The power of one … thumb

Look, Mom, no thumbs!
Look, Mom, no thumbs!

I didn’t think I would get old this quick. Truth be told, when I am with the teenagers in my classroom, I don’t feel much older than they are–except that I am responsible for teaching and keeping some semblance of order (and am, I hope, somewhat wiser). I am young at heart, and, seriously, my doctor once told me I would live a very long time because of my healthy heart, among other things.

But my joints, particularly the saddle joint of my left thumb, are making me feel less inclined to live a long, long time.

I considered titling this blog other ways:

  • The incredible, opposable thumb
  • My state of devolution
  • Not so different from a monkey after all
  • Getting old before my time
  • Joints should be illegal
  • Youth is wasted on the young
  • To thine own self be kind
  • If only I had known…

And the list could go on. Because I have found that a thumb is that important. And I am missing mine. Well, the use of mine.

This summer, while watching TV (and, no, I am not suffering from overuse of the remote control; that would be my husband’s domain), my husband landed on a golf tournament that featured women. (Who knew?) When I saw their cute little outfits (and long, thin legs), I thought to myself, “Now, that is the sport for me! I missed my calling!” Unfortunately, I also said this aloud, and my husband took full advantage.

And so he had me purchase a golfing glove (pink and white and, oh, so cute!) and took me to the driving range. Where we both realized–after three intense (hot, humid, buggy) sessions of instruction, swinging, and the occasional success–that it might be better if I just dressed like a golfer. I was thankful we hadn’t invested in more than a glove and a few buckets of balls, but I didn’t realize I had also paid with my thumb.

I felt the pain in my thumb midway through the third session on the driving range, but I continued working on my swing–bending my knees, straightening my arms, using my torso, positioning my feet and the tee, and looking at the ball. (Who could concentrate on pain when I had so much to remember! Plus I didn’t think my personal trainer husband would believe me.) I figured the pain would subside when the golf lessons did, but the damage, apparently, was done.

My husband, a physical therapist, matter-of-factly claimed it was arthritis. I, of course, claimed he was wrong–for two reasons: I hate it when he’s right and I would hate it if he were right about this pain being arthritis. Oh, I also have a glaringly obvious third reason: I am too young.

After that last golf date in August, I basically did nothing about my pain other than anxiously rub my hand and thumb and notice the pain get progressively worse. But on Thanksgiving, when I realized I was afraid I would drop the dishes because grabbing them was difficult and couldn’t manage opening jars, I told my husband I was going to mention my thumb when I went for my doctor’s visit in a couple of weeks. (I figured I better get it fixed before Obamacare starts in 2014.)

That’s all it took. Visions of X-rays and MRIs and surgery and therapy and bills, bills, bills. At the word “doctor,” my dear, physical therapist husband sprang into action, trying to determine the location and cause of pain, whipping out his old textbooks and researching online for the most likely diagnosis and the most likely treatment. He conceded I just may have an injury rather than arthritis and prescribed a thumb brace and ice massage. (He even made sure I had a box of vinyl gloves to protect my thumb brace while I continue my wifely duties in the kitchen…)

My bum thumb and my handy brace.
My bum thumb and my handy brace.

I traded in my pink and white and, oh, so cute! golf glove for a sensible, black Futuro brace, which I hope to not wear my entire future. The brace supports my thumb and allows that saddle joint to rest. It is also flexible enough so I can type (yea!) and do most activities while at the same time restricting some movement and reminding me not to stress my poor thumb.

I now know that:

  • Opening bottles and jars is a no-no. (That’s why we have men—and take-out.)
  • Ziploc bags are of the devil.
  • Two hands share the load better than one (especially if one of those hands extends from someone else’s body).
  • Delegation is the key to a long, quality life (and my weakest attribute).
  • The acronyms of physical therapy apply even to this lonely appendage: No BLT (bending, lifting, or twisting) but plenty of RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
  • The Michael Jackson one-gloved look prevents pain and holds hope that this is but a temporary condition.

Two weeks into wearing my splint, I still hurt, but a bit less. I still don’t know if I suffer from a golf injury or arthritis, if what I have will heal or haunt me, but I do know that I have gained an appreciation for the powerful impact of even one thumb–or the lack thereof. It helps me truly grasp (without putting pressure on my thumb, of course) the message in 1 Corinthians 12, which compares the body of Christ to our human bodies and points out the importance of each member’s role. In particular, “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” and “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:22b & 26a, NIV). Can I get an “Amen!”?

The long story short? I want to be young in the joints as well as young at heart. The long story even shorter? I want my thumb back!

4 thoughts on “The power of one … thumb

    1. Yes, I think my golfing days are over…. so my injury is preventing my leisure activities but not my non-leisure ones! Bummer for me! But if I do get the privilege of full use of my thumb, I do not think I will choose golf again–and I will be quite happy to be able to work unhindered! (And I will be more careful!) Love you!

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