Robert’s Hand Blog
by on March 19, 2008 in Hand Blog

Robert’s Hand Blog

If you are viewing this page, you probably heard that I injured my hand quite badly in an accident with glass on March 11, 2005. As a sort of personal journey, I have decided to keep a succinct journal that tracks the process of recovery. I will occasionally post pictures and personal observations about the healing process on this page. Currently I type quite slowly with my left hand, so I won’t go into great verbal detail. I simply don’t have the time to do that right now. I’m keeping this blog in the spirit of education for those who might someday have similar mishaps (and I pray you don’t.)

The blog is basically finished, sealed up and presented here in a final form. When I moved everything to the new site, I rearranged the reverse-order text to a forward order, to make things a bit easier to read. photos will come later.

Thanks to the many people who have written to share their kind wishes for recovery after the hand accident.

March 16, 2005

I’ve had an “Interesting” few days this last weekend. I am typing with left hand, after four hours of surgery Saturday morning (March 12). I slipped with a glass jug that I had been cleaning, which broke and pierced my right wrist, severing an artery, 7 tendons and the ulnar nerve. Quite a mess. I woke up after the anaesthesia with a big fat wrap on my arm, making it rather hard to do anything since then. Things should be OK. I’ll be re-learning how to move three fingers over the next few months, and hoping for sensation to come back to the little finger over that time. Luckily most of my music doesn’t require much hand dexterity (…well, flutes will be tough for a long time, and I guess I won’t be doing another piano album anytime soon!) I have chosen not to cancel my various commitments in the coming months, so I should have plenty of distractions and some extra challenges.

All the best,
Robert Rich

Look, I can move my finger … sorta. 3/16/05

Just back from the hospital, with the cat keeping watch. Thanks to my wonderfully patient wife Dixie for taking pictures and putting up with my clumsiness (and driving me around for the next month or two.) 3/13/05

March 22, 2005

Fight the power!

Or, if nothing better to do, I’ll try every 5-10 minutes to pull up on some rubber bands attatched to hooks glued to my fingernails. Susan Clark at Daniel’s Therapy in Mountain View made a custom molded thermoplastic shell to frame it all. She’s wonderful, with a warm sense of humor and a good understanding of what I should expect in the coming months. The entire left side of the hand feels crawly and numb, with sensations not unlike worms crawling around inside. I think it’s phantom nerve pain, the blunt ends of cut nerves sending confused signals up to the brain.

Me and my stitches, seeing them for the first time, trying not to feel queezy. I’m either smiling for the camera or just gritting my teeth. Wow, that was a big chunk of glass.

March 25, 2005

Today I visited my hand surgeon, Dr. Anthony Nguyen, who removed the stitches and evaluated my progress. Bad news. The tendons have apparently stuck together during the healing process, despite my efforts to keep moving my fingers. He decided to schedule a second surgery for next week, where he’ll go in and un-stick the tendons, separating them from each other and from the scar tissue that appears to be attatching them to the meat nearby.

Despite my best efforts, I got a bit nauseous when he was moving my fingers around, because the stuck tendons feel like they’re pulling on my whole body from the inside. I try to put on a bold face to the whole process, but I must confess I feel a bit defeated today. Hearing that I need another surgery just took the wind out of me.

On the positive side, I was able to wash my hand for the first time in two weeks. That’s an improvement, at least.

Not wanting to post anything too disgusting… but here’s my hand today, right after the stitches came out.

March 31, 2005

Returning back to the larval stage, the giant armiloptera caterpillar is known to pupate several times before emerging fully into its mature winged stage. Notice the thumb-shaped proboscis protruding from the dorsal side of the pupa, which in its mature form will evolve into a sophisticated tool capable of manipulating objects in the animal’s environment.

Yup, second surgery time. Dr. Nguyen went in to cut away the scar tisssue that was binding the tendons together. The tendons to all four fingers got bound together, including the forefinger, which had not originally been injured in the accident. I learned before the surgery that it’s rare for this binding to occur so early in the healing process. Apparently tendons can bind to scar tissue more often in the 2-4 month time-frame. It seems I might be prone to healing almost too fast for my own good. For that reason, Sue Clark (hand therapist) has me on a very intense movement/exercise schedule to keep things from sticking after this new surgery. Every 15 minutes I need to cycle through 10 finger extensions for each of the individual joints on the four fingers, a soft grip with help from the other hand (passive flexion), thumb flexion, and stretching each finger joint up against a toungue depressor. Those exercises take at least 5 minutes, which leaves very little time to do anything else.

April 8, 2005

It’s hard to believe that four weeks have passed since the accident. The time has rushed by in a blur. We took Ian Boddy to the airport today after a successful week of recording. Ian did most of the computer driving while I added opinions and a few simple additions.

Today also marks a major milestone in the recovery process: no more brace, and a lot more stretching. I had a meeting with the hand surgeon and physical therapist together. I thought the stitches would come out today from the second surgery, but no. Dr. Nguyen was rather concerned about my tendency to develop scar tissue so quickly that the tendons are starting to bind up again. (I have a hunch he’s writing a paper on this.) He instructed me to remain without the protective brace, to encourage a wider range of motion; and he decided to leave the stitches in for another week as a protective measure to allow more vigorous stretching.

The therapist told me, “Party time is over. We’ll have some hard work to do.” Meaning that my visits wth her will become quite a bit more painful in the coming weeks. As we attempt to break the tendons free from the binding scar tissue, I will work towards being able to spread my hand flat onto a table surface. It’s like tearing off a scab from the inside. Currently the fingers curl inwards and pull on my wrist tissue as I try this, feeling like someone is yanking on my guts with a fish hook. I think my intake of pain killers might increase for a while. Numb is good. I’m fighting to regain full motion of this hand, and it’s going to hurt.

The fine art of one-handed rock scraping, while Ian Boddy steers the computer and takes a snap.

April 15, 2005

Stitches out from the second surgery today. I’m becoming familiar with the surgical term tenolysis, cutting away the scar tissue that forms around tendons. That’s what we did two weeks ago. We’re discussing another one, in a few months maybe, after the swelling and irritation subsides around my wrist and joints. Next time, we’ll do it without a brace or cast following the surgery, hoping to maintain full motion from the very start.

In the meantime, I’m supposed to keep moving my hand so I don’t lose what little motion I have. The therapist has me on a schedule of stretching, vibration, electrical stimulation, hot/cold baths and tissue massage in an attempt to break up or soften the scar tissue that has once again caused the tendons to bind up in the wrist.

My friend Nick Zirpolo suggested I look into acupuncture. He recommended Chris Macie at Integrated Healing Arts in Palo Alto. I asked the surgeon what he thought, and he shrugged, saying it would probably neither help nor hurt. So, maybe I need a good placebo right now. I will meet with Chris on Monday for an evaluation, and we’ll see if he can help direct my body into reducing its tendency to build thick scar tissue.

In the meantime, I have figured out how to hold a pen again, so I signed the artist statements for the upcoming “Echo of Small Things” box. These aren’t my most legible signatures, but they’ll do for now. Dixie caught me scribbling at our dining room table, preparing for the release:

April 28, 2005

I’m in a philosophical mood today, so stop reading if you get bored by meandering thoughts. Sometimes it just helps a bit to ponder the meaning of life, and I think the hardships that we all face occasionally serve as essential reminders about the importance of enjoying each moment, without which we would slide ahead oblivious into darkness. The Sufis say, “If you have no troubles, buy a goat.”

