3/19 - The Hand Switcheroo... Switcheroo

Today is Thursday morning. The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament, which kicks off the best four days in sports, if not the best days in the whole world. This is also the first year in which I haven’t gambled a lot on the tournament. I’m pretty sad about that, but I didn’t watch any NFL playoff games at all this year except the Super Bowl, so, you know my life has been pretty awesome lately. KC and I are in Houston right now just manning the Jamie-fort, but both of our little angels are asleep right now (Roni is in New Orleans right now for spring break, but she’s probably asleep, too).

Last Time on Jamie’s Blog – we thought we’d be removing her left hand from the right-side flap and then inserting Jamie’s right hand into a flap on the left side. Dr. Plastic Surgeon would be performing these surgeries. Then Dr. Smith would take a look at the skin grafts made to the bottom of Jamie’s stumps and clean and redress the wounds. (I guess we’ve already identified Dr. Smith, so I’ll stick with it… either way, his name is Smith and that’s a pretty common name anyway) We expected Jamie to come out with one free hand, and her other hand attached under her left arm.

As you should’ve predicted, things didn’t go as planned, but in this case, things look like they’ll be just as good as originally planned, if not better. (Though, that raises the question: if our new, ad-libbed course is a better one, then why wouldn’t we have taken it in the first place?) Jamie went into the surgical waiting room/sauna at 5pm, went into surgery at 6:00 or so and came out at about 10:30. Mom stayed with her through the night as I went out to go drink some green beer. She was a bit groggy yesterday, but is largely cool today. We started watching this season of Lost on our projector. We’re up to episode 4 right now (still trying to get Locke off the island… err… Spoiler Alert?). Her attitude is wonderful, her pain management is good and once we can get things normalized with respect to going number one, we’re probably going to be leaving Houston for a little while…. Yeah, more on that part later in the week.

[Note: Everything that follows is “mostly accurate” – meaning that this is what I think he said, but some of it left me a little confused even after he repeated it a few times] DPS came and spoke to us after surgery and was very enthusiastic about the results. The Left Hand – He said the thumb looks good. Remember that we’re getting a lot more thumb than we originally planned. He said that his plan to use wires in Jamie’s hand to create more web space [Web Space – noun – that part of your hand between your thumb and index finger… with the webbing]. DPS said that Jamie would be able to grip things with her left hand, but wasn’t specific about what kinds of things. In sum, the flap procedure (left-hand version) was a success. The blood flow on the flap went… achem… both ways. Blood was flowing from Jamie’s hand to the abdomen and vice versa. Very nice.

The Right Hand – DPS told us that the plans changed for Jamie’s right hand when he tested to make sure that her thumb bone was alive. He always tests to make sure that he’s not working with dead bones, because dead tissue will just turn into puss or something… either way, Jamie’s thumb bone was alive … sort of. You see, the top part of her thumb (not the tip of her thumb, I mean the roof, the part with knuckle hair on your (er… my) thumb….)… That part of her thumb bone was dead/not-bleeding. However, the bottom part… (the floor of the thumb bone… the part that will grow hair if you touch yourself too much)… that part is alive. So, DPS shaved off the dead part of the right thumb bone and then he went off-script. Using a combination of existing skin to create a flap around Jamie’s right thumb and skin-grafts taken from the old flap, DPS saved all of the length on the right thumb. DPS told mom and I that, as a result of the procedures he had to perform on the thumb, he thought Jamie’s right hand required a more delicate approach than initially planned. DPS thought that he may potentially lose the thumb all together if he proceeded with the flap; so, he didn’t do it. Therefore, Jamie’s right hand did not need to be inserted into a flap below her left arm. Jamie’s pretty psyched about this. DPS also said that the web space that he was able to create on her right hand will allow Jamie, in all likelihood, to grip all sorts of things besides pens and credit cards; she may be able to grip cans, cell phones, things like that. Pretty neat. DPS’ plan at this point is to come back in a week and check out the how the thumb is taking the skin graft. Regardless (note: irregardless still isn’t a word… just want to remind everyone), DPS reminded us that this is a “freebie procedure”, which means that even if the skin graft doesn’t take, we didn’t really lose any ground. (Hmm… but if we’re going out of our way to be delicate because of the right thumb, then why would that change in a week? Maybe the trauma of the surgery to the thumb? Maybe giving the web space time to heal? Who knows) Ultimately, if everything goes well, then we may not even have to do the flap procedure at all on Jamie’s right hand and we can just do the same type of procedure to cap her two fingers (… that didn’t even make sense to me… but that’s what he said… see what I mean about this being “mostly true”?). KC and I saw her hands today. Maybe it was really early, but I was pretty excited about what I saw. Medicine is neat. More info later.

Dr. Smith did his part of the surgery after DPS was done. He came out shortly though to report that all went well, and the skin grafts look great. He said that there were some localized infections on some of Jamie’s donor sites (where they took the skin grafts from), but that they should go away with some topical treatments. Otherwise, things look good. The wounds on Jamie’s butt are taking forever to heal, but that’s just a bad location, since she’s bed ridden almost all day. Still, Dr. Smith was happy so we’re happy. He will take another look at the wounds soon, a fact that Jamie will not be too pleased with.

Interesting note - Dr. Foot Doctor, who guided us through the amputations, has apparently signed off on our case. This is, of course, a good thing, but it’d be nice if we were told about these things once in a while… you know, from the doctor who is signing off on us… just saying…

Issues that are looming for us – (1) getting the catheter out and regaining bladder control. Should be a messy and annoying few days for us soon (2) finding out where we should go for rehab [want to be near Austin, so places in ATX and San Antonio (BAMC, the veterans hospital is a leading candidate)] so any tips in that regard would help… we’d still have to come back to Houston for future surgeries, but as someone who makes the trip regularly (and, sometimes, twice in a day), it’s not too bad.

Sorry for the long post, but you deserved it! Expect pictures on the blog sometime today [Ed. Note - Guess I figured this out already, huh?] … Also, thank you all so much for the donations! Sending out thank you notes is and will hopefully remain on our To Do list for some time.