Scar after some woman slit my wrist…
Two weeks ago some woman that I had barely met slit my wrist. The skin’s closed up and I took the stitches out last Monday. I think it is going to heal up without any scar. She seemed like a nice lady, at the time. Then she had some guy knock me out and the next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital.
Truth be told she was not only nice but she was very skilled. Dr. Sara Graves is a local Orthopaedic surgeon at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, VT. I highly recommend her. I’m very pleased with the job she did and her staff was great too.
I got carpel tunnel syndrome from years ago when I worked long hours on a slaughter line up in Alaska. It was good pay, very good over time pay, extremely good over time third shift weekend pay. But all that heavy knife work took it’s toll on my hands. Over the years it ebbs and flares. When it gets to be too much I back off, switch hands and otherwise cope. I’m reasonably ambiguous, what someone else might call ambidextrous, and that helps. Perhaps this made it more so. Perhaps being so made the carpel tunnel less so. In any case, I’ve been watching the news of this type of ligament release surgery improve over the years. They now use laparoscopy which I tried out a few years ago and enjoyed, as much as one enjoys any invasive abdominal surgery.
This spring I took the plunge and got a referral to the good doctor. I had been warned the healing time was going to be three weeks and could be six weeks or even nine months. I readied our farm by picking a purposely planned lull in our pigs to market, showing my son his way around a pig with a knife and talked with another butcher who said she would act as backup if we needed it.
The day of the surgery I showed up at the hospital about 6:15 am. Prepping took about an hour, I think. The actual surgery is only half an hour. A bit over two hours later I walked out the door about 10 am. That’s fast! Real out patient surgery. No drive-thru window though.
I had expected to be awake so I could watch the procedure but they knocked me deep down. My last memory was this guy with a knife, the anesthesiologist with a syringe, standing over me and injecting into the IV. That was fine. I was feeling no pain. Fortunately my son Ben was there to take me home before he drove to the slaughterhouse and did deliveries – his big trip of the week. They don’t let you drive or play with other big toys immediately after anesthesia even if you have two hands.
I understand that after the surgery I suggested we go grocery shopping. Ben says I was a big help and seemed fine. I don’t remember. The recovery nursed had warned there may be some forgetfulness throughout the day. I didn’t realize we had gone shopping until the next day when I noticed there was new food in the pantry and reasoned out that Ben must have gotten some groceries on his delivery trip. No, apparently that was me. I did find a few of those memories later. It is kind of a weird sensation finding dream like memories lying around in unexpected corners of your mind and then discovering that someone else remembers that dream too…
Walter Cutting Meat with One Flipper
The surgery was on Wednesday. The day after I took no pain killers since I wanted to know if I was pushing too hard because I helped Ben butcher three pigs. He did the heavy lifting I usually do and I helped with deboning, roasts and cubing. The other reason I didn’t take the pain killers was the info sheet labeled them as pretty addictive and I didn’t want to mess with that. The pain was less than carpel tunnel so I could deal with it. Pain’s my friend. It’s the idiot-light on the dashboard that tells me to back off and take it easy.
The next day I did most of another pig myself and all the ground – again left handed. I had wrapped my right arm in plastic wrap to protect the bandages and remind myself not to use it. Again Ben did the heavy lifting – my right hand man. He lifted the 40 to 60 lb totes of meat for me as my arm was not yet up to that.
Ben Deboning a Pig
A good thing about this experience is it gave Ben a chance to learn about cutting the meat. He’s never done it before and caught on quickly. For the previous two weeks I had him spend some time watching me. Normally he does meat packing while I do all the cutting. He enjoyed it. A good bit of variety and a new skill acquired.
The following week I was able to do most of the butchering of three more pigs with Ben just doing the heavy lifting of the carcasses onto the tables and a little spinal and rib cage removal on one pig. At that point I was using all of my fingers on my right hand for easy gripping work and even using the knife lightly sometimes in my newly empowered hand. Typing was back to full speed. The doc said typing was very good occupational therapy.
Now sixteen days after getting my wrist slit by a lovely lady surgeon I’m able to lift about 100 lbs with my right finger tips. Each day I have been gradually upping the amount I use the fingers by small increments. Not using pain meds made sure I paid attention to my limits. The surgeon will warn you not to expect that a fast recovery time. I went into the surgery as a very health and fit adult plus I did four months of prep building up my muscles extra beyond the normal hefting of 60 to 100 lb portions and sides of pork, pounding fence posts and such. That probably helps with recovery. I was prepared for muscle loss over an extended recover time. I had read somewhere about going into surgery with extra muscle built up and had the leisure to plan this out.
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As you can see in the photo of my wrist, the tiny one centimeter cut is already almost invisible. She placed the cut in a crease which probably further hides her work. Not that I’m worried about a scar but that’s interesting technique. I had envisioned something much larger.
I’m very pleased. No numbness from carpel tunnel in my right arm any more! It had gotten bad enough that it was all the way up to my arm pit for the past three years. Not having that pain and numbness is a blessing. Now when I drive my hand doesn’t go numb. That makes us all a lot safer. My hand no longer goes tingly or numb during meat cutting which is an eight hour day of heavy knife work twice a week. I actually noticed the difference just two days after the surgery. It is amazing. This makes me want to do the other hand as soon as possible since I have carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands. I should say, had it in both. I find I am already moving faster with the knife than I was before. My speed for butchering a pig is improving, except the heavy lifts, over my previous cut times. Most of all it doesn’t hurt to do the work. That’s exciting!
So a big thanks to Dr. Graves and her team!
Outdoors: 66°F/42°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/64°F
“Which hand do you use?” asked the doctor.
“Well, I’m kind of ambiguous.” I replied.
“Oh, you mean ambidextrous?” she asked.
“No,” I answered, “I’m not sure.”