Mallet finger: week 10-ish

I had an 8 a.m. appointment with my occupational therapist at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation. I cannot say enough nice things about them.

I arrived around 7:50 a.m., and ended up walking into the building with my therapist. The receptionist wasn’t there yet. My therapist grabbed my file and started my appointment before her computer fully engaged for the day.

I told her the story of losing my splint. She made me a new one and I didn’t even have to pay extra.

For more info on losing my splint, click here.

The finger is “holding up” and this week, when I take the splint off to do my exercises five times a day— which I might do seven, just based on my routine— I can leave the splint off for one hour five times a day.

It sounds like if my finger maintains its posture through this week that I am more-or-less out of the woods. It’s very exciting.

Why do I do my exercises seven times a day? For exercises like these— physical and/or occupational therapy exercises that require little bits of effort multiple times a day— I find attaching them to logical parts of my routine helps.

So in my case:

I left my appointment at 8 a.m. They are so efficient!

4:15 a.m. Wake. Remove splint. Use bathroom. Wash hands. Start coffee. Do exercises. Replace splint.

6:15 a.m. Use bathroom at work. Check hair. Remove splint to wash hands. Return to main cafeteria to chat with friends. Do exercises as warm-up for the intense folding of clothes to come. Retape splint. Head to time clock.

8:50 a.m. Remove splint. Go to bathroom and take morning break. Do exercises. Have morning yogurt. Replace splint. Fold more clothes (about 175 pieces of clothing every two hours). Yes, I fold and package clothes. I work for Stitch Fix doing Quality Control for the subscription boxes. My side hustle is my book company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

12:10 p.m. clock out for lunch. Remove splint. Use the restroom. wash hands. Do exercises while heating lunch. Eat. Replace splint.

3:10 p.m. Final 15. Remove splint at work station. Go to wash hands. Do exercises while enjoying a cup of coffee or snack in the main cafeteria.

5 p.m. Clock out of work, remove splint, wash hands, stretch fingers, replace splint.

5:30 p.m. Get home from work. Fight off very excited large dog. Remove splint. Wash hands. Do exercises. Replace splint.

7:30 p.m. Remove splint. Shower. Gently use fingers to wash hair. Do exercises in shower. Dry off. Replace splint with fresh tape.

And this way if I miss one, it’s okay. Or if my hand isn’t doing as much in one session we make it up in the next.

For more about my injury, click here.

Apex 100, the strawberry Frosty and a makeshift splint

I wept tonight. I nearly wept myself into a panic attack. My guts are still fluttering. And I flung things down the stairs.

But that’s the end of the story. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Monday night, after the teenager’s car accident, I went to Apex Training for my 100th session at the gym since I started about ten months ago.

Because it was my 100th session, the my trainer picked out 6 exercises for me to do 100 times, at my own pace, breaking them into sets as I saw fit.

I was a little stiff the next day, which was yesterday, but I still managed to do 100% according to the metrics at work. But my the end of the day my right leg was unsteady.

Today I woke up very stiff, with my muscles in my lower body so tight I struggled to bend and I had even less control and stability in my right leg.

I only made about 90% today.

By the end of the day, my right quad had this dull burn to it, but it didn’t really hurt. But it was getting more and more difficult to control as my stiffness dissipated.

But the teenager and I still made it to my 101st session at Apex and celebrated by trying the new strawberry Frosty at Wendy’s. Which, by the way, is much tastier with a Wendy’s sugar cookie.

I took my custom splint off— today marks one week of wearing it and taking it off every 3 hours for occupational therapy exercises and when needed “for hygiene.” And the finger is looking steady!

I removed the splint to wipe down my hand with a wet nap before eating. I set it down carefully in my lap. And then it just disappeared. I checked the take-out bag. I checked my bra, the car compartments, the seat.

The teenager told me to stop wiggling around that it had to be in the car and we’d look at home.

We didn’t find it at home.

So I went to the kitchen and started to cry. my finger had looked so good wrapped around that Frosty cup as I smeared the Frosty on my portion of the cookie the teenager and I shared.

I checked my local CVS’s website: no splint in stock. So I checked my local Walgreen’s: no splint in stock. And so it went.

Still upset, I found a piece of wood my cockatoo had stripped from her toy and taped it to my finger.

My splint. Hopefully I’ll find a better solution in the morning.

Freedom was nice while it lasted

So, as directed by my doctor, I went to see my friends — the occupational therapists at the Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation.

They fitted me with a custom splint molded to my finger (for $50) that despite my doctor’s recommendation that I wear the splint at night only, they want me to wear the splint 24-hours a day for the next week, which for me will be nine days because that’s the day I can get there again.

I am to remove this splint when I bathe, when I wash my hands, and five times a day to do physical therapy exercises.

The exercises are 10 reps of basic hand gestures: straightening the hand, lightly bending the top of the hand, and making a loose fist.

If the hand loses progress instead of gains it, then the cast will be reapplied.

In pondering this, I realize several opinions of mine that may be greater truths:

  • Had I accepted my doctor’s solution of “cheaping out” and reusing my stinky cast as a splint, my recovery from this mallet finger would be more direct versus gradual. I believe gradual, supervised steps toward healing are better and I wonder if there are statistics about patients and the long-term success rates with these injuries with various treatments. How many patients would hear that insurance won’t cover it and end the conversation there without considering that the $50 might provide more than just a splint, but also guidance and expertise.
  • Are my occupational therapists just over-cautious or it is a case (as I think it is) that the therapists see more of this injury and in the same manner than nurses often know more than doctors, do occupational therapists understand more about function than fancy specialized surgeons?