So, the index finger on my right hand started hurting this week. I don’t remember when I first noticed it, but by Tuesday morning it was bad enough that I mentioned it to Mama Dog. I told her that I thought I was finally getting the carpal tunnel. I’ve long been perversely proud that I’ve typed for a living for nigh on twenty years and have never had even a hint of the carp. I’ve always attributed it to two crucial peculiarities. First, although I type faster than 100 wpm, I don’t do it properly; I’ve never learned to touch type. Apparently, repetitive stress happens to people who dutifully keep their fingers on home keys and strike the keys the same way each and every time. I don’t. I’m all over the place. Secondly, I shun the mouse almost entirely, though that’s become more and more difficult as software is increasingly catering to people who’ve not only never learned to type properly but have never learned to type at all. The pain was all in my mousing finger, so I was set to blame all the Sunday drivers who’ve forced that hideous accessory on those of us who know how to use a keyboard.
Tuesday night as I was finishing up with whatever it was I was doing at the computer, I found that I could barely click the hideous accessory. I shut down using my left hand and went to bed hoping it would feel better in the morning. It didn’t. it felt worse. Every time I wok up during the night, I became conscious of pain in my finger. When I got up in the morning, I found that not only did my index finger hurt like hell, but the pain had spread down to my wrist. I couldn’t move my right finger without searing pain, and since moving my hand moved my right finger, that meant my right hand was effectively out of commission.
Baby Dog had her 18½ month check-up that morning. Since it was my day off, I was going to take her, but the pain in my hand was so intense that I figured I needed to see a doctor myself. As it turned out, Dr. Homer was able to see me at 9:30, exactly the same time Baby Dog was to see the paediatrician. We decided that Mama Dog would drop me off at my doctor’s, take Baby Dog to the paediatrician, and then rendezvous at my doctor’s office when we were both done. She’d drop off Baby Dog with the stroller, I’d stroll her home, and Mama Dog would go on to work.
It took Dr. Homer about five minutes to make the diagnosis: gout. “You’re kidding,” sez I. “Well, no,” sez he. I told him how Baby Dog had the croup a couple months back. “I feel like we’re being attacked by the eighteenth century,” I said. That made the doctor laugh, so I filed it away for later use in the blog, because that’s the way life works once you start blogging. Since then, I’ve added: “What’s next? The ague? The vapours? Black bile?”
Gout, if you’re curious
, is a painfully swelling in a joined caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals. I should hasten to point out, anecdotally, that IT HURTS LIKE FUCKING HELL! Dr. Homer prescribed some pain pills and some anti-inflammatory pills. I was already taking Thursday off to get some dental work done – good timing at least – and he said I ought to be okay to work by Friday. He also ordered a blood test to confirm the diagnosis, so I hobbled across the hall to get that, asking the nurse as I went to tell Mama Dog where to find me.
Mama Dog and Baby Dog showed up at 10:20ish, right as I was about to get the bloodwork done. Mama Dog had a 10:30 meeting, so she had to dash off. I let Baby Dog play for a while with the baby toys in the waiting room and had just started reading her Gerald McBoing Boing
when they called my name. I lifted Baby Dog with my left arm and as I struggled to strap her into the stroller one-handed, it occurred to me how difficult it was going to be to look after her all day. One thing at a time, though. I wheeled her into the little partitioned bloodletting cubicle and she watched with keen interest as the technician tied a tube around my arm and swabbed me with alcohol. I don’t generally watch when I get blood drawn. I’m not needlephobic or anything – I have six tattoos after all – I just don’t like to watch the blood coming out. Baby Dog, on the other hand was all attention. She seemed to find the process quite novel and interesting.
When we were done, we started wheeling our way erratically down Telegraph Avenue. I had my useless right hand tucked up against my chest with an ice pack wrapped around it and my left arm crooked awkwardly because the big bandage the technician had wrapped around my elbow chafed under my jacket. The wheels of the stroller are capricious, so it wasn’t easy to steer left-handed. I would reach down and make necessary course corrections with my right forearm. We sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I Know and Old Lady,” and every now and then I would look up and hope the rain wasn’t going to start again anytime soon.
We stopped on the way at the pharmacy to drop off my Rx. It wouldn’t be ready for a half hour. Baby Dog was overdue for a snack and probably a change, and I couldn’t see her waiting happily in the stroller while the pharmacy staff took a half hour to move my pills from one bottle to another. I said we’d come back later in the afternoon, and we headed on home.
I talked to Mama Dog at nap time. I told her I’d had no idea how difficult it was going to be to do things left-handed. Like changing a diaper, for instance. I managed to get the old diaper off, wipe, and put the new diaper on, but when it came time to get Baby Dog’s pants back on, I was stymied. I just couldn't’ get them up and over the diaper with just my left hand. Finally I figured out that I had to stand her up on the changing table and have her hold on to my shoulders as I pulled her pants up. I had to come up with little accommodations like that for pretty much every routine childrearing task. I almost hit the breaking point when I made her lunch. Peanut butter toast. We keep the peanut butter in the fridge, so it’s always kind of hard. Every tried spreading cold peanut butter on toast with one hand? Ever tried doing it with only the hand that’s not dominant? Trust me, it ain’t easy. I kept thinking of Harold Russell
in The Best Years of Our Lives
, lighting cigarettes claw-handed. He seemed to me more heroic than ever. Mama Dog offered to pick up the meds on the way home from work so that I wouldn’t have to go out again, but I figured that the sooner I had my pills the better. By the time Baby Dog was up from her nap, it was sunny out, without a hint of rain, so we set out once again for the expedition to the pharmacy.
Guess what? When I got home with the pills, I realised the obvious problem. Figured it out yet? Childproof motherfucking caps. Stop and meditate on that for a minute or two. A chap has an illness debilitating his right hand, so you give him pills in bottles that require two hands to be opened. Short of dropping the pill bottles on the floor and stomping on them, there was no way I was getting them open. I might as well have taken Mama Dog up on her offer to pick the pills up, since I wasn’t going to be able to take them until she got home.
I’m happy to report, though, that once I was able to take the pills, they worked. By the time I went to sleep Wednesday night, with just one dosage in me, my hand was already feeling less crippled. When I woke up Thursday morning, the pain was finally confined again to my right index finger. Thursday night, after three more doses, I could actually move the bad finger, though I couldn’t bend it. As I type now – and I’ve been using my right index finger extensively through this long post – it feels pretty close to normal. I still get a jolt of pain if I do something ill-advised, but it’s getting milder and less frequent. So hurrah for modern medicine. And if you’ve never had gout, take it from me – you don’t want it.