My journey as a long distance runner who started the sport later in life.
Yesterday, on Day 24, I had my third follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon who put me back together again. He asked me to show him how well I could bend the fingers and he was not impressed. He kept saying, “You have to move them too much.” We were confused. Have I moved them too much or am I not moving them enough? Further discussion helped us to clarify that he thought I needed to move them a lot more, even the index finger, using my left hand to force the issue with passive movements. We also learned that any English he has, which is a lot, he has learned colloquially. This language acquisition feat is both impressive and helps to explain the “too much” wording that so confused us.
Let me be clear: My fingers hurt very badly to move them, especially ring and pinky. I have a low tolerance for pain. He was surprised that two weeks of physiotherapy hadn’t accomplished more. I told him that my physiotherapist is timid and can easily be manipulated into doing less than she could, but with newly repaired bones I didn’t see that as a bad thing. I didn’t want her or I to undo his repair job. This is when he told us how he had performed the surgery, and why it had taken so long. With each titanium plate installation he took my finger through the full range of motion to ensure the installations weren’t restrictive, adjusting as necessary to accommodate my full range of motion. This means that right now, without damage, my fingers should be able to bend in all of the ways that fingers can. The very bad news is that they can’t unless I or someone else helps them, and even then it’s very limited movement, and the pain is intense.
So, now I am out of the splint and bandages because I am supposed to be trying to move them all the time. He said, “At home, no splint.” I said, “Everywhere, no splint?” He was worried that my students would bump into me if I didn’t wear it at work. I assured him that I taught older students who were fairly well balanced and who also mostly respect my Canadian personal space requirements. He was so sure that someone would accidentally grab me by the hand without realizing that he insisted I wear a mesh glove to warn people that something weird was going on with my hand. Now I am channeling 1980s Michael Jackson.
Even though it was snowing in northern Mexico last night, I went out for a slow 9K training run without the splint. Since I can’t clench my right fist I was sure my fingers, all distant and disconnected from each other, would freeze. I kept them tucked inside my jacket sleeve and soon my body warmed them up against the uncharacteristically cold February weather. My half marathon goal race is this Sunday, and even though my hand doesn’t work, my legs still do, so I need to keep training. It’s taper time and it feels like I’ve been tapering for four weeks.