First, though, a progress report from medical perspectives. I saw the surgeon yesterday, who noted that the scar tissue that has stuck to my tendons is leather hard right now, too tough for him to operate on easily. He wants to wait a couple months to see if it softens, with help from physical therapy and any other means. Hopefully by then the inflammation will have decreased and we will have a more likely chance of success. In the meantime I will learn to function with fingers that barely move – luckily with a thumb that can still grip lightly.

The therapist and I have come to feel that acupuncture might be helping a bit in at least two ways. It seems to be reducing the pain during physical therapy, and it seems to reduce the inflammation for a day or two. It also affords me an opportunity to relax and get slightly better attuned to my body, something which I made a habit of ignoring for the last few years. The acupuncturist gave me a pair of small Bo Ding balls to try to manipulate with my injured hand. Our cat Spice finds them slightly amusing, especially when they jingle (see photo.) My fingers don’t move enough to rotate the balls, so I mostly tilt them against my thumb and use gravity to help them orbit each other.

Now I have a rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to be handicapped – hopefully only for a few months, maybe a year, and luckily in a relatively minor and non-life-threatening way. I’m reminded of the instinctual feelings of pity (usually blended with fear and disgust) that we naturally have for injured or helpless animals. I picture the determination of a three legged dog crossing the street in front of traffic; and rather than feel pity I feel the naturalness of that determination. I know that some people carry their handicaps as stigmata, punishments, reminders of past disaster; but we all only carry the weight of life, nothing more. This weight is a gift. Each of us will return this gift to its giver when we die.

The spirit of life is intense, indomitable, essential and pure. As I think back to the moment when I noticed that my wrist was cut, that I might bleed to death, the will to survive seemed anything but heroic, almost an afterthought. I remember laughing uncontrollably in a state of mild shock, thinking of the humor in this cosmic joke. In such instances the mind shifts seamlessly into pragmatic survival, with the energy of life leaving no opportunity for self-pity or heroism to enter the scene. Now that the emergency is long past I jokingly refer to myself as a gimp. Pity is still meaningless. (Ironically, such self-deprecation can bite back when it comes from outside. Words like “gimp” only seem funny when applied to oneself.)

I am reminded of a distinction that Nietzsche made in The Genealogy of Morals between pity and mercy, stating essentially that pity was a useless emotion deriving from weakness, while mercy was a positive action deriving from strength. I can now sense at a visceral level that pity fails to acknowledge the Life Force, for which all struggle grows naturally from essential being. As sentient animals, we can accomplish such immense acts of kindness and beauty (while hopefully avoiding their opposites) that I see no purpose for such wasted effort.

My largest struggle now comes in the form of laziness. Now that I have survived a small calamity, what mediocrity will I tolerate in order to make life easier? If instead I can manage to stay awake, then how much energy can I muster in order, first, to make myself whole again; and furthermore, to improve myself beyond merely repairing what’s broken.

Such minor hardships can sharpen our focus upon the reservoir of energy that comes to each of us as the gift of life. To whatever extent that we can or cannot reach our greatest potential, such reminders can also teach us humility and kindness, generosity toward the fallen and respect for those who carry the weight of life lightly. We can place into better perspective the essential nature of love and hope.

May 31, 2005

Sorry for the month-long silence. A few people wrote me expressing concern about the fact that I hadn’t updated my journal here, but all is OK. I have been a bit preoccupied with the release of “Echo of Small Things.” Furthermore, there hasn’t been a lot of drastic change in the hand process.

I’m in the midst of an important but boring time in the healing process. With the help of frequent physical therapy and seemingly constant exercise, stretching, and other forms of time-wasting attention, I have been slowly regaining strength in the thumb and index finger while trying to maintain joint motion in the four fingers that are stuck by tendon adhesions. I can lift things with my right hand by using the curl of my fingers and actually letting the scar tissue in the wrist take some of the weight. It sounds disgusting, but I keep hoping the glop in my wrist will tear free someday when I try to use it.

So, basically, I’m in a holding pattern. I’m waiting to meet with the surgeon again in a couple weeks. We’ll discuss the progress and consider a time to do the third surgery. While I wait I’m trying to let things heal and keep the hand moving as freely as possible.

In the meantime I have had an opportunity to ponder the universe of medicine and those victims of physicality who inhabit its vortex. I try to remain optimistic and as “normal” as possible in my flirtations with malfunctioning meat. Black holes exist in this universe. They are psychic black holes, slightly different from Stephen Hawkings’ variety. The medical black hole is surrounded by the event horizon of injury and mortality. I have met victims of these strange attractors. I have met some who have fallen into the vortex of medicine to find themselves inexorably pulled into the looping magnetic fields of depression and chronic pain.

In this parallel universe to the world of the healthy, some unfortunate travellers disintigrate immediately into the passive flotsam of the industrial healthcare system, crushed by the gravity of insurance companies and bureaucracy. Others resist the psychic crush for a time, and retain the outward appearance of their doppelganger in the universe of the healthy. They walk among us with their vital energy constantly sucked from within, distracted by the siren’s call of illness, injury, mortality.

We need powerful thrusters to pull free from this vortex. As we try to escape the gravity of injury we dig inside for hidden reserves of fuel. We sometimes need to drop ballast. We return to the simple activities that take less energy. We postpone projects that can wait for later. We get less done. It’s a part of the healing process.

June 24, 2005

Another long gap has passed without writing, while I still play the waiting game. Today I met with the surgeon , Dr. Nguyen, to decide when to go in for another tenelysis. I’m home now from the meeting feeling somewhat frustrated with the long time this is taking. He wants to wait another two months before the next surgery. He seemed somewhat pleased with the slight softening that the scar tissue in my wrist has shown, and seems hopeful that the muscles in my hand are not starting to atrophy very much due to reduced range of motion. He wants to wait until the scar tissue is softer still, as that will make the surgery easier with more likelihood of success. We’ll meet again in three weeks, and probably decide to cut again in mid-August.

In the meantime, hand therapy continues twice a week, as we work to maintain muscle tone and joint motion. I am working only a little bit on music, so I have fallen behind schedule on the new CD with Ian Boddy. My productivity seems to have taken a big hit, and I find myself rather distracted and barely able to concentrate on music. Part of me seems to have gone off-line for a while. I do expect to get this album edited and mixed soon, so it can come out in Autumn this year. I also feel a need to return to the half-done “Electric Ladder” solo CD, which has been sitting on ice since February. Hopefully my self-inflicted work guilt will force me out of this gimpy state of suspended animation.

July 24, 2005

I met with Dr. Nguyen on Friday, and we are planning the date to do the third surgery around the third week in August. He seemed pleased with the progress of healing, as he has been waiting for the scar tissue to get soft enough to diminish the chance of re-building adhesions after the tenelysis. Now I have about a month to strategize the exercise (and painkiller) regimen that I’ll maintain to prevent re-adhesion. I expect this will mean full-time attention for at least a month and probably longer. Not much more to report, except that I’m trying to work out the finance realities of all this medical stuff. It won’t be cheap.

August 4, 2005

I maintain the standard practice, physical therapy, exercise, waiting for the next surgery with hopes that I get it all working eventually. I woke up from a wonderful dream last week. I dreamt that I was showing my tendon adhesions to someone, curling my fingers and watching the skin on my wrist wrinkle, when I surprised myself with a squelching sensation and – miracle occurred in front of other eyes – the tendons broke free of the scar tissue and I could move freely again. I could feel every grain of tissue slide past the tendons in my dream arm, meaty and visceral, like rubber bands pulled through hamburger. Not a drop of pain, just amusing discomfort in a strangely meaty context. I woke up so hopeful from this dream that I wriggled my fingers trying to recreate the sensation. Damn. Still stuck. I hope that’s what it feels like in a month, when I’m trying to maintain motion through the next tenelysis.

