Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Me They're Expecting

More CRPS hilarity.

I had my "evaluate and treat" first appointment with outpatient Occupational Therapy yesterday. Why?

Darling Readers, you really must follow along.  This blog is nothing if not one long complaint, studded with humorous illustrative anecdotes, spiced and spruced by the esoteric contributions of life in Marlinspike Hall, ancestral home of the Haddock family, and all situated in the Tête de Hergé (primarily the region west of the Lone Alp).

I've been dumped into the outpatient therapy division of Kaiser Permanente's HMO because about a week before my foot and leg decided to develop cellulitis, I woke one morning to find my right hand had turned into a claw.

Not to bore the More Dedicated Readers, here's the situation, upper-body-wise.  My left hand is functional but weak.  Mostly it is a great hand, friendly, compliant. However, the left arm ascends into sartrean nothingness, as I lack a shoulder joint on that side.  This limits the range of motion, and definitely any comfortable range of motion, in the arm, and the reach of the hand. Try washing the right side of your body with a left hand that won't reach your right arm.  It's hilarious.  It can function well within the confines of its reach, and can and does go beyond, usually incurring plenty of pain as a result, but immense satisfaction should my desired action succeed.

What comes to mind is the most recent valiant performance of that left side -- tossing what turned out to be a horribly excessive amount of kosher salt into a delicate one-pot wonder.

Ah, I stray.

The right shoulder is a prosthetic but only minimally painful, due to the ministrations of the most wonderful orthopedic surgeon on Earth.  I tend to forget the elbow reconstruction of some six or seven years ago -- also an excellent job, though the hardware is beginning to shift.

Shifting hardware.  Now that's a sensation.

I've had radial and ulnar palsies in that right hand in the past, and each time they just went away, like in a fairy tale.

The current claw has only gotten worse.

And was of minimal concern to every doctor, nurse, and housekeeping staffer I encountered, until a very sweet and knowledgeable OT made me a very personal splint while in the hospital.  She pegged it as CRPS, completely neurological, and one of those things that "just happens" with CRPS.

You go to bed with a functional hand and wake with a claw.

So the only advice was "wear the splint 2 hours on, 2 hours off, and sleep with a rolled up washcloth in the vise grip of your lobster-like appendage." Oh, and go see an outpatient OT.

The news yesterday was the same.

After I mentioned that my goal was a return to normal function, and to not hear that nasty phrase: "This is your new normal."

Five minutes into the evaluation, my goals were reiterated by the therapist, in spades, leading with: "It looks like this is your new normal.  Our goal is to keep it from getting worse..."

It went on and on.  She knew her stuff but was into reinventing the wheel, which would be fine, were that of benefit to me.  Lots of manipulation of both hands via various tests.

With the result that my pinky and ring finger on the LEFT hand are now curling, curling inward and responding with snarling and snarky pain when I insist that they function correctly.

Yesterday was Lumpy's birthday and so one call, made while he was out, consisted of me singing the requisite tune to his answering machine (yes, an answering machine), while the second call consisted of him pumping me for info about me.  The little I got from my dear brother was that he barely made it through Monday's classes, that the radiation has done nothing for his pain, and that he ended up buying the medication that his oncologist, pharmacist, nurses, and insurance helpmates could not manage to have correctly approved, filled, and paid for in over a month.

We shared a moment of tired awe.

He's brilliantly brave, struggling to make his voice vibrant long enough to get through the birthday calls.  No mention of my gift, so that was a bust.  I suck at gift-giving, so there's no harm, no foul.  I just wish that this year, of all years, I might have gotten it right.

I don't think I can lose him.

Totally different sort of despair than losing hands, losing a precious friend, mentor, sibling. He still needs to teach me how to snap my fingers correctly, and how to spit.  I want to play one more game of hide-and-seek, where I hide for hours, and emerge to find that he left for baseball practice hours ago. Malted milk balls galore, water polo for hours, musicology 101, and half-court tennis matches. Agreement that there will always be a need and a coziness in literary history, no matter the lit crit trends.

Figuring the day had not slashed at me quite enough, I made other calls -- the call to Lumpy having been desired, just unexpectedly... hard.  I checked in with the Sister-Unit, who was, of course, in a bookstore.  The conversation acquired that whispering-in-a-library quality and bored her, apparently, as I got a sudden "gotta go, hang in there, and stay tuned!"

It could be that she was busy.  Maybe she found an interesting book, or met up with a beloved fellow bookworm. Her birthday is day after tomorrow.

She and Lumpy are step-siblings, born three days apart.  My brother was born in London, my stepsister in North Carolina.  Occasionally, my stepmom and those two would mess with school registrars' minds.

"Twins?" they would hesitantly suggest.

Stepmom would lay out the geographies of their births, as her son and daughter, clearly fraternal as heck if twins, stood looking twinly.  Then she'd deliver the coup de grâce:

"Longest three days of my life."

Anyway.  Sister-Unit relayed that stepmom had fallen, but was okay, and that her momentous day -- a move into Assisted Living -- was penciled in for next Thursday. Stepmom, all 85 pounds of her, has turned into a striking viper at the mention of it.  The gift of short term memory loss at least shortens the period of hissing and tongue-flicking, but no one envies Sister-Unit and her Studly Partner their task next week.

It is sad, but the heart hardens over what must be.
Or mine has.
What a terrible admission.

Lastly, I called the BioMom Unit. Everything in me wanted to scream at her that her son was being laid low by vicious cancer and that I resented being born, but instead we talked, at length and with considerable comedy, about how her dead husband is cheating on her -- but only with pregnant women.  He was an Ob/Gyn. She was a hoot.

Usually, I try to gently reorient her.

Not yesterday.  Within her concocted world, she made perfect sense.  So I reminded her how much her husband loved her, and she rested easily in that.

I cannot slough off more work on Fred, with the feeble excuse of having no hands.  This cannot be my "new normal."

I've been thinking of dear Lumpy all day -- office hours, two classes, radiation, and an infusion of chemotherapy.

Convinced that my new normal reeks of my continued uselessness.

Time for the splint!  Time to check on The Fredster. Time to extract the "poor me" from other sentient beings' beings. If they ever do want or need me, this is not the me they're expecting.

as it was in the beginning... now the thumb is a quivering
quibbling digit.  all praise the mighty index finger!

© 2013 L. Ryan

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