Hi, I'm a 37 year old Father of 2, husband, hairstylist and hobby carpenter. My extensor tendon was severed by a piece of metal flashing one day. After a trip to the emergency room and a week of recovery, I was unable to extend my thumb. I called one doctor's office and was asked several times which insurance company I was with and if I could fax them a copy of the front and back of my card. It seemed as though my injury was far less important then them being assured of being paid. Told I had to wait 3 weeks on top of feeling like a $.
I decided to expand my search to another hand surgeon. At last I called the office of Dr. David Nelson. "Hello" he answered the phone. Thinking I dialed the wrong number, I said I was calling for Dr. Nelson. He said "This is Dr. Nelson." He explained that the office was closed but he happened to be in doing some paperwork, he then asked me what my situation was. After explaining myself, he said I should be seen Immediately and he would wait in his office for me. Needless to say, there was a noticeable difference compared to the other doctors attitudes towards helping patients.
He examined my hand and told me I needed surgery. He told me that my recovery would be hard, that I would be in a splint and I would have to baby it or I could rupture the sutures and need surgery again. I didn't care what it would take, my hands are my life. I told him how much I needed my hands and he told me that everyone says that, made sense although I still felt I needed mine more then anyone else. He was extremely thorough, superb attending to detail and seemed to care about me as a person (not what you hear about surgeons). Fast forward to surgery day, I was scared...even wrote the "In case I die letter" to my wife. Hell, I've heard about anesthesia...that's where people die. Well I must say that the staff at Marin General where amazing. It was like being at the Ritz, my surgery went well, I awoke (which is crucial) and my wife and I drove home. The next day was Saturday and again Dr. Nelson surprised me with a call to see how I was doing, "Numb" I said...no pain...yet. I stayed home from work for a couple of weeks, life seemed to stand still. I started physical therapy after 5 days...time seemed to stand still there as well. I would barely move my thumb and they would massage it and tell me how careful I needed to be. I got a rash on my hand from the brace, and I couldn't seem to get that funky smell to stay away for long. By week 3, I was going crazy. "See," I thought to myself, "I really do use my hands more than anyone because I am going crazy." By week 4, I started to feel a strange feeling that I realized was DEPRESSION! I don't get depressed, it was so hard to deal with. I couldn't change my baby's diapers, I was severely limited at work, no blow-dries, no shampooing and cutting took long time....I was borderline worthless, the only thing I was still proficient at was running my mouth...which thrilled no one. I didn't feel I deserved to be depressed, it was only my thumb, my cousin is a quadriplegic. I had no right to be depressed...which made me more depressed because I was again limited, couldn't use my thumb and I couldn't complain about it, I had no where to turn. No one picked up on it or offered any sympathy. Maybe because I didn't want them to think I was a big baby, man what is going on with me, I'm not like this.
Well around 6 weeks, I still could hardly bend my thumb, I was depressed but not allowing it and was starting to think I should have just dealt with not being able to straighten out my thumb. Then I had my visit with Dr. Nelson. As I filled out the questionnaire that Westine consistently hands out and he consistently reads, I found myself writing about being depressed...my last cry for help? As our appointment started, I heard myself apologizing for being such a wuss about the whole thing, then I felt some tears welling up. I was getting extremely embarrassed about showing my weakness. I also thought hmmm...surgeon...no emotions...this guy is going to walk out on my and tell me to suck it up.
Instead, he empathized with me and told me that it is normal to feel this way, how hard it was on me and so on. I now understood the whole thing about women explaining how they don't want to be fixed, just heard. Wow, all this from a quick cut...what a journey. To make a long story not longer, I am now at 11 weeks after surgery and I feel so much better. I'm not sure if it is just that after going through all that anything will feel better by comparison. I am using my thumb now and it is bending quite well. I can't say enough about Dr. Nelson, he is an amazing human. He has been there for everything and he only thinks about what he can do to better himself as a surgeon and a person. Damn, I'm feeling emotional as I write this, just thinking about how gracious he was/is to me. I say to all of you reading this, you are as lucky as I was, happening on to Dr. Nelson. He is a credit to his profession. Best luck, hang in there, you will heal and the bad times will soon only be a faint memory. Most importantly, you will have the use of your hands back...even though you don't need them as much as I need mine. kidding of course.
Dr. Nelson, you have my permission to post and/or print any part of this message if it will benefit you getting your word out.
March 26, 2004