I’ll take a few days off next week. I’m going up to the Sierra Nevada high country to camp with some friends. These folks retrieve me from Silicon Valley every year or so to remind me about the things that really give me joy. Pat Fleming used to work at Sequential Circuits around 25 years ago when I was playing in a band with Rick Davies, who also worked at Sequential and introduced us. Pat now designs elevator control systems in Sacramento, and lives in Fiddletown (gold country) in a cabin with a vineyard, growing grapes and making wine when he’s not thinning the chaparral scrub and poison oak. Pat and I felt like long lost brothers from the moment we met. He grew up in the Sierras and knows them like his own body, and I rely on him for wilderness guidance. We’ll hike with our friend George Bergantz, a geology professor at University of Washington. What joy to have such friends!

Back to the hand recovery stuff…. I have been wanting to write a bit about the fascinating layers of nerve regrowth. I haven’t gone into detail simply because I feared that readers would misinterpret my descriptions as evidence of pain and misery. I should let everyone know that I have been very lucky in terms of pain. I haven’t been bothered much by pain. I’m not saying that I haven’t had some periods of intense sensation, and certainly some painful moments, but for the most part, the intense sensations have been more abstract and interesting than “painful” in the pure sense of the word. Maybe I’m just skilled at dissociation. So please read the next paragraphs with that in mind. This is observation, not complaint.

Nerves on Parade

Immediately after cutting myself, I felt no pain. I think I sensed a slight stinging, but the shock of injury sent an injection of adrenaline and endorphines into my brain, making the whole experience seem distant and surreal. Very coherent, I could observe what had happened visually and mentally, but I couldn’t really feel it. In self-defense my brain shut off those sensations.

The day after surgery, the general anaesthetics worn off, the ulnar nerve started to send a few signals to my brain as it attempted to guess at what was going on downstream. Of course, the nerve had no way of knowing that the signals were false, chemical phantoms from a recent blunted termination.

Confused by the signals, my brain tried to interpret their meaning in the best way that it could. Consciously, I knew these were false interpretations, so I was able to observe them somewhat dispassionately (which I still can, I think.) Yet I was fascinated at how convincing the interpretations could be. At night I would awaken with distinct sensations. Often, these would fall into a few categories: 1) the feeling that someone was pounding a nail into the joint of my little finger; 2) the feeling of putting my fingers into an electric socket at full voltage, or sometimes a slower shocking at steady mid-current; 3) alternating cold and hot burning sensations; 4) a feeling like someone was abrading my hand with sandpaper.

During the next month, I started getting a bit of sensatation in the little finger, which may have come from cross-enervation with the median nerve. These sensations had little relation to reality, though. I could brush a part of my little finger against a surface, and I felt like someone was trying to rip the fingernail off. Or, in a related way, I felt like I had squeezed the fingernail in a vise, then released it, with that intense resonating echo of deep proprioceptive pain. That’s not a good thing, trust me.

Those intense sensations dissipated over the next month, and left behind a lingering electric current. I could tap on my wrist and find the growing tip of the nerve when I sensed a shock ringing up into my hand. I could tell that the new nerve growth came in waves, because certain active times felt different, like worms crawling under my skin. During calmer times, the phantom sensations often felt like a bad burn, as if I had splashed boiling water on my hand the previous day, leaving me with a tingling stinging sharpness.

During this period of healing and regrowth, I had a few moments of outright laughter. Once, I wanted to carry a chilled plastic bottle of drinking water into the studio with me to start some work, and since my right hand couldn’t grip, I clutched it in my right armpit so I could free up my left hand to operate the door key. As soon as I placed the clammy wet bottle against my inner arm, I felt an echo of the cold damp sensation along the numb section of my hand, as if I had dipped it in water, as my ulnar nerve was grasping for any strong sensation that it could find to replace the absence of a signal past where it had been cut. Since then I have sometimes noticed other tactile echoes. If I brush something hot, cold, or textural up against my inner forarm, it often rings in the area where the nerve is re-growing. I think that’s fascinating.

Overall, the nerve regrowth is coming along quite well. Now, in the ulnar area (pinky, ring finger and that edge of the hand) I have rather constant mild tingling- cold- hot- wet- electric- tickling random sensation, as the dendrites of the nerve spread their tentacles through the tissue of my hand. My brain hasn’t quite figured out how to map these new nerve endings. Sometimes it misplaces their location, other times it confuses cold for hot, rough for smooth. I still don’t feel much at the skin level, but I am beginning to feel things inside, if I squeeze my finger firmly. It doesn’t feel like squeezing, but at least it feels like something.

Here’s something else I never thought about: cutting my own fingernails. I do it frequently, as an afterthought since I’m accustomed to keeping them short in order to play piano without interference. With no sensation in some of the fingers I want to trim, it becomes a different process. I actually find myself worried that I’ll cut into my skin, since I can’t feel the clippers. I don’t know how far I’m cutting except from visual inspection. How do manicurists do this for other people? Same thing while cooking: I have to keep my eyes on a flame or a knife edge, to make sure I don’t burn or cut myself without knowing it.

I’m a bit surprised to be feeling some new tingles of nerve growth in the web between my thumb and forefinger, sometimes a line of shooting discomfort when I exercise my fingers into flexion. The ulnar nerve should not be growing there, should it? My physical therapist thinks it’s the median nerve, which may have gotten injured a bit with all the other mess, and now might be re-growing its lost tendrils. It’s a strange feeling, but I figure the sensations are mostly artificial, artifacts of chopped nerves that don’t know what signals to send. They show signs of new growth, and teach a good lesson on the relativity of sensation. That’s a good thing, right?

For me, this remains a science experiment with personal ramifications. I have not been haunted by the pain, but rather fascinated by sensations that show me the inner working of the body’s healing mechanisms. It’s cool stuff.

August 16, 2005

In two days I go in for my next surgery. After that, I’ll keep moving my hand so the tendons don’t get a chance to stick again. I’ll sleep with a CPM (Continuus Passive Motion) device attatched to my wrist, slowly moving my fingers up and down with a stepper motor. I won’t have a brace, only a pressure bandage around the incision, so I should have full motion of my fingers. Maybe I’ll even be able to play piano? Wish me luck!

September 3, 2005

It’s been a rough two weeks. I’m tired. The third surgery was only partly successful in freeing up all the fingers. My tendency to form scar tissue deterred the surgeon from freeing up the little finger and ring finger, because their tendons were stuck to each other up in the palm of my hand, beyond the carpal tunnel. That’s a very sensitive area for scarring, and messing with it risks triggering new adhesions later. (Even people who don’t create excess scarring have troubles in that area.) Furthermore, the tendon connected to the tip joint of the middle finger ruptured during surgery, and it won’t be fixable.

I went back into the hospital last Wednesday with a post-op infection, had a fourth surgery to clean out the wound and spent 5 days on intravenous drip of antibiotics and morphine. It took another few days to recover from the intestinal aftermath of the morphine, and I’m still setting the alarm every 90 minutes at night to wake up and exercise my fingers to keep the gains we achieved in the surgery. On the good side, I can now move my index finger and middle finger independently, so there has been some improvement. Suffice to say I haven’t gotten much work done lately.

