Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Idiot Called it a "Funny Bone"

I need to make two apologies today. First, I would apologize to the folks who have been following this blog. I will not make excuses for my absents - I was angry and feeling sorry for my self. Perhaps I can accomplish something positivy with this.

My second apology is for anyone who has ever suffered nerve damage. I mean nerve damage, that's where you have a numbness in extremities like fingers - maybe some tingling - right? Some of you are going to know that's a real stupid question. Trust me folks, since April I've gotten a lot smarter on the subject.

One afternoon I was working on the computer, elbows resting on the chair arms when it felt like someone hit the right elbow with a board and a flash-bang went off behind my eyes. My right arm of course, no sense doing anything halfway. Over the next hour I discovered this was serious.

Tingling? The two fingers on my right hand, the little finger and that nameless finger next to it, were numb. Movement was clumsy and awkward. I discovered I had no strength in my right hand. My grip strenght between thumb and fore finger was extremely weak. How weak? I could not use my right hand to unlock my vehicle door. My penmenship, never great, actually got worse. Fine work that required dexterity was out the window.

This was with our Cops and Robbers event looming on the horizon. Tip for folks who practice unusual cirmcumstances when shooting, off hand with a handgun is good. Teach yourself to load magazines with the off hand. It's something I had never thought about, and is harder than you might think.

My biggest fear was that I could not handle handguns . I discovered I could handle handguns safely. One of the few benifits of the injury was a dandy excuse for bad shooting. So I did what I could and had my range assistances take over a lot of the demos. That program I littery could not have done without them.

The pain has been constant and nagging. One part that bothered me most was that I could no longer sleep with one arm over my wife. I had to be on my right side to get any sleep at all. What sleep I got was fitful bits and snaches.

The pain ran along the bottom of the arm from my little finger to the elbow and up into the shoulders and neck. I remember "rolling my neck" and feeling like some big angry dude was jerking a cable that ran from the little finger up. Not plesant.

There was really no comfortable position to hold the arm in. I gave up on a sling after only a few minutes. Driving was all kinds of fun. I have a small pillow in the truck to rest my arm on, but not the elbow. I rest the elbow on nothing. Before I even got to the doctor I was taking so much over the counter pain medication we wife was concerned.

Over the next six weeks there were several visits to Dr. Sterling - in my personal openion better than Bones from Star Trek even without the fancy gaggets. X-rays and my first MRI later he explained that a nerve was probably pinched, most likely in the elbow.

Dr. Sterling explained about nerve induction test. This would answer all manner of questions. He described the test as shoving a knitting needle into the nerve and hooking it up to a battery charger. He also explained the surgery that would correct the situation - maybe. And them he advised me to wait on both and explained this sort of thing will sometimes correct it's self. That was hard, but he made a good argument. He ended the session by prescribing medication with all manner of scarie side effects.

Most of the time the pain in my arm was between the elbow and the little finger. Other times it would run all the way up to my neck. A pillow to rest the arm on became my constant companion.

So "the arm" and I took off to work the 2010 Census. Driving all over Robinson County, Texas chasing down addresses was actually fun. Finding an unnumbered house, on an unmarked road, based on a map a five year old would be embarassed to claim, gives one a real sence of accomplishment.

There were good and bad days. The day our son, Matt, and I crawled under the truck to change the fuel tank almost killed me. Other days I don't think about "the arm". The pain is constant, just different levels. Thing is, when you get busy you don't think about the pain. You take it one day at a time and try not to dwell on the problems.

Then one day last week I realized I had unlocked the pickup with my right hand. I have been able to do so everyday since. There is no more tingling or numbness. The pain at the moment is in my hand and wrist, but it's managable. It isn't over yet, but I can see improvement.

So I'm back folks. Please forgive my absents, it won't happen again.


  1. WOW! Gosh, Art, I sure hope you get that all fixed. My brother once told me about that knitting-needle / battery jumper-cable test; said it was like something someone must have dreamed up in the middle ages.

    My best wishes to you and your wife. Take care.


  2. Thanks Zack,
    I am grateful to Dr. Sterling both for explaining the test, and for advising me to wait and see if I really needed it. Things are getting much better. I still have my 'arm pillow' and there is still pain. Today it's a dull ache. But things are so much better than before.

  3. WOW, indeed! The first thing I thought of when reading your description of the symptoms was "Holy moly, Art had a stroke!"

    Glad indeed it wasn't that.