Friday, July 18, 2008

**The Carpal Tunnel** (Updated!)

***See the surgery update at the bottom of this post***

No, it isn't a sub-aquatic roadway between Baltimore and NYC; it's a tiny but important tunnel in the wrist through which the median nerve passes. When that nerve is compressed, bad things happen: parasthesias, pain, muscle weakness, and so on. This tunnel is surrounded by bone, and though we generally hear about carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in conjunction with repetitive stress injury (particularly in today's computer age), a wrist break can also cause problems.

This is what has happened with my son. A few months ago, he took a spill outside a friend's house in the dark. He is about as clumsy as I am and lost his footing while descending a hill on the way to the parking lot. When he fell, he took the brunt of all of his 240 lbs on his left wrist, breaking both bones. Instead of going out, then, he came home, with one of his friends following him to be sure he got here okay. He didn't want to wake us up, so he suffered all night. When I woke up at 7, he was sitting on his bed, staring into the hallway.

"I think I need to go to the ER, Mom. Is Dad up yet?"

Of course this sent me into a tizzy. I told him that next time, he should either go directly to the ER or come wake us up. God knows we've gone through enough middle-of-the-night runs with his sister and her asthma and other problems (probably why he refuses to bother us). The ER doctor said it wasn't broken and sent The Boy home with X-rays and a referral to an orthopedist, just in case.

Well, turns out the bones were not only broken but one was kind of splintered. The doctor and one of his colleagues decided that surgery might not be necessary, so The Boy was in a cast for 5 weeks. After he was out of the cast, he began to notice that his hand would go numb. He was having trouble typing and working (he's a software tester). Back to the orthopedist he went, and then he was referred to a neurologist. Between the two of them, they decided it was carpal tunnel caused by pressure from the bones. Rather than re-break and reset the bones with pins and plates, they are trying traditional carpal tunnel surgery. We will be leaving here in less than an hour for the surgical center.

Am I nervous? Yes. Am I glad he's getting it taken care of now rather than later? Oh, yes.

A dear friend of mine is meeting us over there and will keep me company during the procedure. She knows I'm nervous. Hubby couldn't get off work today because there is a big meeting and presentation that he's part of. That's okay, because I have friends, and I'll text him every time there's an update. My friend, knowing I've been sick, actually called this morning to see if I wanted her to handle the whole thing for me - picking him up, taking him there, and bringing him home. Now that's a friend! Of course I told her we'd be fine, but I'm so happy for her friendship.

This afternoon, my son will have his transverse carpal ligament split in half to release the pressure on the median nerve. I will be sitting in the waiting room praying for the doctor's steady hands and focused mind. Fortunately, I won't be alone.

I will post an update later.


Though my son's surgeon got started an hour late due to complexities in the prior procedure, we survived the waiting. My son was taken care of by a terrific young orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mihir Jani, and a team of wonderful nurses and surgical techs at the Frederick Surgical Center. He made a 3-4" incision through the base of The Boy's left palm and opened the ligament. He said that the readings from the EMG at the neurologist's office correlated with what he saw when he got in there. The nerve looked "angry" and red; it was being abraded because of the impingement. It's a very good thing, in other words, that we took care of this now.

The Boy was quite entertaining in the recovery area. Because of his size, he had to have more than the usual amount of anesthesia. He was, in a word, GOOFY! He kept repeating himself and couldn't remember talking to the doctor. Just funny little things, but he was and is fine.

My friend stayed with me until The Boy was out of surgery, keeping me entertained and keeping me company. We talked about all kinds of things, not the least of which was our love of Tex-Mex food. (She grew up in Houston, too, and then she lived in Roswell, GA, for awhile. She has the same blended accent I've got, only to the nth power. She has more recently transfered to the DC madhouse). I was so grateful for her presence there and the prayer she said with me in the waiting room, completely unselfconscious to be praying around strangers.

Tonight all is quiet and all is well. Momma is happy.

Peace - D


Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

What an unfortunate thing to have happened. Terrible how one little slip and fall can have so many repurcussions. I hope the surgery goes well and resolves the problem for good!

Best "get well to your son" wishes!

Jay said...

That's very bad luck. :(

My husband had the carpal tunnel surgery and with pretty good results! Occasionally he has some numbness in his hand but he can still type just fine (he was a software developer before he retired) and now is not much in danger of dropping his mug of tea because of the angle he picked it up.

Hopefully, your son's surgery will go well and he'll have similarly good results!

Oh, by the way, one slightly alarming result of the carpal tunnel surgery is that he no longer has a palpable pulse in that wrist! I tell him jokingly that he should get this information tattooed above the erstwhile pulse point!

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Yikes! I hope everything turns out OK, but I have to say, that's one tough kid! To suffer all night because he didn't want to wake you up? That's some tough right there.z

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Yow! I know all will turn out well. Good luck, Mom! Love you! :)