I am starting to resign myself to the possibility that I won’t be able to play flute again, at least not my homemade flutes with their wide fingerings. Those flutes require me to lift my little finger independently from my ring finger. Right handed keyboard parts will also be rather clunky, so Open Window may remain my only solo piano CD. I’m trying not to let this get me down, and I feel lucky that I’m mostly known as an electronic composer, where the tools allow me to work in the realm of pure sound, and manual virtuosity doesn’t matter so much. Still, the dark moments do intrude, and I look forward to the near future when I have more energy, the scars have healed over, and I can move onward with all this in the past.

October 12, 2005

Some good things have been happening lately. I’ll see Dr. Nguyen on Friday and I can’t wait to ask him about one of the improvements I discovered. In the last week I have learned to bend the tip joint of my middle finger, which I shouldn’t be able to do since the tendon ruptured. It doesn’t bend very much, and it takes a big effort to isolate it from the other fingers, but if it bends at all I think that means there must be some connection to a tendon. Maybe my weird scarring patterns actually did something useful for a change? Perhaps the loose tendon-end is getting stuck to other tissue that can pull it along? It’s hard to imagine.

Furthermore, as I continue to get a bit more ulnar nerve sensation in the little finger, I am working to get that and the ring finger to move separately again. I doubt that they’ll ever really move freely (they are still stuck to tissue in the wrist), but I have been getting some progress. I even played a bit of flute last week while working on some sound design elements for Paul Haslinger. The flute parts consisted mostly of dissonant overtone screeches, but it felt good to play again regardless.

I have been extremely busy with studio work, and staying very physical these last two weeks during winemaking season. I have been climbing up and down the same staircase that I slipped on 8 month ago, carrying heavy objects with wet shoes. Perhaps I’m a bit extra cautious, but the activity does some good during the process of psychic healing, which must always accompany the physical healing and probably helps pull the physical side along.

January 3, 2006

The hand is slowly repairing parts of itself, but I doubt it will overcome the scar tissue adhesions. This over-active scarring is like a clumsy cousin who intends all the best, but somehow stumbles into everything and sticks to it. The ulnar nerve seems to be growing back still, slowing down a bit but still trying. I watch to make sure I don’t burn or scorch my little finger, since I don’t tend to feel such things for several hours, and then only with a curious discomfort that filters through the tingling. The pinky and ring fingers will probably remain coupled together and stuck at the wrist. The tip of the middle finger will probably always try to flip off my friends, but hopefully they won’t notice.

Work related: I have been making new end-blown flutes that I can play better with limited right-hand motion. The embuchers are different and I haven’t quite mastered them, but I am hopeful that I will get better by the Spring tour. I’m trying hard to finish the new CD by tour time, and feeling lucky that people don’t mostly know me for fast playing.

Things are pretty good, really. When I’m out in public, people usually don’t notice that I’m a but clumsy with my right hand (unless I’m doing a transaction at a cash register and fumbling with my wallet, when I sometimes take long enough that I have to apologize to the person behind me.)

Overall, I feel I have gained back about what I’m going to get, although I still expect strength and sensation to improve over time. I stopped physical therapy in mid-December, because the advantages seemed more related to time than attention at this point, and therapy sessions were getting rather expensive. (74 sessions total.) I send my extreme thanks to Sue Clark and the folks at Daniel’s Therapy for their excellent care (Carlo for the deep tissue massage with steamshovel thumbs, Steve and Quinn for extra assistance, Ron Daniels for runing a skilled and friendly office, Candice and all the others I didn’t name…) Anyone who gets a major injury should work through physical therapy. Really. Healing doesn’t all happen automatically. It’s an active process, and a good therapist can guide the process towards the best results possible.

I send my love and wish all a happy new year! Unless a miracle or disaster occurs in the next few months, I’ll sign off for now and put a cap on this Hand Blog. May similar injuries stay far away from you and those you love. Be good to each other.

– Robert

53 Responses to Robert’s Hand Blog

  1. Michael says:

    Very sorry to read about your accident but glad to find your blog. I had a hand injury (only severed a digit,not near as bad as yours) and am going in for tenolysis in the morning. It has been difficult to get 1st person references on this procedure so it is good to read about your experiences.
    Thanks for the blog and keep the faith.

  2. admin says:

    Good luck on the tenolysis! Make sure you maintain some good physical therapy, and do your best to keep those little guys moving. Sorry to hear about the injury. Nobody wants to compete for “who has the worst injury” – a game I hope to lose, and never play. Body-image is a fragile thing, as are bodies, and I wish you much success. – Robert

  3. Jennifer says:

    Robert – I am curious where you are as of today with your recovery? Did you have any additional surgeries? A year ago, I cut both flexor tendons in my pinky. I had them repaired and then went in for tenolysis. The scar tissue was so thick that the tendons could not be freed from it. The surgeon removed my tendons and a couple months later, I had a tendon graft done. I again required a tenolysis. It has been two weeks since the tenolysis. I began therapy the day after surgery and unfortunately, I still cannot bend my finger. The surgeon said I form a lot of scar tissue and quickly. Thanks, Jennifer

  4. admin says:

    Hi Jennifer – it sounds like you have the same problem I have. For me, things are about as I left them, five years ago. The process of improvement slowed down, the tendons are still stuck together by scar tissue in the wrist. I have come to realize that the body sometimes just wants to do things its own way, and even the most heroically talented surgeon can’t fix it. Sometimes it’s a bit depressing, but it’s important to maintain some perspective on these things. It could be worse, and we learn to adjust our skills to compensate for these little glitches in life. I wish you success and good health! – RR

  5. Ian says:

    Hi robert sorry to hear about your injury, a few years ago I have cut two of my tendons on my right hand, pinky and ring finger. after the physical therapys it was very overwhelming due to so many visits, also very expensive so I quit going. Now I can barely bend them, as if they are stuck. I can bend the ring finger just about an inch or two, and the pinky no movement at all. So I was wondering if I had surgery again would it be fixed? Thank you

  6. Ian says:

    Also robert if you have pictures of your hand I would like to see them thank you

  7. Ian says:

    Btw how is your hand now any better ?

  8. admin says:

    Hi Ian – Thank you for the note. I sent a personal email so that you would not have to discuss your own situation in public. As for me – well, the hand does function, but the attachment of scar tissue to the tendons is a permanent feature that I have learned to live with. Such is life, as we learn to carry around all the little mistakes we have made.

  9. Ann Bourque says:

    So glad I stumbled across your blog…and I use the word “stumbled” very loosely, as “stumbling” is what caused my injury as well! I am a right-handed artist and art teacher and on march 3, 2011 I stumbled while carrying a glass mason jar, fell and landed on teh shattered glass. Severed my right middle finger off completely at teh bottom joint. Have been through tendon reconstruction, tendon removal due to failed surgery, hunter rod insertion, tendon graft, and now just 4 days ago, my first tenolysis at Duke. I, too, form scar tissue quickly and it is such a nightmare! They tell me to keep moving my finger and doing the exercises (which I am) but my fear is that the scar tissue will come back and ruin all of the good work. Your positive outlook and attitude was so reassuring to me – as an artist as well – that you can keep such an upbeat attitude even at the loss of producing some of your music is inspiring to me. I have had a very hard time dealing with not being able to paint like I used to, and maybe never playing tennis again. This whole injury 10 months ago has been life-changing…and there is still such a long way to go. Thank you for all of your entries & I hope that you have regained much of your hand use…so helpful to read similar stories…esp when you feel so alone in all of what we are going through, hand injury-wise. THANK YOU and best in 2012.

