Last week did not go as planned.
I’d been successfully managing two infected finger ulcers with my usual skin care regimen, plus an antibiotic that normally clears up any such issues within a few days. On Tuesday, I was on Day 10 of that medication and thinking I could probably discontinue it by Day 14. (My docs trust my judgment, given four decades of managing this disease.) But by that afternoon, the ulcer on the inside crease of my right thumb began to smart.
At first, I thought that my dressings had simply dried out and needed to be redone. But after my evening shower, I discovered that my thumb was not happy—not by a long shot. It was swollen and so painful that I ended up taking hydrocodone to try to control the cycling nerve shocks (you really have no clue how many nerves are in fingers until something like this happens). The pain woke me in the middle of the night, requiring a second pill. Even still, the pain persisted in the morning.
Now, I really hate the side effects of narcotics. They make me woozy, my mouth even drier than normal, and I just feel off. And in this case, the hydrocodone didn’t help all that much. Fortunately, by Noon I was able to reach my ID specialist, who prescribed another antibiotic that I’ve used before, which attacks a different spectrum of bacteria. Clearly, I had picked up something, somehow, that was new.
I was able to manage the pain during the day by alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and took two doses of the new antibiotic by the time I went to bed. More interrupted sleep, but I was determined to not take anymore narcotics because I had to drive to Boston the next day and see my rheumatologist for a long scheduled appointment.
During the exam, we discussed pain management, and my issues with hydrocodone and related drugs. He mentioned that a number of his patients have had good results with cannabis medications to control pain. This had never occurred to me. Armed with that new idea and a prescription for lidocaine ointment, I went home.
A small drop of the lidocaine helped block the pain when I changed my dressings that night. I had a better sleep. But by morning, the pain came roaring back. I have not experienced anything this severe since I had major ulcers several years ago. Even with the ointment, I could not stop the nerves from zapping. I was really at a loss after bandaging my thumb.
Then I remembered a jar of hemp oil ointment that Al had gotten a while back for some joint pain. I’ve used it successfully for lower back pain on occasion. So I dipped a cotton swab in the jar and painted a line of hemp oil around the base of my thumb, just below the bandage. Within minutes, the intractable pain ceased.
Really, it was a miracle. And it lasted all day.
Needless to say, I’ve been applying it the same way since Friday. Between that, the lidocaine, and my usual skin care, plus the new antibiotic at last kicking in, my thumb (knock on wood) is finally healing again. I also discovered that the hemp ointment helps with another occasional discomfort—phantom itching of my right middle finger, about an inch above what’s left of it after surgery several years ago. It’s an extremely odd and annoying sensation, because I can’t scratch it to relieve it. There’s no there, there. But a little of the hemp ointment completely eliminated the itchy feeling. Who knew?
Which is a long way of saying that I am extremely grateful for CBD therapeutics and my wonderful medical team.