Saturday, October 05, 2013

VA and hand operations.

From the road to hell is paved with good intentions file:

Below is a picture of my hand, post surgery, which took place this afternoon at about 1300 hrs.

It's about 1 AM here and the reason I'm still up and not able to sleep is my hand is throbbing at a relatively rapid rate. They warned me that something like this was likely to happen, and have given me the appropriate drugs to deal with it.

This injury was caused by my efforts at a charity carnival, specifically the Kings Way carnival in honor of Luke Jensen, a very young leukemia victim, who for 3 years fought through 3 separate bouts of leukemia before ultimately losing his battle.

This carnival is held on a yearly basis at the Kings Way Christian School in Hazel Dell. Approximately 400 to 500 children and their parents usually attend; there are a wide variety of games, including a dunk tank that's always popular and dozen or more different activities for children to be involved in.

My wife and I have gone to these things from the beginning, to volunteer to help raise money for the Children's Cancer Association (CCA), which does amazing work with kids that have this unfortunate disease and they did great work for Luke while he was a Doernbeckers Children's Hospital.

Anyway, there is a game there, one that we've all seen typically at carnivals and circuses and so forth, that involves taking a large mallet and hitting a lever which then runs a piece of metal up to a ringing bell if you hit it hard enough. With these hundreds of children in the gym trying out this particular game, which my wife and I volunteer to run every year; it was clear that many of these little kids would not be able to hit the lever hard enough to drive the metal up to the bell, thus losing out on their second small prize.... think in terms of say a turbocharged Cracker Jack's kind of thing.

After the kid would hit the lever. I would grab the piece of metal before it would fall back and run it up the slide to ring the bell. And it was a good idea. Until the third time I tried it. And then I forgot to get my finger out of the way between the piece of metal in the bell. The end result?

I broke the finger and ruptured a major tendon in it.

As a result of that injury, the tendon was actually beginning to shrink causing the fingertip to curve backwards. This had to be surgically repaired. Which brings me to the next part of the story.

At about 1330 or so this afternoon I underwent surgery on this hand. As a result, I literally have to keep my hand above my heart for at least the next two weeks. If you reference the picture, you see the hand encased in spongelike material designed to enable me to sit for extended periods of time, with my hand in the upright position without it being too terribly tiring.

At this particular moment, the pain medication has in fact worn off. Thus, my little finger on my right hand is pounding like a trip hammer.

That was to be expected. I was warned about it and they have given me the necessary medication to address this issue, more or less.. Which brings me to this part of the story:

Speaking only for myself, the experience that I had at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Portland today was among the very best I've ever had with any medical facility, anywhere.

The staff acted professionally, there was a quiet yet focused energy in the operating room, they explained everything, they were generous with pain medication, the staff was friendly and it was an altogether positive experience, as these experiences go.

I recognize that not every experience with the Veterans Administration is what you you would call positive. But I also recognize that the treatment that they provided me has, in fact, kept me alive. And while it is a major irritation for them to, in large part, charge me a co-pay for this since like everybody else who enlisted during the Vietnam War I was promised "head to foot free medical care for life," nevertheless, there's little doubt that I would've been dead a long time ago without them.

For the past several months, the little finger on my right hand has been a major annoyance that has not worked. I'm given to understand that I should recover almost 100% use of that finger and while they were working on that finger, they also took care of a condition known as trigger finger with my right ring finger... something of a two-fer.

In this instance I am grateful to the staff and the Veterans Administration itself for providing services to me that will improve my quality of life eventually, particularly during these tough, tough, fiscal times.

The surgery took quite some time to schedule; but that is understandable, given the fact that they have to deal with a far more elderly veteran population as those who served us in the past begin to fade away... as well as a new wave of veterans from the Afghan-Iraq situation.

I do not begrudge them that.

I cannot speak for the entirety of the Veterans Administration system, nor the entirety of the Veterans Administration healthcare system. But I can say that in this instance everything went according to plan, in a relatively timely manner, and the solutions and outcomes of physical therapy and so forth will likely result in me achieving a full recovery to my right hand.

Meanwhile, I am not going to be deterred from my blogging, primarily because Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 12.5, which I got from Amazon; has been, at least in my case, everything that they said it would be in their ads. It's not a perfect program, but it word processes a hell of a lot faster and a hell of a lot more accurately than my hunt and peck two-finger method does.

And I recommend it.

I've been informed that part of the surgery itself included the use of a button on the outside of my finger. Up until I ran into this issue, I had never heard of anything like that. In fact I'm informed by my wife that she thought I was kidding when I told her that a button would be a part of the operation. But apparently they use the button to anchor the stitches that they run literally through the bone of the finger, to make sure that the repaired tendon does not move or otherwise reinjure itself.

Once the bandages come off I'll whip out my cell phone take a picture of it because I haven't seen it either so you'll be able to see what's going on just like I have.

As the drugs kick in, I'm going to be able to get some sleep later on tonight I'm sure. And, frankly, I am looking forward to that.

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