  10. admin says:

    Hi Ann – I am very sorry to hear about your injury. I understand your feelings, trust me. Although I certainly do my best to stay upbeat, and definitely in the healing process that’s essential… I would be lying if I were to say I always feel so positive. As important as it is to stay optimistic, it’s also important to allow ourselves the frustration and forgive ourselves for the injury. I still feel stupid for the accident, and I guess that’s natural. I wish you success and strength. – RR

  11. Laura says:

    I thank you so much for creating this blog, and sharing your story. Similarly to the poster above me, I cut both flexor tendons my right middle finger at the base (zone 2) with broken glass. I am nearly nine weeks post op from my tendon repair, and still can’t actively bend the finger, though I pretty much have full passive range of motion. I will be seeing my dr Tuesday to discuss the tenolysis procedure. I am an artist as well, and a passionate music fan! While I am so sorry that you were faced with such an injury, especially as a musician (!), I must tell you, reading your blog has helped me to feel not so alone in my struggle through recovery (which really means a lot)! If you wouldn’t mind giving an update, I’d love to hear what you’re up to now.
    Thanks once again,

  12. admin says:

    Hi Laura – Thanks you for your thoughtful comment. I wish you luck with the tenolysis. Scar tissue is such a strange thing, both a friend and the enemy. My hand will probably remain as it is for the remainder of my life, but I must keep going with my career. In fact I’m on tour right now. I think I mentioned elsewhere that I rebuilt many of my flutes so I could reach the holes with less finger motion, and I use more computer assistance when I perform. But I’m lucky because I didn’t have a reputation as a virtuoso to start with. Much success to you with your recovery! – Robert

  13. Alice says:

    Hi Robert,

    When I injured my left index finger about 3 weeks ago (fell on broken glass also), I thought it was quite stupid of me to let such an accident happen, I didn’t realize the severity of it at all. Although I can move my finger now to a certain extent, I cannot hold a fist and it was difficult for me to write for some time (I’m left-handed). I’m no artist but I love to write, even though I mostly type these days, the thought of myself never being able to hold a pen and write again was simply daunting. I cannot imagine the pain you must’ve gone through as a musician! I must say I’m truly impressed and encouraged by your courage and your positive attitude towards all those procedures, and the way that you try to cope with the situation, instead of giving up.

    I believe things happen for a reason, who knows, maybe you’re meant to be the next Django Reinhardt! (He played guitar with 2 good fingers and 2 injured fingers and his music is still amazing!)

    Good luck and thanks for the blog!


  14. admin says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Alice, and I am sorry to hear about your injury. Whether or not things happen for a reason, I think we still owe it to ourselves and those around us to make the best of whatever happens. The full wonder of existence easily outweighs the occasional setback. Wishing you a good recovery and a return to writing! All the best – Robert

  15. saptarshi mondal says:

    is there any surgery for my index

    my index finger joint was
    dislocated,when i was 10(2000),then my
    doctor replaced my finger bone(the
    doctor was not good).then my finger more or less o.k ,there
    was no pain …but i can’t fist or bend
    properly my index finger after surgery till i am serious about i want to resolve is there
    any surgery or any any any way to fix it.thank u SIR . show the image

  16. Lea Ann says:

    Really appreciated your blog. Had a pretty nasty knife injury to my left index finger a few months ago and am still left with limited hand function. Both my right and left hands were already weak due to carpal tunnel so the accident didn’t help things much! Looks like I may have adhesions forming so more surgery may be in the cards. Anyway, reading about your journey was helpful because I could relate to some of the things that you had gone through. Thx!

  17. admin says:

    Wishing you success with the treatment, Lea Ann. It’s not easy.

  18. amy g says:

    I wanted to thank you for your blog, i was feeling very much alone. I am 2 days post surgery from my seventh surgery for a right hand injury. This surgery was for an artificial silicone rod was placed to prepare for a tendon graft. This process has been going on for over a year and I have suffered two tendon ruptures, failed tenolysis, MRSA infection and more. It is terribly trying physically, mentally and emotonally. I am unable to perform my career, general dentistry! I would love feedback from anyone who has undergone a complete tendon graft

  19. admin says:

    Hi Amy – That sounds like a rough year. You have traveled further down this road than I did, as I chose to give up after the fourth surgery. I feel lucky to have sufficient hand-motion to function, and I didn’t want to press my luck further with extra surgeries. The scar formation seems to be a very common problem. I recommend that you research new ways to use your skills in dentistry that don’t require the same right-hand dexterity that you once had. It can be very challenging, both emotionally and physically, but you might have no other choice, at least in the short term.

  20. Theodor says:

    Hello! It feels good to hear from others sharing similar experiences. I’ve felt alone in my pain until now. I had a very similar injury as you, but on my left forearm. It happened in India (im swedish) on an Ashram. I fainted and fell on a glass jar. Severed my ulnaris nerve, tendons and stuff. My first reaction was also laughter. So surreal…Then to action. I had a crappy surgery on a small local hospital. Then stayed on meditation-centers, trying spiritual self-healing. It helped to soothe the traumatised mind, but no miracle healing ocurred.
    I went home and had nerve-transplant with little improvement. My tendons also got stuck, but the doctors didnt say shit about it. I first heard about tenolysis here, so im considering it. But noone here seems to have sucess with it. Im doing hard deep tissue massage now for a few months. I belive there is a way!

    Blessings to you all !

  21. admin says:

    Hi Theodor – it certainly is not a pleasant experience, and I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing this. Indeed, it seems that tendon adhesion is not rare, and the repair is difficult and not always successful. During this time I think you will need every reserve of strength from your spiritual training, to help move yourself forward in life and try not to let it get you depressed. Keep trying to find a good surgeon, and I wish you much success! – Robert

  22. Elizabeth Rohde says:

    Hi Robert! I found your blog quite by accident, when goggling scar tissue and broken fingers. I too fear that I am failing in hand therapy, due to the length of time before my medical coverage found a surgeon for my hand. I fell in backyard, severely dislocating my middle finger of right hand, and breaking ring finger at base, same hand. This is my predominant hand. 3 weeks went by in delays due to said medical coverage nt knowing who they had for a hand surgeon! I did find out at week 3, they did indeed have a hand surgeon who they had listed as as purely a plastic surgeon. Hand at this point had to be re-broken and set with 3 4″ pins for almost 4 weeks. The fun part? Still swollen and these two fingers are stiff and swelling is still there in both fingers and in palm. I am interested in the surgery involved in taking out the scar tissue. I feel as if the therapist doesn’t think I am doing the cold/warm baths for hand, nor the exercises. It becomes so daunting, doesn’t it? Any other web sites or info on your surgeon would be greatly appreciated! While my doctor has a great reputation, I would like a second opinion if needed and your surgeon was willing to look further into the rapid repair of your own body and producing scar tissue. Thank you so much! Glad I found your blog! I was beginning to think I was crazy on what was going on! 🙂 Take care, Elizabeth

  23. admin says:

    Thanks for your contribution, Elizabeth – I wince a bit when I hear your story. I don’t know where you are located, but I imagine there are some good hand surgeons near you. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area (south bay – “Silicon Valley”) Anthony Nguyen was my surgeon – a very good one, but even he was unable to prevent scar tissue from returning after surgery. It’s important to keep up with physical therapy, even when it hurts and perhaps doesn’t seem to be helping. Even if things don’t heal completely the way you want them, you will at least have better strength and mobility if you keep up the practice. I wish you a full and successful recovery. – Robert

  24. Lawrence says:

    Thank you for your blog. I’m 6 weeks out from surgery to reattach the flexor tendon to the last joint on my right middle finger. It to has been trapped in scar tissue. Hearing others accounts has been very good for my mental healing.

