She was helping her mother, who was suffering from cataracts at the time, to do the laundry, running clothes through an electric mangle. The fingers of both hands were caught in the machine leaving her unable to switch it off. Before her mother could get to her, all eight fingers were broken.
Her fingers were simply bound up and she was sent home to recover.
During Mandy’s childhood and young adult life her fingers caused her no problems. She played piano and the trauma of the accident faded in her memory.
After an early career in teaching, Mandy took a degree which enabled her to teach and work with children with multi-sensory impairment.
Part of this work is to work as a ‘signer’ for children who are both deaf and blind where Mandy would communicate through touch, using pressure on the hands of the child to convey meaning.
Over the years, she noticed that at times her hands would become swollen and painful, making it difficult to work at times. Five years ago Mandy saw her GP who referred her to the orthopaedic specialist treating hands at her local hospital in Chesterfield.
The symptoms were dominated by extreme pain in the finger joints, localised swelling in the joints spreading into the hand. Smaller, very localised swellings in the palm of the hand and some clawing of both hands and fingers. X-rays show the finger joints to be arthritic. Blood tests put fears of rheumatoid arthritis to one side and her surgeon prescribed cortisone injections to reduce the swelling and ease the pain which was now increasingly frequent.
It was clear that injections alone were not a cure and Mandy had the first of a series of operations, first on tendons in her wrist before her surgeon finally operated on the bones in the fingers of her left hand which was a success.
The operations on her fingers were performed to fuse the joints, which reduced the pain but limited movement. Since, in reality, she had very little movement anyway joint fusion brought general improvement to her hand usage.
Each finger joint was operated on when the pain became severe enough to prevent sleep and daily use of the hand caused problems of dropping things.
At this stage the finger joint was beginning to distort as bone moved against bone. The chosen method of fusion was to screw the joint together, with a screw running the length of the finger, setting the finger in a position that allowed best grip by the hand.
The operations, spread over three or four years were successful; pain ceased and hand function improved.
Problems developed in her index finger and during the operation in May 2010, the bone fractured and had to be repaired with a metal plate. By this time Mandy was used to the normal healing process but it became clear that this particular joint was not healing. The pain continued and the joint did not repair. Scans and X-rays showed that fusion of the bone had not occurred despite a metal plate with 4 fixing screws and immobilisation of the hand.
There was also a loss of sensation in the finger, swelling was still evident and the finger was sometimes cold to touch. Her surgeon advised Mandy that should things not improve then he might have to consider taking a bone graft from her hip or wrist, and use this on her finger to assist the fusing.
Mandy was extremely reluctant to undergo more surgery. Her consultant team suggested that it might be worth trying EXOGEN.
“Neither I nor my surgeon wanted to do the bone graft from my hip, but we were running out of options, so the thought of a device that avoided an operation and which I could use at home sounded too good to be true.”
Mandy started to use the EXOGEN device in August 2010 and by early October 2010 X-rays revealed that the bone was completely healed. “Almost immediately I got the feeling back and warmth back in my finger and the nail began to re-grow. Within a few days the finger simply began to feel more comfortable and less inflamed. I am very, very thrilled as it worked so quickly and saved me having to have another op. Importantly I felt a great sense of empowerment in being able to manage my recovery. I can’t thank my consultant and EXOGEN enough”
Although she is now retired the treatment to her hands has enabled her to sign again.
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