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When the Doctor Says “No More”: Dealing With Disappointment

Bandaged Arm_webThe ‘alien egg’ has hatched!

However, my most recent surgery didn’t go quite as planned.

I haven’t actually seen my hand yet (it is currently wrapped up in a big swath of bandages with a drainage bulb protruding from my upper arm), but I’ve been told that that ‘alien egg’ did not produce enough tissue to cover all of the scars that we were trying to remove.  My surgeon, Dr. Tim Schaub, was also unable to do the bone graft which was going to help realign my fingers.

And, I was  informed that this was my last surgery.

That is good news…and bad news.  The good news is obvious — I don’t have to undergo another surgery and recovery period.  When I am recovered from this surgery, I will be done and able to move on with my life.  However, my hand is not in the condition I have always hoped it would be when we were finished. There are two major problems that I’m going to have to learn to live with, and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.

wrist_xray_compositeThe first problem has to do with the carpal bone I lost in the dunes.  It is a little tiny bone that sits at the base of the index finger and holds it in place.  In the x-rays above, you can see what has happened.  The x-ray on the left was taken right after my wrist was rebuilt, and there is clearly an empty space where the bone is missing. Dr. Schaub pinned the metacarpal to another finger to try to keep it in place, but it didn’t cooperate and as you can see in the x-ray to the right, my index finger dropped down into the empty space, pulling my middle finger with it, causing both of them to be out of alignment.  The main problem with this is that those two fingers no longer have their normal range of motion…and it is kind of painful.  It is amazing how just a small change in the alignment of your fingers can cause so much discomfort!  The bone graft that didn’t get done in this surgery was supposed to fix the problem, but there is so much scar tissue built up in my hand, Dr. Schaub didn’t feel like it was worth the risk to open my hand up to infection again.  I’m sad, but I trust the judgement of my surgeon.

Sad Thumb_webThe second problem I’m going to have to learn to live with is the inability to move my thumb.  There was a lot of damage to my thumb when I was initially injured.  We have been working on all of the other problems in my hand, saving my thumb fixes for the very end.  But again, because of all the scar tissue that has built up, the risk of opening my thumb and digging around in there leaves me too susceptible to infection.   This is a major set-back when compared to what I thought I was going to be left with.  The surgery I had in August of last year repaired my thumb, and for 5 glorious days, it wiggled and moved and bent in all directions.  But then I got a staph infection and landed back in the hospital for 8 days with 2 additional surgeries and 8 weeks of intravenous antibiotics through a PICC line.  I suppose I don’t want to risk that again.  While I was under the anesthesia, Dr. Schaub manipulated the joints in my thumb to try to give me a little bit of movement, but I don’t have much.   (The picture to the right is what my thumb looks like after having the doctor physically manipulate it.  It’s pretty sad…) It is now up to me and my physical therapist to  get my thumb moving as much as we can simply through sheer will.

So now what?  I have spent the better part of two years dealing with surgeries and recoveries, taking a lot pain meds to help me get through each day.  I haven’t worked outside of my home because trying to get enough time off work for surgeries that were taking place every 3 or 4 months seemed a little unfair to an employer.  I have been going to school part time, but my interests have changed so much throughout this ordeal that I’m no longer interested in the program in which I am currently enrolled.  My children have all grown up and my youngest will graduate from high school in just a few weeks, so the roll I have played as stay-at-home-mom is obsolete.  All of the things I’ve done in the past — school volunteering, office managing, child-rearing — are no longer options.  It is a strange feeling to finally be done with surgeries, which is the place I thought I wanted to be, with the rest of my life staring me in the face, and I’m staring back blankly with no idea what I want to do.  I feel empty, and the only thing I can think of is wanting to go back into surgery to fix my fingers and thumb!

This morning, I woke up and had a realization.  This is just one more lesson to add to the others I’ve learned throughout this ordeal.  This lesson is called “Dealing with Disappointment.”  Thus far in my recovery, I have had hope that if I was willing to do whatever Dr. Schaub wanted me to, in the end, I would have a hand that might not be perfect, but would be pretty darn close.  So I set my mind to it and never looked back.  But now I know that is not going to be a possibility.

Today, that emptiness I am feeling is coming into focus.  I’m realizing that I know how to fight, but I don’t know how to give up.  I don’t know how to accept less than I expected.  I don’t know how to be grateful for what I have been given and then move on.  If I do that, it feels like I am letting go of the hope I have held onto through every surgery, every procedure, every painful moment…knowing that if I just held on, it would eventually get better.  The lesson of dealing with disappointment just might be the hardest lesson I have to learn.

With time, I know the disappointment will go away, and I’ll be left with gratitude for the countless miracles that have been performed on my behalf.  I could fill a book with the blessings I have been given throughout this journey (oh yes…I’m already working on that!), not the least of which was the blessing of Dr. Timothy A. Schaub being on call at the time and place when I was in need of his particular skills as a surgeon. (He might be saying “no more” right now, but two years ago, he said “I’ll do whatever it takes,” and that made all the difference!)

So once again, I’m turning to God.  I’m relying on Him and His grace to get me through the next part of my journey.  I’m hoping and praying that He will again send miracles my way, not necessarily miracles to heal my hand, but miracles that will heal my heart and fill my life with meaning and purpose.  I know He can.

  • Jenny Richardson - May 4, 2016 - 10:10 am

    Sandra–I am sorry you are dealing with all of these changes at once, and impressed with the perspective you’ve maintained. You are amazing!–JennyReplyCancel

  • Jana Wiltbank - May 6, 2016 - 8:06 am

    Sandra, my heart hurts for you as I read your post this morning. However, I appreciate your example of never ending faith in our Savior and in His will and timing. In my opinion, one of the most challenging lessons we have to learn in this life is to have faith in God, and not in a specific outcome…especially when you are doing all that you can to be worthy of the desired blessing. It is obvious that you are doing exactly that right now as you continue to faithfully navigate this next chapter of your journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and testimony so we can all learn from you, how to be even more faithful in our own discipleship. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Love you, my friend!ReplyCancel

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