  25. admin says:

    Good luck with it! You are not alone. – RR

  26. Darcy in Iowa says:

    Robert, thank you for your blog! At the end of September, I severed the tendon in my pinkie finger while stabbing at frozen fruit with a butter knife – talk about a silly accident! I barely had a cut on my finger and thought the chiropractor could fix my “strained muscle”.

    What a shock it was to hear that I had to have surgery and that my right-hand (predominant hand) would be immobile for 6 weeks.

    I had surgery on Oct 4th and have range-of-motion back in my pinkie except for the very tip. My physical therapist thinks it is that pesky scar tissue causing problems.

    It’s amazing how my emotions have cycled up and down since the accident happened. And all over a little pinkie! I’m really thankful that I ran across your blog and see that there are others experiencing the same and that I’m just not being weak.

    I’m blessed to work for a company that has provided me with excellent insurance and short-term-disability to cover all of the expenses. I doubt I would have had the surgery, etc without it.

    Robert-I applaud you on keeping positive and moving forward with your life, adjusting it as needed. It’s a great reminder to myself and others to do the same!

    Darcy in Iowa

  27. admin says:

    Hi Darcy – thank you for sharing your story. I think these problems with scar tissue are quite common, and whether a pinkie or a whole hand it can still be a struggle to move forward. Keep up the positive attitude! All the best – Robert

  28. LittleLotte in NYC says:

    Hi everyone,

    I enjoyed reading through these posts. I am considering a fifth finger surgery (tendon rod procedure) to correct scarring in my finger that I injured three years ago. My injury was in Zone II – No Man’s Land — via a kitchen knife accident. I had three unsuccessful surgeries (two ruptures), and two surgeries that, though successful, still resulted in a lot of scar tissue. The hope is that my scarring will be less so with the tendon rod procedure. I live in NYC and have had two surgeons and three physical therapists. Absolute nightmare. I’d love to know how anyone here tracked with the tendon rod procedure and if it helped reduce scar in any way. All my best to everyone here.

  29. LittleLotte in NYC says:

    EDIT — Oops. This will actually be my sixth surgery (not fifth) as I said above. I guess when you’re dealing with tendon repair — difficult to keep count!!

  30. admin says:

    Good luck with the repair! Alas, I gave up after my third tendon repair developed a post-op infection. It seemed to me like my body was becoming the culprit in terms of scar tissue formation, so each additional surgery seemed to increase my problems. Everyone is different though, and I hope you have good success. – RR

  31. Jeri Leigh says:

    Hello Robert,
    I too thank you for this blog and hope your recovery is still going forward. What a journey you are having and not a fun one at that! I found you while trying to obtain knowledge about abnormal scar formation and your blog has made me feel not so alone and much more informed.

    I have not suffered a traditional accident but am not recovering properly from having surgery on my non-dominate left hand on Dec. 12, 2013. I had 3 surgeries on that hand that day. CMC Arthoplasty (trapezium bone removed and joint reconstruction with part of my ligament), trigger finger release for the 3 middle fingers and carpal tunnel release. I have felt from early on that something was wrong and that it was due to excessive scar tissue adhering to the underlying tissue and ligaments and tendons and after reading all you’ve written I’m even more convinced. My hand and arm are atrophying and now my shoulder has frozen too but that has just gotten a steroid shot so now I can move the shoulder and hopefully it won’t get worse.

    The scar on the thumb is nearly L shaped with the stuck part in the middle at the reconstructed area. I have had several comments from people that I look like my thumb was cut off and sewn back on the wrong way! The trigger finger scar runs 2″ across the palm of my hand and looks and feels like I have a giant wad of cotton stuck there under the skin. The carpal tunnel scar is not as bad but still feels full and tender and tight.

    I really understood your post about your dream and your hand was moving and there was no wrinkled skin! I keep dreaming my PT will be doing a deep massage and there will be these pops and everything will be free! Being a glass and jewelry artist this ordeal is devastating for me and I fear that I’ll never get normal again.

    My surgeon finally said to me last week that he has never had this happen to a patient before (not sure how to find out if this is true) but he feels that if I don’t have marked improvement in the next 4 weeks he wants to go back in and open all incisions and remove the scar tissue and what ever else he can do. I think I need to get a second opinion and with a specialist.

    I will keep watching your blog for your progress and others that have posted and I would welcome any comments or information. I live in NC so perhaps I need to seek out doctors at Duke. Many others that have had this surgery or at least the CMC say well you’re only 3 months in and it takes 6 months to a year to reach the best recovery but I’m listening to my body and gut instinct and it’s saying no, something’s is wrong!

    Thank you again for being so kind to have put your experience out here to help others. I wish you more and more recovery each day.

    Kind regards,
    Jeri Leigh

  32. admin says:

    Hi Jeri – Sorry to hear you are having these problems. As you can see from the many responses from others having similar problems, you are not alone. My own gut feeling, is that this aggressive scar formation may be genetic rather than the fault of our doctors. I suspect that multiple surgeries may not be the correct solution. I say this with caution, though, because I am not trained in medicine. I have come to learn that surgeons themselves debate about the best time to try scar removal: whether it’s better to go in soon after the initial surgery, or to wait at least six months until the inflammation has completely subsided. The early approach benefits from the fact that scar tissue has not turned quite so leather-hard, yet suffers from the body’s continued over-zealous reaction, ongoing since the first insult. When surgery is postponed, it gives the body a chance to calm down a bit, yet the scar tissue has become very difficult to remove. My surgeon tried both approaches, and unfortunately I scarred up each time, so it may not make any difference. I suggest you do get a second opinion, but don’t assume that it’s anybody’s fault. Some of our bodies just don’t react well to surgery. I plan to avoid any elective surgery in the future, for fears of bad scarring reactions.

  33. Marilina says:

    Hi Robert, I found your blog while searching information on tendons getting stuck. I had a hand surgery on february 10th, 2014, due to my 2nd metacarpal bone being fractured in 3 pieces (I fell down at work.) My doctor ordered the physical therapy appointments 20 days after my surgery. I felt something was wrong with my tendon right away as I couldn’t low down my index finger. After reading your blog I understand what happened to my tendon and I’m kinda baffled that my dr keeps telling me that “it will unstuck”.I don’t believe her! Thanks for sharing your pictures and story and I hope you are better now. From Buenos Aires, Argentina,
    Marilina Heusdens
    PS: Your cat is really cute! she looks like taking care of you on the second picture!

  34. admin says:

    Hi Marlina – I’m glad you could find a bit of support here, and I am sorry about your problems. Your doctor may not be aware that some people are more prone to scar adhesions than others. Work with your physical therapist and try to keep things moving if you can. Ask your therapist if he/she can recommend a doctor for a second opinion. In any case, rushing into a new surgery is not a good idea, and your doctor was probably correct to wait 20 days before physio, to allow the surgery to heal up a bit (notice how I got an infection when I tried too hard to keep it moving.) I sympathize, this isn’t fun, and there are no guarantees in life.

    Also, thanks for the kind words about our cat Spice. She has since died of old age (she was about 15 years old in those pictures from 2005). She was very empathic for a cat. We sometimes called her “doggy-cat” because she was so attuned to emotions. She always wanted to be close, and would follow me all around the house.

