Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poop on the train?

When you're around me, life is never boring. There is always something going on. Boring is good, boring is good, boring is good.

About 3 weeks ago, I woke up from an afternoon nap, and noticed that the ring finger of my right hand was bent towards my palm, and I was utterly unable to straighten it. It was the weirdest thing. It didn't hurt, feel sore, or strange, I just couldn't bend it. Bizarre. I showed P1, and he insisted that should go to the campus health center right away. Yeah right, that's gonna happen. I already don't have absolute confidence in their abilities, and now I'm going to go with this minor problem? Nope! It''ll go away by itself.

Wrong. It didn't. In fact, every time I wake up it seems to have gotten a little worse. It gets a little better during the day. I can grasp the finger with my other hand and painlessly straighten it out, but as soon as I let go, the finger stubbornly snaps back down.

Yesterday I finally scheduled an appointment, and feeling self-conscious, and almost relieved that it had been quite bad when awoke today, I went to an early morning appointment. From the look on the face of the physician-assistant I've been seeing for years now, I could tell that she didn't believe a word I said. The twinkle in her eyes said "now there is someone with imagination who wants an excuse note for class or something." She must have been surprised to hear that I am no longer taking classes. She then said she wanted to have x-rays made (even though it doesn't hurt, and I did not injure myself). Whatever. I'll do what she says. I felt really, really stupid.

On our way to the x-ray room, we run into the physician in charge, and she says to me "let's see what he thinks." He looks at my hand for 2 seconds flat and asks me where I'm from. Huh? "What is your ancestry?" he asks when he sees the flabbergasted expression on my face. "Do you have an hour or so? I'm from all over the place." He says: "It's called Doo-poo-train's contraction, and its genetic. Most common in people of Mediterranean decent." Me: "It's called what?" He looks at me as if I'm an idiot, and then with proper pronunciation repeats: "Dupuytren's contracture." Ah, I must have misheard the first time when I thought it had something to do with people pooping on trains.

The PA and I walk on, so she can write a referral to a hand surgeon for me. Meanwhile she stops every colleague she passes: "Hey, wanna see this. It's really cool. It's a real Dupuytren's contracture." "What? Hmm, interesting, can I see?" My hand get massaged for the umpteenth time. "Does it hurt here, or there?" No it doesn't and I'm inclined to think it's a bad sign when you medical provider gathers all her colleagues to stare at you and they all exclaim "cool," or "interesting."

On the bright side, it has a name, it's real, I didn't make it up, and it's not neurological or psychological damage. Ok, I clarify: maybe there is some psychological damage, but it has nothing to do with my finger. And best of all, there are treatments possible, the doctor I'm being referred to will explain my options.

Having done some more research, I now know it's common among Northern Europeans (apparently very common among the Vikings). It occurs mostly in men in their 40s, by age 80 the women have caught up, and it's equally common in women and men. Just my luck huh? A woman under 40, without any of the risk factors it's associated with, and instead of DC gradually introducing itself to me, it simply appears one Summer afternoon after my nap.

Picture source:

So I called my mother. I hadn't talked to her in a week or so. "Ma, have you ever heard of Dupuytren's contracture?" Expecting her to say "what?" I was surprised when she said "well you're father had that on his foot, and so did his sister. They both had surgery for that a few years ago." I vaguely remember my father having surgery on his foot a while ago, but had had no clue what it had been about. Was someone going to bother telling me that this thing ran in my family? I told her I had it in my hand, and described the symptoms. "Oh," my mom replies. "I've had the very same thing happen to my hand the past 2 years. It keeps on getting worse. I just thought it was some kind of muscle thing related to aging."

Double whammy. I'm getting it from both sides. Both my parents had nice gradual introductions to this affliction, but since Germanic ancestors from both my parent's side fooled around with those vikings, here I am all of a sudden with a ring finger refusing to stay in line and do what I tell it to. Note to self: give my kids plenty of advance warning.

So now, the waiting is for the hand surgeon to contact me. Although it's not painful, it's irritating as hell, because I forget about it, and I will reach for something only to realize I can't grab it, because I'm right-handed, and my right hand is less than 100% functional. It's also bloody inconvenient for doing any molecular biology, or microscopy. You kinda need your fingers to do itty bitty things that sometimes involves stretching the ring finger. I had never realized that particular detail before. But I'm painfully aware of it now. Oh well, maybe there'll be a quick and easy solution to this. Boring is good, boring is good, boring is good. At least they didn't accuse me of having pooped on the train.


Kate said...

I would have heard the medical name the same way. I hope all goes well with the hand surgeon appointment!

makita said...

Thanks. Appointment in two weeks. In the meantime, I am a little self-conscious about the folded-over finger, and I tend to keep my hands in pockets, or wrapped around my bag to hide it.