The pinky finger of my right hand started giving me trouble over a month ago. I'd wake up with it curled tightly, and it would pop and catch when I tried to straighten it out. The bottom knuckle was swollen and painful. Handwriting got tricky -- yes, I rest the side of my hand on the page, and yes, that's wrong.
It wasn't getting any better, so I called up the hand specialist I went to twice when my right thumb suffered "trigger finger," a swelling of the tendon that curls it (the ones that operate your fingers and thumbs run in a tube of cartilage, like an organic version of the cables the work the brakes and shifters of a bicycle). They were making appointments a month out. I got my place in line and started taking aspirin at regular intervals; It's a good anti-inflammatory.
Maybe the aspirin helped. Maybe just scheduling the appointment did it. But the "trigger" effect faded and I stopped waking up with a curled finger. The pain and swelling persisted and got worse. At times, the bottom joints of my other fingers ached. I had to modify how I held a pen. My grip on objects was a little uncertain -- week before last, I accidentally threw a fork that flew straight and true, and impaled a cardboard box.
The doctor's appointment was yesterday afternoon. It had been at three, but around two they called me and said, "Just come on in."
Got to their door a half-hour later and there was an apologetic sign on it. With the winter uptick in colds, flu and RSV along with COVID, they were requiring masks again. Okay; a doctor's office has a lot people passing through and the clientele of a hand specialist trends elderly. I've had a bagged mask stuck unused in my purse for a couple months now. But, oops, I used it the other day helping look after my neighbor's cats and ditched it afterward (litterbox dust imparts a lingering aroma. The mask is still good but unpleasant to re-use). The intake nurse had plenty of pleated procedure masks and I was happy to accept one.*
The wait wasn't long and they had me under an X-ray camera right away. (I thought I was going to be able to share a picture of the bones of my hand, but the image files weren't in my online medical records, last time I checked.) The doctor came in shortly afterward and went over them.
"Your hand is in better condition than many people your age. There are little cysts on the joints at the ends of your fingers, but nothing at the base of that pinky. Looks like it's all soft tissue. Do you want a shot, like last time?"
"Yes, like you did for my thumb."
"We did this pinky, too."
I had absolutely no memory of it. None, even when he told me the date, a little under a year ago
. He prepped for the shot, getting all the supplies, marking my finger and explaining that it was going to be painful.
With my arm out, hand in place on the exam table and my pinky sprayed with freeze mist, my wrist was exposed, revealing evidence Holden's habit of biting at my mouse-hand wrist if he's on the desk and I'm not giving him as much attention as he thinks he deserves.
The doctor gestured towards my wrist. "New kitty?" He had the hypo ready and I looked away.
"No, just a very enthusiastic one--" I felt the needle go in, not too bad. Then pressure began to increase in the first joint of my already swollen pinky. "--Wow. He's a good cat," the pressure changed to a sensation of having a red-hot needle jammed into the sore joint and got worse. Much worse. "Holy cow, damn!
Sorry. Oh, gosh that hurts."
I'm pretty sure I know why I can't remember the last time they treated my pinky. For a few seconds, it was the second-worst pain I have felt. First worst was when I was trying to move after I broke my thighbone and knee. There are a lot of nerves in our fingers. A whole lot.
My finger's still a little sore this morning, but the swelling is way down and the joint isn't anywhere near as tender as it has been.
Driving there and back, I had my car up to highway speeds. There's a wobble in the front. Not very much, but noticeable. I already knew at least one of the front tires has a bad sidewall. I need to replace them, sooner rather than later. I had hoped to go to a hamfest about 45 minutes away today, but I'd just as soon not risk it.
* In some situations, masks aren't going away any time soon. They work; cold and flu transmission dropped throughout the pandemic. Doctors are singularly uninclined to have their offices become a source of illness, so it's likely we're all going be masking up at the doctor's office for the foreseeable future.