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Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 10:14 am
by FastEddieB
As background, back in the 1980’s I started to have recurring and somewhat chronic hand numbness, initially caused by long distance cycling. It was mainly a problem at night, where my hands would “fall asleep” and wake me up with a throbbing numbness that was alleviated by straightening out my arm. I self-diagnosed it as cubital tunnel syndrome - impingement of the nerve in the elbow. I’ve lived with it for decades, writing it off as a result of the stress on my elbows from a half-century of bicycle and motorcycle riding, combined with barbell curls and tool usage putting additional stress on them.

But about 6 months ago I started to have slight numbness all the time in my right index and middle fingers. But even a tiny bit of numbness is an issue - I noticed I was having a hard time buttoning my left sleeve and had to ask Karen for help. It’s hard to pick up a coin or washer from a flat surface. I’m dropping things a bit more often. That sort of thing. But I could live with it if I knew it wasn’t going to get any worse.

But it came to a head, so to speak, when I mentioned it to a flight student who is a retired orthopedist. He looked at my right hand and immediate noticed atrophy of my right thumb muscle, combined with limited range of motion. That concerned him and he referred me to a hand and arm specialist. That specialist recommended a nerve conduction study. That study showed severe carpal tunnel and moderate to severe cubital tunnel impingement of nerve impulses. Left arm had issues as well, but is asymptomatic to date.

Those results indicated surgical intervention, and it made sense to do wrist and elbow at the same time. We’re hoping that reverses the atrophy, but it may just stop it from progressing further. I think it’s a few weeks in a sling, then up to 3 months of physical therapy for a full recovery. Flying the Sky Arrow is out for a while, since getting in and out involves supporting my weight with my arms. Drat.

I’m not complaining - orthopedic problems, while annoying, are a walk in the park compared with other issues many people my age start to experience. Almost 70 years of a pretty active lifestyle has to have taken a toll.

Anyway, I’ll report updates post-surgery in case any others have dealt with similar issues.

Wish me luck!

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 10:57 am
by MrMorden
I just had shoulder surgery two weeks ago, to repair a torn bicep tendon. The bicep was detached from the shoulder and attached to my arm bone instead. Three weeks in a sling and three months total recovery time.

I feel you pain, aging sucks.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 12:02 pm
by Warmi
The diagnosis you got ... that’s actually good news, believe it or not ... the bad news would be ALS which often starts with similar symptoms.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 12:22 pm
by TimTaylor
Here's to a great result Eddie.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 3:41 pm
by Sling 2 Pilot
Eddie, been there done that a good number of years ago. You seem to be in good overall shape, I think you’ll be able to fly way sooner than 3 months. Good luck to you.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 4:45 pm
by foresterpoole
Good luck, I'm sure you'll be back behind the stick before too long.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 5:25 pm
by FastEddieB
Thanks for all the kind wishes.

Hopefully just some minor short term pain for some long term gain. Most who have has either of these surgeries have reported good results.

Andy, hope you're recovering well.

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 6:19 pm
by MrMorden
FastEddieB wrote:
Andy, hope you're recovering well.

Things are going as planned so far...good luck with your surgery and recovery too!

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Wed May 30, 2018 1:03 pm
by FastEddieB
I survived! Details to follow...

Re: Minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday

Posted: Thu May 31, 2018 9:11 am
by FastEddieB
Promised update...

Had to get up at 3:45 AM to shower and get out of the house by 4:30 for a 7 AM arrival time in Atlanta. Sat in the waiting room for an hour anyway.

IV in the wrist was no problem. Mild sedative so I don’t recall the injections in my neck and underam to “block” the nerves. I was offered either 7 hours or 15 hours of numbness, and went with 15. Took maybe 30 minutes to lose all the feeling and mobility in my right arm. It was explained they were doing carpal and cubital “releases”, with a “bisection” of two nerves in the elbow to gain access to the cubital tunnel. Or something like that.

Wheeled into the operating suite and scooted onto the table. This is where it got weird. I had my arms crossed on my chest, with still a tiny bit of tingling on the back of my right hand. I closed my eyes for a moment, then looked right to where an attendant was holding an arm! It was the weirdest feeling, thinking my arm was one place but seeing it in another. I remember learning about proprioceptors, that enable us to make a mental model of where our body is in space. When those get suppressed, it’s really weird - I can sympathize with people with “phantom limbs” and the like.

Anyway, completely out for the surgery. Doctor stopped by afterwards to say the nerves looked healthy - he may have used the word “effused” or “perfusion”. Karen remembers he said they looked pink, which was good. He said at least it should stop the progression of the atrophy and numbness, with a possibility of reversing it. The trip home was uneventful. I couldn’t move my fingers until evening, and took one Percocet as instructed right then. Today no need for any painkillers so far.

Further good news is that I misunderstood about the sling - it only had to stay on until I regained feeling in my arm, so I’m about to remove it. Dressings and wrap stay in place for 2 weeks when I have a followup. Just no lifting with that arm for a while.

So far, so good!