet.


  1. I appreciated this honest, detailed, even humorous accounting of a situation that would make me snarl when not moping. You look great in the photograph, as cheerful and bright as you’ve always been. Of course, how could you not smile when you have such a delightful assistant.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hm…I never knew they could operate on an arthritic thumb… my Princess has one and it’s killing her. She uses it every day on the computer (at work), but it’s driving her crazy. I’m gonna tell her about your surgery. Happy healing, Kiddo!!! Sending healing thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mom had the same surgery years ago when she was about my age, so it’s been around for awhile. FYI: A hand therapist can make a splint to relieve stress and pain on the joint too. Find a good hand surgeon and ask whether it’s appropriate for her case. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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