  35. Marge says:

    Hi Robert,
    Thank you for creating this blog and providing a forum for folks to express their concerns and experiences as well. There seems to be limited information and support out there for this. I also admire your resilience, serenity and positive attitude immensely.
    I first found and read your blog a month ago or so as I was recovering from a tendon transfer surgery involving my left thumb and index finger. I was still in a cast at the time. My doctor, although very competent, was not very informative and it was a chore to keep him in the room long enough to answer one question, never mind the multitude of questions i had. So i scoured the internet for more information.
    My reason for posting this comment right now is actually to tell a positive story for future readers, who may be very worried and scared going through the process of dealing with tendon injury, surgery and recovery. I think it would have helped me to hear a success story at a time that I was frequently imagining the worst case scenario. Although it seems excess/intense scar tissue is not uncommon, it probably is not totally common either, the people who don’t have that problem after surgery just don’t write about it I suppose.
    I have been very lucky. I am two weeks into PT after the cast came off. I do have some scar tissue binding my tendons, but it is not too extensive and has been reduced with heat, exercise, ultrasound and massage to a point that I have pretty good range of motion. Maybe it will always hurt to make a fist, but I can make one, and maybe with time things will loosen up more and become “normal” again. My brain is still a little confused as to which tendon goes where, I cannot bend or straighten my thumb without the index finger doing the same, but that too is less than in the beginning. My wrist is gradually becoming more flexible (I broke it twice in a 6 month period.) I am so very thankful for my healing, knowing that such a recovery is not a given, especially when you are not so young anymore (45). My passion is spending time in the big rugged outdoors, hiking and rock climbing and I have missed doing what I love these past few months. I intend to spend my summer in the mountains and hopefully not worry too much about re-injury.
    Wishing you well in your life and hoping you continue to pursue your passions even if it is in a different way than before.

  36. admin says:

    Thank you for the positive news! I am so happy to hear a success story. Truly, I think that if this scar-adhesion problem was so common, then the surgeons would warn everyone about it before planning to cut, at least for elective surgery. Of course, in many cases, a serious accident doesn’t offer that luxury, as the surgery is done as an emergency. I wish you much success in your PT and future outdoor activities! – RR

  37. Marina says:

    Hi Robert, thanks so much for this blog (and all of you other wonderful contributors). I severed my flexor tendon 2 weeks before my April wedding (encounter with a soup can went awry). The doctors gave me stitches and sent me on my way. A week later, I came back, pointing out that my thumb couldn’t bend…at all.

    Surgery took place a week after the wedding (1.5 months ago). We had to pay out of pocket to get surgery :'( because my tendon had started retracting into my wrist and insurance took too long.

    Physical therapy is only causing marginal improvement (barely a blip), and I am slowly losing hope. As I read this blog, I spent nearly an hour massaging my scar tissue in my thumb. The exercises make me nauseous, but I am determined to make it work. Has anyone had success massaging the tissue free? Or any other natural therapy?

  38. admin says:

    Alas, I massaged the heck out of my wrists and mostly got a brief respite with squishy scar tissue. I kept dreaming of the day a squelchy painful ripping sound might free the whole thing up, but it never happened. Sometimes things just don’t quite heal the way we wish they would. I hope you have better luck, and good healing with this surgery.

  39. Crystal says:

    Wow! What a helpful blog!!! I had my flexor tendon cut 14 weeks ago (April 9, 2014) when my ex-bf got high on drugs and stabbed me with a serrated butcher’s knife.

    Anyway-I was looking for resources about the next steps I’ll have to go through and only found medical sources, so this is amazing!

    I’ve only had the initial flexor tendon repair surgery 14 weeks ago but can’t move or bend my thumb or middle finger. It’s also completely numb at the base of all of my fingers and ALL throughout my thumb. It’s also completely and uncomfortably numb at my scarred area (where I was stabbed and they did the surgery incision, which is 4.25″ long on the crease of my left wrist) and it’s puffed up and there’s an obvious lump of numb scar tissue at that location.

    Any suggestions as to what to do??? I’m desperate!!!

    If so, PLEASE e-mail me at



  40. fawad says:

    Hi robert. Sorry to hear about your injury. I feel lucky to have read this blog. I cut my pinky finger with a knife and thought it would recover itself so i bandaged it. Its been 2 months now and the upper part of my pinki can not move. If i dont get a surgery and leave it like this, is there any chance of my tendons growing towards my hand or wherever. What do you suggest? I dont want to get surgery. is there any long term problem that can occur if i dont get a surgery? Thanks in advance

  41. Amy says:

    Hello, Robert. I just wanted to say hello and thank you (thanks to all the commenters too) for writing this blog. I am sorry your mobility didn’t return as much as you’d hoped. Happy for you though that you have such a positive attitude and have learned to adapt and overcome. I broke/crushed my left middle finger just above the second joint at work (hydraulic machinery). I had surgery on March 13 during which 3 pins were inserted to hold the bones in place for proper healing. Middle pin straight through the knuckle all the way to the tip, pin on the right at an angle and came out the left side between second and third knuckle (cut off level with my skin), and pin on the left situated same as the right pin just going opposite direction. My entire arm up to the elbow was immobilized for 2 1/2 weeks and the 2 side pins were pulled (yes pulled from where the pins protruded from my middle knuckle) out. I was allowed to move my wrist and uninjured fingers from then only while seated. If I was standing or sleeping I had to wear my immobilizing splint. I spent most if my time sitting. 🙂 3 weeks later the middle pin was pulled and I began therapy. My finger is stuck at about a 40degrees angle and have plateaued in mobility gains enough that my specialist feels it’s time for tenolysis. I have the surgery day after tomorrow. Hoping all goes well and maybe after the intense therapy I’ve been assured I’ll be participating in, I will have better range of motion and no more surgery. One never dreams a split second accident can cause months (or more) of time recovering. Bless all if you. Heal well.

  42. admin says:

    Hi Amy – Thanks for your kind words, and so sorry to hear about the accident. It certainly reminds us of how fragile is this thin membrane that protects us. I wish you success with the tenolysis, and hoping you maintain your positive attitude. – RR

  43. admin says:

    to fawad – sorry for taking so long to see and approve your comment. I recommend you see a hand surgeon about this. The tendon will not regrow on its own. It sounds like you sliced through some important bits. Sorry to hear that. Good luck with it. – RR

  44. Kelly says:

    Hi Robert, I just want to say thank you so much for writing this blog! I’ve been looking all over the internet for something on tendon injuries in the hand and had found nothing until I stumbled upon your blog. I am so sorry you have not regained full movement in your hand, truly I am.

    My story ~ I also slipped and fell on a piece of glass, mine was off a glass vase though, I sliced straight through the palm of my left hand, I straight away rang for an ambulance and when I got to hospital I got told I needed surgery as I couldn’t tell anything on any of my fingers, minus my little finger. And I also couldn’t move any of my fingers, minus my little finger. So I went down to surgery and when I awoke, I got told I had cut the tendons connecting to all my fingers, minus my little one and my thumb and all my nerves to the same fingers but also to my thumb! I was devastated, and I still am. I am a young mother, (21) and at the time of this unfortunate accident happening I was (and still am) going through some bad post-natal depression. I am terrified of the scar tissue sticking to the surrounding tissue, I am 4, nearly 5 weeks post op, and I still have limited movement in my fingers, I can bend all the tips of my fingers, but my hand remains completely bent, when I don’t wear my splint. Do you think maybe my scar tissue has stuck? I’m so terrified of having another surgery. I actually have do much admiration for you, and people who have commented on your blog for going through surgery so many times! I don’t even know if my scar tissue had stuck or not and I’m absolutely terrified! Thank you, in advance.

