As I came crashing down from my bike to the pavement, I knew I was in trouble. I must have smashed my right thumb as I landed, because the thumbnail started to bleed. A fellow rider gave me a Band-Aid, I doctored myself and started to head back to my car.
A bad way to end a group bike ride, but there was no other option. My handlebars were askew and my chain was off – I knew from experience how hard it was to get back on. My car was only a mile away.
Back in the parking lot, I assessed the damage. Thumbnail still bleeding, bruises to both legs, cuts on three fingers. Also, my glasses were bent way out of shape; my helmet must have pushed them. My thumb didn’t feel great, but it didn’t seem worth a visit to the ER. I drove home, feeling bad but also lucky. It could have been much worse.
In the days following, the cuts healed, the bruises lost their color, and the glasses got adjusted. My thumb? It had swollen to the size of an Italian sausage. And although the pain was manageable, any number of mundane actions, like pulling up my socks, sent a fiery pain through my thumb.
Suddenly, simple things like turning the key in the ignition, lifting a glass or box of cereal, or pulling open a drawer, sent my nerves into overdrive. What the hell was happening?
I turned to my longtime family doctor, Robb Stidwill, for the answer.
“You have Gamekeeper’s Thumb, also known as Skier’s Thumb. The ligament has torn away from the bone and that means less grip strength.”
“So what do I do about it?”
“Usually surgery can correct it. Possibly a cast or brace. I want you to get it x-rayed and also talk to an orthopedic surgeon. Today.”
Wow, I thought. All this for falling off a bike. I’m not a skier, or a gamekeeper, just a guy who fell off his bike. My face must have fallen, and the doctor noticed.
“Don’t look so worried. It’s fixable, but time is of the essence. If it were me, I’d see someone very soon.”
So I got the x-rays, but the orthopedic office hadn’t called. I called them but was put on hold. It was late afternoon on a Friday. I decided to call the next Monday and made an appointment for the next day.
The orthopedic office was very busy and seemingly chaotic. I talked to four different staff members before seeing the doctor, many of them asking me the same questions. Finally the surgeon himself stopped by, still dressed in scrubs. Busy guy, I thought.
Here’s the gist of what he said: Surgery, surgery, surgery. I was talking to a surgeon; what else was he gonna recommend?
So the surgery is set for Tuesday, July 18. I’m nervous about it, but I really want to get back to normal.
The way to do that is to reconnect the ligament, wear a cast, and then a brace, for six weeks, followed by physical therapy.
I know all this is necessary. Like I told a co-worker, we kind of need our thumbs. Without them we’re basically cats and dogs.
To be continued…