A few years ago, the last two digits and the outside of my left palm became numb. As I’d been unable to find a primary care physician who was taking new patients, I went to the local walk-in clinic. I described my symptoms to the physician’s assistant on duty, who, after a perfunctory examination, suggested I make an appointment with a chiropractor. The cause of my symptoms, she opined, was an irritated nerve in my neck.
Over the next several months, I made regular visits to the chiropractor, religiously performed the exercises he prescribed, drove hundreds of miles and paid a small fortune to a massage therapist, in an attempt to restore sensation in my hand. For several weeks, I used a home traction unit, which consisted of a plastic bag filled with water suspended from a metal bracket that hung over my front door. Twice a day, before and after work, I strapped my head into a harness, positioned myself in a straight-backed chair and after carefully lowering the counterweight, watched the clock. I even tried acupuncture.
I gave up yard work, bicycling and knitting. I wore a wrist brace 24 hours a day. I moved twice and spent so much of my savings hiring others to help with household chores I’d always done myself, I began to worry about my daughter’s future, as well as my own. I cut corners wherever I could. I turned off the furnace, didn’t refill my asthma medication and wound up with pneumonia.
I returned to the clinic, where I was seen by a doctor, rather than a physician’s assistant. He handed me a sheaf of paper and said, “You need to have these prescriptions filled and these diagnostic tests need to be performed. You can do whatever you want, but if you don’t follow my recommendations, I won’t treat you.”
I’ve elected to have surgery on my wrist and elbow to prevent further loss of function. There’s no guarantee and it will be a year before I'll know if the procedure was successful.
School ends in a few days and I’ll have lots of time on my hands, so to speak. I plan to use that time well. I’ll continue writing the story of the quirky characters living in a fictional town and share my experiences with the real characters in my life, who remind me daily of the meaning of hope.
And I’ll continue to laugh.