Close to 5 years ago, in a drunken haze whilst moving stuff out of my home with Craig into my apartment, I slipped on some black ice in the alley and consequently broke my right thumb. (Same alley where I drunkenly fell taking out garbage and sprained my ankle the year before.) I watched the thumb/hand swell and in a fuckload of pain (though the alcohol relieved most of it) overnight, before going to see my PCP, Dr. Bednarska, the next morning. (She's the one who told me several months later, after looking at my liver function tests, that if I continued to drink at the rate I was going, I'd be dead in a matter of months.) "That looks, um, BROKEN," she said, and sent me up to the orthopedist's office, where the X-ray confirmed what Dr. Fahrenbach called "one of the worst breaks" he'd ever seen. I spent the next 12 weeks in a removable cast, going to physical therapy twice a week, unable to drum that whole time. I don't remember much more, thanks to all the booze, about what an inconvenience that experience turned out to be. Fortunately, the hand healed well and life went on.
Fast forward to last Friday night: Drummed for about 2 1/2 hours at practice, played well, comfortable with my parts, so yay. Was looking forward to playing at the service on Saturday. When I got home from practice, I talked to Kate on the phone for a good hour or so, then had my computer out on the patio table where I was chain smoking (naturally), and catching up with my social networking after taking all my night meds (warning: "may" cause drowsiness). At some point, drowsiness won out, and I fell dead ass asleep at the computer with my right hand, already aggravated by drumming for a long time, clutching the mouse. I don't remember what time I fell asleep outside, but I woke up at 1:40 am and went into the house to go to bed.
My right hand felt like it had "fallen asleep." Tingly, numb, pins-and-needles awkward. Just a passing thing, so I went to bed and thought nothing of it. Upon waking up Saturday, my hand just wasn't "right." It was totally numb, with a noticeable muscle twitch in the forearm that you could see poking the skin of my arm up and down. I couldn't grip anything. I couldn't hold a cup. I couldn't put toothpaste on my toothbrush. I couldn't put deodorant on my left armpit with my right hand.
The hand wanted to naturally cave into a palsy position, and the aforementioned broken thumb was completely numb. I tried hot compresses, ice, anti-inflammatories, rolling my head and neck and arm around, and nothing alleviated the numbness. I texted Bob, my guitarist, all afternoon with updates ("No, it's still the same") and told him to bring Dr. Rhythm (our drum machine) to augment me on Saturday night. I *could*, however, play the congas, since the right hand lies flat to bang on the larger conga. Insert complete improv on the congas of all the songs I was supposed to play on the kit. Lordy lord lord.
If you thought my electronic drum kit sounded phony, you should hear the drum machine. It is embarrassing to me as a musician. Yet I realized there was little I could do about the situation but use the machine on a couple of the songs. The congregation was none the wiser and apparently enjoyed the conga augmentation. Yay?
The symptoms hadn't improved over the course of the weekend, so I solicited chiropractor referrals from some friends, and one, Amy, pointed me towards Dr. Randy Kertz. He is a bassist who treats A LOT of musicians. He's, according to Amy, the resident on-call chiropractor in Chicago who the rocks stars all get adjusted by when they're in town and in need of a little TLC. I breezed past his wall of fame in the office today, laden with photos of himself with all the rich and famous musicians he's treated. Sign me up, sign me up!
I saw Dr. Randy this morning, who attempted to whackily adjust my hand, crack my bones, and thought he isolated the pinched nerve to my right upper forearm. It'll take multiple visits to alleviate the symptoms, and he doesn't take my insurance, so this will be a costly adventure. Meanwhile, I talked to my rockin' new PCP, Stosh, who wanted to order an EMG of the arm to check for nerve damage. I ran it past my Tatus, who agreed it was an appropriate course of treatment, especially, Stosh said, since I broke that numb thumb in the past. In any event, I told all parties involved that I need my hand to function correctly by next Friday, when I have to drum again. Right now, I can't even hold a stick.
It's not carpel tunnel, for that is associated with pain, and I have none. It's not arthritis, because it's presenting just like a pinched nerve. Dr. Randy is optimistic. He said there are multiple therapies he can try to get the sensation back, eg acupuncture. The EMG will give the PCP a better overview of what's happening with the nerve. In the meantime, all I can do is wait, and rely on my left hand. Thank God I'm left-handed, though I totally take my right hand dominance for granted. The loss of the grip and control over the hand is what's most annoying. It's interfering with my daily grind, particularly at work.