We have settled back into our part-time home at Jojoba Hills, where memories of our Patagonia trip may have faded a bit but revisiting photos can put that smile right back on my face. One of my more vivid memories of Patagonia was our hike to the Three Towers in Torres del Paine National Park, as this is where I experienced firsthand the “knock-you-down” winds for which Patagonia is noted. This is where I learned to fly during a rainstorm, albeit it briefly, as I made the steep ascent to the towers. This is where a rogue gust threw me off a boulder and, although I didn’t get the iconic shot of the towers that day, I remain grateful that I didn’t suffer a serious injury.
An x-ray, a consult with an Argentine doctor, and a splint in place and the next day I was on my way to our next adventure. Although I was told to keep the splint on for three weeks and I should be good as new, I suspected, once ‘sans splint’, that something was amiss. My knuckle looked weird and the more I exercised my finger, the stiffer and more painful it became.
By the time we arrived in the Atacama, weeks later, my finger was red, warm, and not at all happy with me. I worried about an infection, but there was no one to consult in the small village of San Pedro, so I buddy-taped it again and tried not to think about it the last few days of our trip. Out of sight, out of mind, right? We couldn’t return home anyway as our airline went on strike; our flight was canceled; and we couldn’t get out any earlier. The best I could do was schedule an appointment with my doctor back home, so I tried not to let it interfere with the last few days of our trip.
Navigating the healthcare system back home was frustrating as I waited several weeks to see a hand surgeon and get an MRI after my initial x-ray, which revealed a fractured knuckle. The first hand surgeon I visited confirmed the avulsion fracture and a ruptured volar plate (the thick ligament that secures the knuckle and holds the two bones in place in the finger)and when asked what treatment he would recommend, he replied that it was bad and he couldn’t help me. No physical therapy, no surgery…what the heck? Needless to say, he is not my current hand surgeon.
Should you ever have the joy of dislocating a finger, here is some of what I have learned:
- Splinting should be done for no more than one week and gentle manipulation should begin immediately after the splint is removed, even with an avulsion fracture. This probably won’t be much fun as the finger will still be swollen and painful to the touch. My accident was three months old when I saw my current hand surgeon and was splinted far too long so my situation was a bit more challenging.
- Aggressive range-of-motion therapy can be an option, and was for me. I see my therapist twice weekly for 12 weeks. She is an angel, even though she often hurts me. 😢
- If hand therapy doesn’t work, surgery would be a next option. I have found a great hand therapy specialist and she doesn’t see surgery in my future. Yay!! Finding a good therapist who will customize a program for you is a must.
- Be prepared for slow progress. I wake each morning feeling like I am starting all over again, which I am told will probably be the case for the next six months. Patience definitely is a virtue at times like this.
- Finger dislocations take a minimum of 8 months to heal. It is no wonder my finger is still swollen and stiff, along with other fingers as well.
I’m sad to say that our summer plans for Yellowstone National Park have been disrupted as I focus on getting my hand back in shape. I will be living vicariously through all of you and spending more time discovering the beauty right outside my door. Sometimes we just need to slow down a bit to find that beauty.