My journey as a long distance runner who started the sport later in life.
Eight weeks ago today, at this exact time of day, I was sitting in a sunspot on our bedroom floor trying to read a local Spanish language newspaper while my child looked on. We were both trying to keep warm because this past winter was especially cold and our house is uninsulated cement with no furnace. In any case, the cold weather had me apathetic about going for a run, though based on my training schedule I new I should. I finally got up the energy to get dressed, but I told my spouse that I’d probably just walk, and maybe do a few timed sprints to try and ascertain my maximum heart rate with my new GPS training watch. I even had him look up this method for determining maximum HR so I had it right before I left. Our life has not been the same since that day.
Who knew that falling on your fingers and breaking a few of them could be so pivotal? I certainly wouldn’t have ever guessed. Based on the types of questions that I still field daily, I would say that finger and hand trauma is generally poorly understood by anyone who has never had it happen to them or a loved one. “How’s the hand?” “Is your hand better yet?” “You’re fine right? It’s just a hand.” My favorite answer is, “It’s still broken.” Even though the bones are technically healed, I am a very long way from fine, and based on how physiotherapy is going, this could be as good as it gets, and it’s very bad.
The thumb is #1 and there is nothing wrong with it. My trauma, and subsequent immobility and pain, starts with the index finger, #2, and goes all the way through to the pinky finger, #5. I have a strange growth, pain and reduced mobility of the second and third joints of #2, which I didn’t even break. I have titanium plates and screws on the proximal end of the first phalanx of #3, and I can barely move any of the three joints of that finger, though I can actively move them myself. I have titanium plates and screws on the proximal end of the first phalanx of #4, and I cannot move the second or third joints of that finger at all unless I get my other hand to forcibly bend them. I have no implants in #5, but I did just get two stainless steel wires removed from it eight days ago. Last night was its first night of full physiotherapy (PT) and it performed fairly well; it was painful, but the pain seemed different than the pain that presents with the other three fingers.
I also saw the physiotherapy (PT) doctor last night, but not my regular doctor because he wasn’t available. The doctor that I did see serves as the PT doctor of the Monterrey Rayados soccer team, so he probably knows a bit about trauma and proper recovery. I was glad to talk to him because he said that eight weeks in I should have a greater range of motion (ROM) than I do. He agreed that recovery wasn’t progressing as it usually does (though every case is different), and that there might be something wrong. I have been feeling that there is something wrong for a while, because my ROM has decreased on #3, the pain intensity seems the same as day #1 of PT (but I have had over 20 PT sessions), and because my ROM never seems to increase. If this was the normal trajectory of all PT no one would ever go to it.
My physiotherapist admitted to me last night that she thinks that #2 and #5 will eventually be fine with a lot of time and patience, but that #3 and #4 are unlikely to ever recover. What is maddening is that the fingers with the titanium in them may not recover, but the one that was so crushed as to only warrant stainless steel rods probably will. It should be the opposite or else what’s the point of getting titanium implants? So, the bigger questions are: Am I having a reaction to the titanium or are the types of breaks suffered by #3 and #4 just so bad as to not enable recovery? Is it even possible to have a reaction to titanium since it is known as a bio-compatible metal? If it is possible (especially if it is an alloy and not pure titanium), what can we even do about it? Are my fingers stable enough to remove the titanium? These are all interesting and relevant questions that I hope to have the answers to very soon.