Monday, January 12, 2009

The Garden Doctor

Monday, January 12, 2009

Already close to zero degrees tonight. I just gave up on the evening news as the bad part is over and there is limited good stuff to listen too. Some power company lady is telling folks to save energy by not opening the fridge or freezer doors for very long. Maybe that's what got me to today's post. The power rep said when you open your fridge and need 5 items, take them out all at once. Maybe I did that too much and that's the reason I had a carpal tunnel release surgery done on my left hand last Friday.

Carpal tunnel is an interesting malady to me. Growing up I don't remember a single farmer ever complaining about his hands although they did more physical labor back then than is even contemplated now. Twisting and turning the wrists while moving hay and manure, picking up bales and buckets--all those repetitive tasks should have created a problem that no one talked about. My dad was a house painter and did wall paper too. Up and down, back and forth with the brush in those pre-spray paint days but never any carpal tunnel, never any complaints except that he was poor.

I had an initial eval last year and didn't like the explanation or the suggestion from the doctor that I could be booked for surgery in a couple days. Then a friend at work recommended a plastic surgeon at Mary Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and the rest is history. The eight minute operation is interesting because as soon as the carpal ligament is cut, the pain is gone and feeling returns a little at a time to the affected parts. In my case I couldn't feel any fingers or down to mid-palm level in my left hand. On a 12 point scale with 12 registering "You waited too long George" I was a twelve so I was apprehensive about how things would turn out. Right now I am in the rehab stage and as long as I maintain this one handed typing and keep the hand elevated as much as possible, progress is fine and I am smiling. Feeling in everything but the very tip of one finger has already been restored.

I mention carpal tunnel release because many gardeners experience wrist and finger pain, especially when they are twisting their wrists while raking, shoveling, hoeing and lifting. Part of being successful with surgery is reorienting yourself to how you use your hands and whether you abuse them or not. There's plenty of info on the Internet about this procedure. Other than having to take your money in wheelbarrows to pay for the operation, it's something that gets rid of sleepless nights and brings on fine gardening smiles. If you need advice, have questions or want a reputable doctor's name, let me know. Just don't wait as long as I did!

When one hand goes out of commission for a while, it becomes apparent how much it was used for. Here on the mountain above Peacham Pond, snowflakes abound and that means shoveling paths, snow raking and shoveling roofs and plowing snow. One hand does not a merry shoveler make so Gail and Alex learned how many tons of white stuff I move in a year. They also learned how to put the plow on and off the truck but they never had to learn how to plow. That needs to happen sometime soon but they escaped the chore for now. As soon as I figure out the total rehab time, I will schedule my right hand. No telling what reality they will face then.

The next three nights will be as much as 25 degrees below zero here so I'll lay low and reorganize pictures for the new website. The site is 95% written and I have the first 120 hosta pictures ready to insert. I think you'll enjoy the site when it's released in February. In the meantime, enjoy your winter reading and garden design. If there's a topic you'd like an opinion on or a concept you'd like to share, please let me know. Good gardeners get better with new information from their gardening friends.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the moon's face is sparkling through the big maple and into my office.

Sparkling wishes from

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener


Susan Tomlinson said...

Sorry to hear that you were having problems, but it sounds like the surgery has already offered some relief. Hope you continue to heal so you can get back out there doing all that hoeing and raking!

tina said...

I do hope you get well soon George.

lynn'sgarden said...

Hi George,
Carpal tunnel...I know it well! Digging weeds with the 3-prong hand fork is what does it for me. No wonder special tools are big items at garden shows. I even purchased those wrist guards but never actually used it! Glad you have the "off season" to really heal.

George Africa said...

Hello Susan, Tina and Lynn;
Thanks for your comments. This is actually not a big deal although I am informed that some surgeons continue to be possessed that you need fairly serious surgery on into the palm of the hand, must wear a cast for several weeks, etc. The latest thinking is much different for 95% of the cases I am told and recovery begins when the carpal ligament is first cut. I know I could feel the relief instantly.The other documented research is leaning away from this repetitive behavior thinking as a causative factor. It might be handy if you were into workers comp cases and thought you could say keyboarding 7 hours a day "did it to you" but that's just not what research now says.

Another hand problem is trigger finger and I may well have to deal with that with my pinkie fingers at a later date. Too much carrying overfilled buckets of water to the cows when I was a kid. That's my story and I'm staying with it.

George Africa
From Vermont where tonight's temperature will drop to minus 25-30. The big B-R-R-R-R-R

millionbells said...

Actually, I think the problem is that now a days we don't do enough with our hands. The muscles aren't strong enough and the ligament starts causing trouble. Then we overuse some motions and the whole system comes crashing down.

But still, don't over do it with the off hand. I had my good hand immobilized for a stress fracture/tendonitis a while ago and ended up causing problems in my off hand from overusing that. I try to be a lot more ambidextrous since then.

garden girl said...

Best wishes on a quick recovery George!