  45. admin says:

    Wishing you much success, Kelley – it is a bit scary. It takes strength and a willingness to struggle up out of the depression that naturally kicks in after injury. Remember that it’s normal to feel like hiding after a major trauma to the body, and it’s never easy to be reminded of one’s mortality. Of course I could never venture to guess if you are having scar adhesions. You’ll have to ask your doctor or hand therapist about that. Speaking of which, if you haven’t searched out a physical therapist who specializes in hand injuries, do it right away. Make sure it’s someone you trust, who has a healing personality. It’s very important. Strength to you! – RR

  46. Sarah says:

    Dear RR, Much gratitude for your willingness to share your story. Mine, A cake dome attacked me. While washing, the nob slipped out of my left hand, hit the pedestal, split into a knife, bounced toward my body I was removing from the accident site. But, no, the stupid cheap glass snagged me. “That thing CAUGHT me!” I exclaimed. Today is day 472 of all things “hand”, 5 surgeries, 4 hospitalizations, 1 week on Vanco IV, 4,000 mg. Oxy, (cold turkey since Jan.), 70 Occupational Therapy sessions, etc. I had to forgive: myself for dish washing outside of protocol, my husband for delaying tendon re-attachment twice, my dog for one of the ruptures, a Therapist for maladjustment my splint, causing a rupture, my mom for dying prematurely just because she didn’t want a blood transfusion (a bad mom’s better than none when her child’s body’s injured), my health insurance for huge co-pays, the cake dome manufacturer for not making safety glass only, etc. I’ve loved and warmly thanked: myself for my optimism, my husband for getting my health care, my dog for outgrowing puppyhood, my Therapist for adopting my case exclusively, my mom for praying for me while she was alive. Most importantly, I love praise and thank the Lord Jesus for miraculously re-attaching my right hand finger tendons when ruptured a third time with no surgical repair option. 4 MRI’s reviewed by 2 MD’s confirm this report. Not that God re-attached my right ring and middle fingers, but that the MRI’s were changed with no explanation. Bless God!! I’m a landscape painter and have yet to get back to work because my fingers haven’t wrapped around my paintbrushes. But it’s only day 472! What do I expect? As Jesus said, to “Be made whole”

  47. admin says:

    My goodness, Sarah, what an ordeal. At least you still have your life and your sense of humor. Much success to you in the years that remain, as everything from now on is a gift, right?

  48. chris says:

    I recently severed only 1 flexor tendon in my pinky. I was unable to bend my pip joint. The doctor convinced me surgury was the best option. We did the surgery, now my ring finger barley movds,unable to make a fist. I’m 1 month post op and have barley any movement in my pinky joint. I am able to make my hand flat on a table how ever. I guess my question is my therapist thinks I may need the 2nd surgery later on.
    Did u find the after math of surgery to be worth it? I motocross and before the surgery I was able to make a fist move my wrist etc now it seems hard todo anything I pretty much only can move 3 fingers…. this whole situation ius very scary and nerve wracking, how ever you cut your wrist I sliced my pinky in zone 2 ( no mans land).. not a very good out come. Hope your doing better… PS I constantly such I’d hear a pop and the tissue in my wrist would break freeing my fingers, very scared and don’t know if I should risk a 2nd surgury. In fear it would limit even more of my motion-.

  49. admin says:

    Well, Chris, as we can see from many of the posts from others in similar territory, certain people seem more prone to scar formation and tendon adhesion. The pinky and ring finger are closely tied together because of the ulnar nerve, and their tendons pass through a different bone structure then the others. My own experience with surgery was not miraculous, my scarring came right back. I hope you have better luck. However I certainly am not in a position to give medical advice – I think you need a frank dialog with your doctor and physical therapist.

  50. Jan says:

    Hi, I’m 5 weeks post op from zone 2 flexor tendon repair of 5 out of 8 tendons on my 4 fingers of left hand, plus severed 8 nerves and destroyed palm side blood vessels. Mine was a skill saw accident. Very painful and slow recovery, good to read that there are others out there to commiserate with.

    My hand therapist says I’m doing as well as can be expected in this painful recovery. I was rushed to emergency surgery at our regional trauma center 2 hours away, in Seattle. Thanks for sharing.

  51. admin says:

    Hi Jan – wow, that sounds nasty. I can imagine it’s quite painful. I wish you ongoing success with your hand therapy. I’m hope this little journal helps you feel less alone in some small way. Good luck! – RR

  52. Chrissy says:

    Hi Robert, your blog has been just the tonic I need!
    You are completely right, we have to live with our mistakes and somehow use them to make ourselves a better person. It is ‘the inside’ which defines us, not the body. You have taught me that whilst we can mourn and grieve for what we have lost we also have a responsibility (to ourselves and others) to pick ourselves up and appreciate what we still have. If you can make new flutes to find a way around your injuries I’m sure we can all find a way around ours, even if it may mean starting out again on a new and different venture.
    I stupidly,(best not ask how) cut my right thumb (I am right handed) at the base, 5 weeks ago, leaving a deep 4cm gash and just a thread of tendon remaining. Going on holiday the following day I needed an immediate operation to repair it. The surgeon was brilliant and did it that night, me happily chatting to him throughout. I was entirely focussed on was flying to Fuertaventura to celebrate my sister’s birthday with her and he enabled this to be possible. I will be forever thankful.
    Determined not to let the plaster-cast be a hindrance my sister and I had a wonderful time abroad. My thumb was set in position so I could hold a glass and I was soon able to put tiny earrings on holding my forefinger to my thumb.
    On return from holiday my plaster was removed. I was shocked to discover I could only fractionally move the tip of my thumb. Naively I had thought it would be fully moveable. I was then given a plastic splint with my thumb in the ‘wave’ position. My thumb couldn’t touch my fingers any more. Tasks became harder, some impossible. Gradually, like you, I found new ways to do most things. My left hand learnt lots of new skills! Other things like putting on necklaces I still had to (have to) ask help. I started therapy and was given exercises to do and was shown ways to massage the scar. I was very enthusiastic for the first weeks but movement in the tip of my thumb has not improved at all. It seems the tendon has become attached to scar tissue. I have read everything I can find about methods to reduce scar tissue to release the tendon and consistently try them, but nothing seems to be working. Has anyone actually found themselves massaging a scar when the tendon is suddenly released??? (I dream it too…)
    I, like you and many others who have commented, am an artist. I have yet to discover if I will be able to hold a pencil or brush well (but am hopeful all will be good when my therapist introduces me to it this coming week). I also play the piano. I have been delighted to discover that my forefinger naturally plays the notes my thumb once did so I can still enjoy most of my own compositions on the keyboard. How well I will be able to play classical music when I am able to use my thumb again I do not know but must admit to feeling a little daunted..
    I am having to face the possibility that I might never have full motion of my thumb again. I tell myself there are millions of people in the world with far worse injuries to deal with but guess it is my problem and something I have to face and come to terms with.
    Thanks so much for your honesty in sharing your blog, it has been so helpful to me. Thanks too to everyone else who has commented. I have come to realise that I must perservere with my exercises, not rush into another operation to release my tendon as it comes with no guarantees and can continue to lead a full and happy life regardless of the outcome of my injured thumb. Perhaps I can even become the better person for it. Life is a gift. If the gift of full motion is taken from me, or indeed anyone, like frayed silks of tapestry ripped apart perhaps a new possibly even more beautiful picture can in time be created.
    I wish you the very best with your music and your life. You are a talented guy with great positivity and a huge zest for life. I am sure you will continue to make life the richer for many just through you being in it. My life is certainly richer!

  53. admin says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Chrissy. It must be frustrating to have your thumb stuck. I often feel grateful that I can still make a pinching motion. I think you might still consider the possibility of a tenolysis in a few months, after everything settles down a bit. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did. I’m not convinced that the massage therapy does much to free a stuck tendon, but at least it feels good. Wishing you good progress, and a continued positive attitude!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2014 JamSession © All rights reserved.