My journey as a long distance runner who started the sport later in life.
So what has this gentle, yet potentially damaging, physiotherapy entailed? I have now attended six sessions of physiotherapy, mostly with a young and very gentle physiotherapist, and I am not sure if it is doing much for me. It is at yet another hospital, one that is even further away, so if nothing else, it is getting me out of the house.
Upon my arrival my hand is put under a pillowcase of sorts and then it subjected to ten minutes of heat lamp treatment. I instantly think of hamburger joints that use infrared lamps to keep their product warm. I also ponder incubating eggs and newly hatched chicks that both enjoy the warmth of an infrared lamp, potentially perishing without one. Which would I rather be: A hamburger or a chick? This accident has left me feeling like meat from time to time, especially when I first fell and my fingers felt like disconnected sausages instead of fingers while they dangled limply from my hand. I have also felt as helpless and dependent as a newly hatched chick with regularity, needing assistance with the most basic actions. Permanently etched in my brain as an example of this helplessness is the time the babysitter laughed at me because, while I had indeed dressed myself, my running pants were on backwards and inside out. The simple act of pulling up pants was hard enough, but I needed her help to correct the pants. I probably would have left the house with them like that anyway, but she wouldn’t let me.
After the heat lamp comes the ultrasound wand and the ridiculously gooey blue gel. I need ten minutes of ultrasound treatment, and the more experienced (and therefore meaner) physiotherapist told me that the settings have to be exact because, while the heat lamp prepares the exterior of my hand, the ultrasound prepares the interior. If the settings are not exactly right, the ultrasonic waves can overexcite the titanium, which will then burn me from the inside. Never before have I had such respect for this piece of equipment and the person wielding it. The gentle physiotherapist couldn’t believe that the more experienced physiotherapist had shared this information with me, but nor did she deny it.
Soon I am treated to ten minutes of active manipulation of my affected fingers by the physiotherapist. This is by far the activity that differentiates the gentle from the mean physiotherapists. They read the doctor’s instructions on their cell phones, one carrying out exact orders, even on the pinky (ouch!), the other allowing my whining and fears to manipulate her into doing far less than she probably should. For now, that’s fine, because I don’t want the x-ray I am supposed to get in one week’s time to reveal that more harm than good has been done. Maybe after the healing period I will ask for the meaner physiotherapist to take me on full time.
Next is play time. I am catapulted back into toddlerhood while I play with colored blocks, moving them from side to side into the correctly-shaped holes. I am still supposed to do my own exercises at home, so I am super happy to find renewed use for all those Melissa & Doug toys that my children have all but abandoned. There are also some plastic rings to move back and forth between wooden dowels. These are far harder to manage and my ring finger can’t yet do this activity without pain. Naturally, pinky finger sits out this round of treatment.
Finally, there are ten minutes of what the physiotherapists call “hormiguitas” or little ants. This is when they tape electrodes to my fingers and hand and turn up the power on an electrical current device until I can feel them marching two by two. I find this piece of equipment the most stressful because the dial only gets to four and I can feel them. What if the physiotherapist forgets to look one day and cranks them to nine instead of turning them off? I suppose they are trained to avoid this, but it’s yet another thing that’s out of my control. Feeling helpless at the hands of another has never been my strong suit. It’s definitely character building time for me.