I don’t have a lot of feeling in half of my left hand. I developed an ulnar entrapment in my mid 20s and went to a specialist to see what could be done. I was offered a choice: surgery that had a 50% chance of restoring the sensation, and a 50% chance of leaving me with movement problems in addition to sensation problems.
I skipped the surgery. I may not always be able to feel my fingers, but at least they work: I can still type, and I can still write.
I’ve written before about my challenges with aphasia, but I got an unpleasant surprise a few months ago when I developed a persistent ache in my right wrist. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to cause the pain. I couldn’t remember tripping and landing on it, picking up something too heavy, or any precise moment when the pain began.
I had story submissions that I wanted to complete. Even if I let those slide, I still had to go to work, in a job that required computer use. It was like the surgery choice all over again, except this time, there was no choice. There was only a what-if: What if I can’t write any more? What if I have carpal tunnel? What if I lose movement, not just feeling, in my hands?
Fortunately, I was moving cross-country this summer, meaning I’d be out of work and offline with my computer packed for travel. I didn’t use a computer very often for a period of about six weeks. My wrist finally started feeling better. All healed up, I got my computer online in my new home and sat down to do some writing.
This wrist problem is very real, and, while I can manage it, it is not going away. The spectre of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or sustaining further nerve damage hovers over me even as I try to boost my daily word count.
I now wear my braces when I’m writing. No exceptions. I’ve also switched my mouse to the left side of my desk, so that I’m using my non-dominant hand for pointing and clicking. I’m hoping that by outsourcing the bulk of the point and click work to my other hand, I can give my right hand more of a break. I’m also undergoing treatment for shoulder and back pain.
When I was flying gliders, we had to record how much time the aircraft spent in flight. After a certain number of flight hours, the airframes were stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up to ensure all the components were in proper working condition. The human body isn’t an aircraft, and I won’t be able to swap out parts when they get worn out. I plan on writing for the rest of my life, and in order to do so, I need to take proper care of my wrists and back.
Long term, I may need to look into voice-recognition software if the wrist problem intensifies. I’m not sure how well it will work for me, particularly when aphasia is garbling my ability to speak. I am afraid it will not work for me. I am afraid I will need it.
But I will write. I will write somehow, whatever accommodations I need to make to do so safely and healthily.
You are not as immortal as you think you are when you’re young. Parts wear out. Bodies wear down. If you are in it for the long haul…make wise decisions and plan accordingly.