Hand surgery

handI’m having hand surgery next week, and I’ve been quite busy getting ready.

First, I had to get my “fake” nails removed. I put quotation marks around the word because I’ve had acrylic nails since 1981. That’s the year I quit my 4-pack-a-day smoking habit. I decided I’d spend the money I saved from buying cigarettes on something I wouldn’t normally spend money on. Something outrageously girly. Something like acrylic nails with British racing car red polish. That was thirty-one years ago when a carton of Marlborough cost twenty bucks. It was a nice trade.

My malady, which is requiring the surgery, is called Dupuytren’s contracture. It’s a disease I’ve inherited from my northern European ancestors. The palmar fascia thickens and contracts, small hard nodules form just under the skin near the base of the fingers, and hard bands form across the palm. All this works together to cause my fingers to bend toward my palm. It’s not a disease for a writer. Surgery won’t cure it, but it’ll help me regain a better range of finger motion in order to play this computer keyboard and create prose poetry, flash fiction and action-packed plots for the novels playing in my head.

In the last couple of months, as slowly as water heats in a pan where a frog sits blissfully unaware of the danger, my ring finger thickened just south of the knuckle. When I read the pre-op directions to leave all jewelry at home, I realized I couldn’t get off my engagement ring–even with lots of lotion. What’s a girl to do? Well, according to the doctor’s office, a girl is to go to the nearest fire station or an emergency clinic and get someone to cut through the band. You’d think the surgical center would have such a knife, but evidently Memorial Hermann Medical Surgical Center in the world renown Texas Medical Center has other things on which to spend its money.

My sweetie drove me to our Navasota Fire Department this afternoon and John, a fireman and our neighbor, pulled the ring cutter from the fire truck and took me inside to cut the band. It’s actually a simple procedure: The cutter slips under the band and then there’s a tightening screw that advances the cutting blade through the ring band. Hardened steel cutting through 18-K white gold. John was gentle and in less than a minute, he had cut through. Eric, another fire fighter, took me in the kitchen and doused dish washer liquid on my hand and started twisting the ring around and around until it slipped past the knots and glided right off. I looooove living in my small town.

But I have to tell you: I also feel blessed to be living within driving distance to the Texas Medical Center. They may not spend money on ring cutters, but they have world-class physicians. My surgeon, Dean W. Smith, is board certified and is a “Top 10 Doctor” in Texas. I’m glad he’s recognized as a serious player in his specialty, but I will tell you what impresses me as much as his “Top Doc” status is the recognition he’s received earning the “Patients’ Choice Award” (every single year since 2008) and the “Compassionate Doctor Award – 5 Year Honoree.” I revert back to being a scared little girl when I’m in the hospital, no matter how routine, and it’s good to know my doctor is going to be compassionate as well as precise.

When the stitches are removed and the swelling goes down, Ronnie says he’s taking me back to Ernst Jewelers in Huntsville, TX, where he’s having my engagement ring resized and placed back where it belongs. Awwwww. Mic drop and walk away, babe.