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Christina gets her hand and life back

Posted on: July 19th, 2013 by Ortho Illinois

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Think for a moment about everything you do with your hands.  Make a list if you’d like.  Are you holding your phone reading this post?  Did you find this post by typing in Google?  Did you pick up your daughter this morning, or do the dishes last night?  How about bringing in the groceries, or raking leaves?

Obviously, I’m using my hands right now to write this post.

We use our hands for everything all of the time.  Now imagine losing the use of your hand.  You still have it, but it’s clenched in a tight fist permanently, so your world has now changed.   Even the most basic tasks become difficult: putting on your pants, driving, pushing a shopping cart, picking up your kids.

Now imagine with me that you lost the use of your hand at the age of five.  Sure, as a young child you would adapt, but now you’re different than everyone else, you can’t play like everyone else.  You’re limited.

For us, it’s just imagining, but for Christina, it was her life.

A sad beginning for a young girl

When Christina was five, she was climbing a tree, as five year olds do, but she slipped and fell out of the tree, crushing her right hand.  Her mother rushed her to the emergency room where the doctors wanted to amputate immediately, but her mother refused.

Christian would keep her hand, but never use it.  Instead, she would hide it.  Her hand was paralyzed by the fall, and there was nothing to do about it.

Struggling to make it through

For forty-eight years, she experienced constant pain in her hand, and everything was difficult.  She struggled raising her children (imagine trying to change diapers and keep up with children with only one useable hand) and finding work or keeping it when she did.

The constant pain and paralysis often forced her to quit a job she did manage to find.

On top of that, Christina would often hurt her hand.

So she went in search of a doctor who could help her.

“The doctors I saw wanted nothing to do with me. I kept on hoping I would meet someone who would be able to help me.”

A glimmer of hope

In 2011, she moved to Rockford and was referred to Dr. Bear, an orthopedic specialist.  He diagnosed her with a posterior interosseus nerve injury (an inability to extend the fingers and thumb).

Dr. Bear initially hesitated to perform a tendon transfer surgery because of the risks involved, but Christina persisted.  She wanted her life back.

Surgery time

During the 90 minute procedure, Dr. Bear reestablished gliding of the tendons and performed tendon transfers.

“I was concerned whether the tendons…would fail to move and get stuck down exactly like they were before the surgery.”

Christina did face some challenges after surgery like retraining her brain to use the previously paralyzed hand, but Dr. Bear was able to treat them conservatively.

After going through therapy, she is now able to use her hand to blow dry her hair, turn pages in a book, and play with her grandchildren–activities most of people take for granted.

And she is able to make homemade tortillas and play with her grandchildren, activities she excitedly hoped she would be able to do after therapy.

“I just call [Dr. Bear] my miracle doctor. If it wasn’t for him – God only knows, I wouldn’t be using [my hand] now.”