I’m down to two bandages on my fingers—one on each thumb—and it’s the end of February. Highly unusual. Friends have commented to me in recent weeks that my hands look better than they’ve seen in quite a while. That’s saying a lot, considering how the hand surgery reshaped my fingers.
I have a theory, and it’s based on a conversation that I had with one of the hand surgeons who examined me last August. I’ve noticed over the years that my right index finger, which was significantly shortened decades ago to correct a severe flexion contracture, rarely—if ever—gets an ulcer. I wondered aloud if the fact that it’s shorter somehow made a difference.
The hand surgeon confirmed my suspicion. A shorter finger means that the remaining blood vessels serving that finger are larger in diameter. That’s because blood vessels become wider toward the base of each digit.
I’ve had chronic ulcers in my finger tips for many years since they receive oxygen via the most damaged, narrowest capillaries, which can only provide a reduced blood flow. If what’s left, post-surgery, are the larger diameter blood vessels, then blood flow to the shortened fingers is improved.
I’ve lost the tips of three fingers. I’ve also lost two knuckles, which were the other problem areas in my hands. Essentially, now that the most frequently damaged parts of my fingers are gone, it appears that what’s left has better circulation.
Of course, now that I’ve written this, I have a nagging fear that I’ve jinxed myself. There’s a long way to go with the see-saw temperatures of late winter and spring, my worst season for ulcers. That’s when all the trouble started last year.
But at least, for now, I can enjoy the fact that I only need to bandage two thumbs—always sensitive at the tips where there is a motherlode of calcium pits under the surface. It only takes about 10 or 15 minutes to take care of them in the morning and evening, a far cry from the two hour marathon sessions over the summer for so many painful ulcers as my hands deteriorated.
Fingers crossed—what’s left of them, anyway—that my hands will remain in relatively good shape as the temps ebb and flow over the coming spring. Meanwhile, I’m stuffing 10-hour heat packs into my wrist warmers every cold day to stack the odds in my favor.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.
Image Credit: Joel Filipe
Charlotte Diep says
From the hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you experienced blurred vision. Does your vision come back as normal after the treatment?
Are there other side effects from this therapy and are they reversibles?
Evelyn Herwitz says
My vision has been slowly normalizing (as in, returning to the most recent prescription for my glasses), but it is still not 100 percent. They told me it could take a few months, and I’m now about 2 1/2 months out and at around 90-95%. I had to have ear tubes because the pressure bothered my eustachian tubes, and my eardrums have fully healed a month after the tubes were removed. You get a bit of an immune system boost for about a month after treatment. Other than that, no other lasting side effects, positive or negative.
During the treatment, I found that I got some sort of endorphin boost and it put me in a very good mood! That might have been enhanced by the healing I observed. The HBO can also make you hungry. It speeds up your metabolism. So the Wound Center team always had juice and snacks available. If you do have the treatment, be sure that they fully explain all the side effects and risks involved. Really, my biggest problem was ear pain, which was resolved by the ear tubes.
Overall, it was well worth the side issues to heal my hands from the surgery. If you are considering it, I hope it works as well for you. The big issue is getting insurance approval. If you get turned down, appeal. That’s what I did and it worked. Best of luck!