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Writing tearjerkers is easy when you have a sore finger

Bad Finger.jpg

Cutline: Typing with a sore finger makes all the words four-letter.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, December 29, 2018

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the Internet. Mainly I look up whatever is ailing me and self-diagnose. If I could prescribe medications I might save a lot of money.

It pains me to write this — especially the words that use “s,” “w,” and “x.” Those require muscle movement in my left ring finger, which is swollen to nearly twice its normal size and hurts like the dickens.

How badly can it hurt? Let’s just say I’m extremely thankful this is not a regular column for extolling the virtues of shadowboxed woodwaxens along the expressway.

What I have is a clear case of plant thorn arthritis, a malady I accurately diagnosed myself with after I was attacked by a poison thorn on the day after Thanksgiving.

My brother, Jeff, and I were clearing some wild growth on the family farm when a thorny plant stabbed me through my work glove. I thought nothing of it until my finger began swelling that evening.

After several days with a stiff and swollen finger, I looked up “thorn injuries” and found medical journal entries for plant thorn arthritis. It’s a condition that can strike a joint that is in proximity to a thorn injury.

The only cure, according to the articles I’ve read, is to slice into the affected area and clean out the toxic matter (usually microscopic) left by the thorn.

I’m not sure how I managed to live for more than a half century without knowing about plant thorn arthritis, but it is a thing, and I most definitely have it.

I cannot play the guitar or straighten my finger. And typing without significant pain is impossible — which has me wishing for a greater level of proficiency in the two-finger method.

Aside from giving me a deeper appreciation for the way my father was able to overcome severe arthritis in his hands, there is nothing remotely good about my sore finger. It does reveal the extent to which a normally pain-free body part is taken for granted, but that is a revelation I could have lived without.

I didn’t need to know, for instance, how I’d been breezing through life casually brushing my left knuckle against everything from doorjambs to shower walls without grimacing and loudly cursing.

Not to mention pants pockets. I keep forgetting to put my car keys in my right front pocket instead of my left one. The result can be both painful and embarrassing, especially in a shopping center parking lot. Not every total stranger will agree to help retrieve the keys.

So three weeks in, I went to an urgent-care clinic and explained my condition. Despite my having gleaned from research that surgery was in order, the physician assistant opted for powerful antibiotics. She even jump-started the dose with a needle to my backside.

As shots go, those have to be among the worst. The pain and embarrassment level approaches that thorn-like and lasting, broken-off-inside quality.

A week later I saw an orthopedic surgeon. He wanted to try another round of antibiotics before committing to surgery, so we did.

The surgery is scheduled.

I sure hope the doctor can save my guitars. My wife is threatening to sell them if I don’t start playing more than E-minor-only songs soon.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.