On Monday, December 5th, Don had his left pinkie operated on to remove burn scar tissue that was causing the finger to curl inward, preventing him from being able to straighten it. In a two-hour outpatient surgery, the doctor removed the pinkie skin and underlying scar tissue, released some ligaments (they regenerate – who knew?), inserted a temporary pin in the finger to keep it straight during recovery, then he took about a 4″ oval piece of skin from Don’s left hip as graft skin to cover the pinkie. Don has a semi-cast on — hard shell on the palm side then wrapped in gauze and a thick Ace bandage all around his hands and fingers and 2/3rds of the way to his elbow. His fingers are bent in the cast at a 90 degree angle, which causes a very claustrophobic feeling for Don — he’s dying to straighten his hand. The donor site on his hip has a clear plastic bandage on over the surgical tape and stitches – it stays on until the doctor’s appointment on the 21st. It seems weird to keep it on that long, but the doctor was very clear in his instructions. The instructions were also very clear that the cast must stay on for the full two weeks between surgery and the post-op appointment. From the endurance test this is causing Don, I’ll bet many have either removed it themselves or called in to the doctor’s office begging to have it removed sooner. 12/21 can’t come soon enough. But from everything Don has already recovered from, he is an accomplished endurance healer and is determined to not give in on this one.
Don needs more extensive surgery on his right hand – his palm has a scar that extends from the base of his thumb up into his index finger, causing his palm to contract inward and his right pinkie has the same scarring issue as his left pinkie, just a bit less severe. Since recovery is 3-6 weeks (we’ll know timeline specifics once the doctor sees Don’s left pinkie on Wednesday), keeping him from skiing or biking, it’s hard to decide when to have the second surgery. The second recovery will also be more challenging because Don is right-handed. He’s considering having it done right away — first to get it over with all at once and second because the mountains haven’t seen much snow yet this season so we aren’t missing a lot. If he waits until spring for the second surgery it will interfere with biking, so either way there’s an adjustment. But well worth it in the long-run.
The doctor recommended that Don not workout at the gym for two weeks post-surgery to protect the hip area incision (donor site), but did say he could walk. Don was able to make it the third day post-surgery and had to move his body and get blood flowing through his burn scars and muscles. We felt the many benefits of exercise outweighed the risks. He was pretty cautious about what he did at the gym (and kept the casted left hand above his heart the entire time) in the first few days, simply riding a stationary bike and walking on a treadmill, then has steadily ramped up his exertion levels each day — today he ran on the treadmill, road the exercise bike at a harder level, used the elliptical trainer and did some side-squats. Throughout his recovery, Don has benefited immeasurably from his finely-tuned knowledge of his body, developed prior to the fire through a multi-year rigorous training regimen — he knows his body’s signals well enough that he’s able to do what it needs to heal without crossing the line to injury. I’m sure this varies person-to-person and the doctors must provide recommendations that address the worst-case scenario to ensure patient wellbeing and safety, but we’ve learned that Don’s body tells him when enough is enough.