The Misadventures of Dumbelina

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The thing about thumbs is that you don’t truly appreciate them until they’re no longer playing ball or doing anything useful at all really.

On the first day of my new life as a self-employed writer a few weeks ago I fell over. Now this wasn’t a spectacular event brought about by alcohol or impressive interpretative dance, it was brought about by (I learned too late) not drying my feet properly after having a shower. How very pedestrian.

That day had already been a mish-mash of trying to get into the groove of working for myself, mixed with a few hours where I gave up and went to the movies instead. Having only a weekend between finishing my “old” life and starting my “new” one meant motivation was sorely lacking.

Later that same night, after doing stuff-all all day let’s face it, I debated whether I really needed to have a shower. I’d already had one that morning and really hadn’t been up to much so it probably wasn’t hygienically necessary. Alas, more than a decade of living in the sub-tropics meant that two showers a day is a long ingrained habit, so off I trotted to the bathroom. How I wished I’d listened to what my intuition was possibly trying to tell me.

About 15 minutes later, having dried myself (or so I thought) and put my nightie on, I sauntered out of the bathroom without a care in the world. Tomorrow I’ll start my new life again, I was probably thinking. Unfortunately as I was day-dreaming – and as has been the basis of many of my accidents throughout my life – I slipped over. As I was tumbling towards the hard wooden floor, I saw my leg was on a funny angle and must’ve decided to break my fall with my thumb instead – what a “Dumbelina”.

As I soon as I hit the floor, pain seared through my body. I checked my leg and saw it was fine, but my hand – and specifically my thumb – was another matter entirely. The pain was excruciating and deep down I knew that I’d done myself a serious mischief but as I picked myself up off the floor, somewhat in shock, I told myself that it was just a sprain. That line of thought ended up being an unreliable narrative that I would hold dear for the next week, even in the face of fairly obvious signs that it was a load of bollocks.

Funnily enough on my first day of being a self-employed writer, I realised that there is no sick leave and, you know, I’m a writer so I need my hands to do my work – of which I had quite a lot booked.

That night I iced the offending appendage, swallowed painkillers before going to bed, and even taped my thumb to my forefinger such was the agony whenever I accidentally moved or bumped it. The next day, I contemplated a trip to the doctor or the ER, but after the past few weeks with mum’s injury, I just didn’t want to spend any more time in a medical environment than I had too.

Ironically that same morning I had a hospital visit scheduled to go and see mum. Coincidentally she was in the orthopaedic ward. On the way up to see her I tried to buy a brace for my thumb at the chemist on site at the hospital, but the rude woman wouldn’t sell me one and suggested I go to emergency instead. Pffffttt, I thought, what would she know?

My step-dad was with mum when I got to her room and he mentioned my hand didn’t look good. By this stage the bruising (which would eventually invade my whole hand) was coming out and every single one of my fingers, as well as my thumb, were also swelling quite dramatically. “I’m too busy,” I said, “plus I’m going to Sydney tomorrow for five days”. Clearly what I really wanted to do was find a rather large hole in the sand that I could put my head in.

So, we hatched a plan to get one of the nurses to check my thumb out. She took one look at it and said “you probably need to get an x-ray”, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so she added “well, if it doesn’t come right in a few days, then you better go to the doctor”. Now that was a “diagnosis” that I was happy with.

Over the next six days I carried on like nothing was wrong, all the while only having one good hand and becoming increasingly concerned by my inability to move my thumb – at all. My saving grace was that it was my left thumb and I am right-handed, however I quickly realised that thumbs are awesome tools, that are helpful with many mundane tasks. For example, over the past three weeks I’ve learned that thumbs are very useful for:

  • Pulling down your undies/pants
  • Pulling up your undies/pants
  • Putting on your bra
  • Taking off your bra
  • Using a knife to eat dinner (while I’m right-handed, I strangely use a knife and fork left-handed)
  • Putting in hair ties
  • Taking out hair ties
  • Carrying a beer in each hand (admittedly I haven’t done this but you never know when you might need too)
  • Doing up zips (ditto buttons)
  • Undoing zips (ditto buttons)
  • Putting on a car handbrake (right-hand drive cars)
  • Taking off a car handbrake
  • Putting on your car indicator (in a Fiat)
  • Cleaning your house (okay, it’s still probably doable but it seems like a good excuse to me)
  • Removing bank cards/coins/money from your wallet
  • Opening cans/jars/the front door/milk cartons et al
  • Carrying anything at all in that hand, which is impossible when you can’t grip it.

So after a week, my better (but horribly delayed and not overly smart judgment) saw me finally at my doctor, which resulted in an x-ray, an ultrasound, a hand specialist/surgeon appointment, an MRI and now a sexy splint on it for a month or two.

It seems that I’ve torn the ligament in my thumb, you see. Medically it’s called an ulnar collateral ligament tear of the thumb. No wonder it hurt “a little”. Movement is still much restricted so there’s a possibility that I might need surgery, which again wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

It appears that my strategy of ignoring my injury for a week wasn’t a winner (who would’ve thought?) and that in the past eight months, while I’ve run some 700 kilometres, the only injuries I’ve sustained has been spraining my ankle walking to my car and now tearing the ligament in my thumb walking through my kitchen. Obviously I should run instead of walk.

It seems that becoming self-employed meant I was more worried about not being able to work, rather than relishing having time off work – paid – as is often the mindset of an employee.

I can still write though and, again, the whole experience gives me something to write about so, to use one of my new turns of phrase, it’s one and half thumbs up from me!

2 thoughts on “The Misadventures of Dumbelina

  1. I did an injury to my writing hand thumb about 20 years ago. Took 4 months of PT (after about 3 months in casts), but I was considered a great success. What a pain while it healed! Not just a physical pain, but annoyance – all the things you mentioned, and more.
    You might want to try using voice dictation in your writing – any movement in the hand can aggravate the injury.

    • Thank you for the advice Linda! It is thankfully healed now – although that thumb is noticeably weaker than the other now. I try to be more careful, but I am a big daydreamer so spend a lot time not thinking about where my feet are going 🙂

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