One-Handed Ninja

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Black Ninja is hurt.

Friday morning last week, I started feeling some soreness in my right wrist. I did not pay much attention to it and performed my work as normal. However by the end of the day, the right hand became painful enough that I had difficulty using it. That night, my hand was swollen and red. The pain kept me awake, and not until I took an anti-inflammatory pill, did I experienced some relief.

I was miserable over the weekend due to the severe wrist pain. I was unable to type on the computer keyboard, nor play the piano, nor do much of anything (not even play the Fruit Ninja) with my right hand. And I am right-handed too. By the way, when I broke my arm when I was in kindergarten and had my arm in a cast for 6 weeks, I learned to use much of my left hand, including writing and drawing.

Back to my recent injury, the daily grooming ritual became painstakingly slow as well as painful – brushing my teeth, taking a bath, washing, combing my hair….. Oh I forgot, I have no hair to comb! And for traditional Filipinos who are not content with just using toilet paper but instead uses tabo (water dipper) and soap to wash after using the restroom, performing this “cultural” hygiene was almost impossible with one hand!

Doing things with one good hand, made me understand how we take for granted things that people with only one hand, or no hands, or with arthritic hands struggle every single day. I detested clothes with buttons! Good thing my wife assisted me to some extent, getting dressed.

My wife even urged to take me to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care (it was a weekend, so doctor’s offices were close), so a “real” doctor beside myself can evaluate my swollen hand. But being a stubborn patient, I reasoned: what can they do for me that I cannot diagnose and take care myself? I got a wrist splint from the pharmacy and continued my intake of ibuprofen.

my splinted hand

Monday came and I went to work as usual. My rotation was the ICU, and also had a few bronchoscopy scheduled that day. When colleagues asked me what happened to my splinted hand, I told them that I sprained it sparring with Pacquiao. That will keep their distance. When patients asked me how did I injured my hand, I told them, I dealt with a patient who was not following my orders. That will keep them in line.

Then as the day went on, I surrendered to the fact that I was really having difficulty performing the bronchoscopy and other procedures I needed to do. I was humbled that I could hardly intubate (placing an endotracheal tube for breathing) a patient in an emergency situation. I need two healthy hands to do my work!

That’s when reality set in that I have to seek help. I showed my swollen wrist to one of our trauma surgeons in the ICU for a curbside consultation. He told me that it was not a simple carpal tunnel syndrome which I first thought it was, as that does not cause redness nor significant swelling. He thought it may be bursitis or tendonitis, but recommended that I see a hand surgeon, just to be sure.

I am now fully cognizant that I should not let this be a career-ending condition.

I called my office and requested to clear my schedule so I myself can see a doctor . When I called the hand surgeon’s office they initially told me that they can see me in 3 weeks. Three weeks?!! I “kindly” protested and told them that I am also a doctor, so they gave me a special consideration. I was given an appointment in 3 days.

In the meantime, as I waited to see the specialist, my hand started to get better. The redness improved, and the swelling went down. The pain had decreased as well, that I could use it more with less inconvenience.

By the time I saw the surgeon, my hand was almost back to normal, except for a minimal tenderness in one area. I even thought of canceling the appointment, but what the heck, I already cleared my schedule to have an afternoon off just for this.

After taking my history of what possibly could have precipitated my injury, and after examining my hand and taking hand x-rays, the surgeon diagnosed me with tendonitis. Worse scenario, he told me, that I might need a steroid injection in the wrist. But since it was already healing, he just advised to continue the wrist splint and anti-inflammatory meds, things that I have been doing all along. I sighed with relief, no surgery required!

The possible culprit of my injury? The push-ups. The hand surgeon told me that doing the open-palm push-ups can strain the wrists. Does this mean no more push-ups for me? No way! I can still do knuckle push-ups. Or better yet, use handle bars for this exercise.

As for wearing the hand splint, maybe I should get this kind…..

Ninja hand claws


      1. I used to have that tendonitis sa may paa once in a while kasi nakatayo aq sa work. sobrang sakit nya kasi namamaga..sometimes I failed to go to work because of that.

  1. wow, you also play the piano; amazing!

    i can see myself as a more stubborn patient although thank God i’ve never been injured or hospitalized. take extra care doc, we only have two hands & one life obviously 🙂

  2. Ahh yes, our precious hands. Feet too. What would we do without them? I’m relieved to hear you’re on the mend. Otherwise, how can you scope and tube patients, huh! And if you’re used to active intervention type activities, just ordering meds and procedures would be extremely ho-hum.

    When I had a short bout of overuse injury of my wrist, part of my rehab was to strengthen my lower arm muscles. They had me doing weights up to 5 lb. with my hand moving my wrist in all sorts of directions. I still do it when I remember, usually while we watch a movie on TV or something. Might not be a bad idea.

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