Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.
Triumphing over heart issues during a 35 year period and ‘home free’ of them the last 10 years, I thought that overcoming atrial fibrillation, repairing damage from 2 heart attacks, settling in with my 3rd pacemaker, enjoying the comfort of artificial hips and periodic checkups on all of them was enough for one person to assume freedom from life-threatening occurrences.
In addition, there was the diverticulitis, which turned out to be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), back problems helped by trips to the chiropractor, and numbing of finger tips on the left hand which had been plaguing me for a couple of years. All of the above were nuisances, not a death sentence.
So, the fingers got worse and while I was getting my yearly checkup from electrophysiologist Dr. John Hummel, I asked if the numbness was heart related as all of my problems seemed to be on my left side. He said “probably not”, but that I should have it checked by a neurologist before the fingers on that hand became totally useless.
So, I did and after extensive testing, the result was proclaimed ‘carpal tunnel’ in serious need of treatment. And, the right hand was in trouble too. Not as bad as the left but should be treated too. The neurologist said the treatment would be an outpatient surgical procedure, usually easy to correct.
She made an appointment for me to see a hand surgeon. I had heard of, and even knew personally, people with this problem and was under the impression that it is not a ‘big deal.’ So I didn’t do my normal fact checking. The hand surgeon and staff made an appointment for 2 weeks later to have the procedure, but not before he said that I had put if off for so long that he could not guarantee that it would be completely successful, but that surgery would stop the hand from becoming worse.
The outpatient procedure was not bad and I was home and alert 3 hours later, hand wrapped in bandages that would come off in 5 days. Fingers were sticking out. Surgery was a 2 inch incision just below the wrist with 5 or 6 stitches.
Ten days later I went back to the surgeon with a scary complaint that the hand was worse. I had no feeling in any part of it at all. He was concerned. After his consultation with another hand doctor and their testing various parts of the hand with a sharp object they suggested that we wait 2 weeks to see if feeling started to come back. There was hope because a small section of the palm had some feeling.
Surgery on the other hand was canceled. If feeling in the left hand wasn’t restored and carpal tunnel repair was done on the right, even if it worked, the recovery period might leave me with 2 useless hands.
Lesson learned? When something in your body doesn’t work, don’t ignore it! Get it fixed or get treatment right away, especially if you have health insurance or Medicare coverage. I knew better but didn’t follow my own instincts.
If the carpal tunnel situation weren’t enough, I repeated a delayed reaction on another recent health problem with consequences. Read about it in next week’s blog, Atrial Fib…Lessons Learned, Part 2.
Meanwhile, read more in my memoir IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, electronically on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo and audiobook at Audible.com.