Patient Story: Laura B.

patient holding wrist in pain

Like most hand conditions, the carpal tunnel in both my hands progressively got worse over time. I purchased wrist braces and that helped for a while. What began with interrupted sleep due to tingling and numbness gradually progressed into dropping things.

"Slowly, you also lose function and don’t realize what you are doing to compensate for the lack of use in your hands. You are asking others to help open jars and cans. You ask your husband to help with hard to fasten clothing, then you begin purchasing clothing without zippers or buttons. It’s difficult to put on makeup, so you stop wearing it. Gym equipment causes pain, even holding on to the treadmill, so you stop working out. You change the manner in which you type so that your fingers are not stretching to reach keys. You start to take more Advil for the pain and swelling and then you realize not only is it not working, you can no longer increase your dosage. I looked back at everything I had given up and realized I needed to see a doctor." Laura said.

I started at different hospitals but nothing was helping. After six months, I felt lost and that is when my mother’s rheumatologist suggested the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center. "I was crying the first time Dr. Smetana walked into the room. The frustration, the pain, all I was failing at in life without the use of my hands was too much. Work was too much, cooking and cleaning were too much, driving a car was too much. Not being able to sleep at night certainly wasn’t helping either." Laura said.

I was afraid he was going to suggest more injections, which are painful and just were not helping. Dr. Smetana explained everything, showing me images of what was happening in my hands. He didn’t choose to go back to injections, he recommended surgery. "It simply felt good to be heard and have a plan to permanently repair my hands. It felt good to hope!" she said.

The relief from my first surgery in my right hand and arm was immediate. No more tingling and no more numbness. It was just a matter of waiting for it to heal and going back to my regular routine with that hand.

My second surgery was more complicated and the recovery timeline was much longer. Dr. Smetana warned me about the pain I would experience and what my expectations should be at various intervals through the first year. His assessment was honest and accurate through the first 90 days, but what happened after was nothing short of amazing! By October I had full use of my right thumb and hand again. I could style my hair, get dressed, and even put a seat belt on without pain. I focused on my physical therapy and the exercises they provided, but other than that I let my hand rest.

On Oct. 25, 2019 my husband and I purchased a home that was built in 1906. We are remodeling this home and taking it back to the studs. I have been completely and literally hands on with the entire demolition process! I have been able to hold a small sledgehammer and use a crowbar and hammer to remove plaster and lathing. I can lift and carry debris to the commercial dumpster outside. Prior to surgery this would have been an impossibility. The work can leave my left thumb a little stiff, but there isn’t any pain. I know I am still healing and by the next day, my hand is fine again.

"Dr. Smetana gave me my life back, and in an even shorter time frame than he thought possible! I have no idea why I waited so long to find a solution for the loss of use and pain in my hands. But, I couldn’t be any happier with the care I ended up receiving or the results. For me, Dr. Smetana was a miracle worker and the improved quality of life and reduction in stress for both me and my family are well worth the recovery time and pain from surgery." Laura said.

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