Grown Up- Herbal Medicine

On April 26 of 1992, I had a little accident at work and partially amputated my left arm. The pre-operative diagnosis reads:

“Extensive complex deep laceration of left volar forearm with multiple flexor tendon, ulnar artery, ulnar nerve injuries”

which basically means I cut everything on the inside of my arm down to the bone. Oops. (I dropped about 30 lbs of heavy glass on it. I was cleaning the glass bell cover for the popcorn machine and it slipped. You’ll notice that all those covers are plastic now?)

When I went to the emergency room (I stopped at a doc-in-the-box on the way to see if they could fix it… they took one look and blanched and sent me on to the hospital… earning me the well deserved reputation for being dangerously optimistic.) I had the great good luck to draw a young plastic surgeon who was on emergency room duty that night. She called in someone else to take over the emergency room and called in her team and fixed my arm. I won’t give you the whole surgery report… it was a long surgery… the tourniquet time was 3 hours and 45 minutes. (Later the doctor told me that when she finished closing, I opened my eyes, looked at her and said “Doc. You look tired… go home… get sleep.” I don’t remember this, of course.)

The end of the report has a note on it:

“With the extensive ulnar nerve injury that she sustained I doubt she will have return of motor function and will most likely be left with a claw-type deformity.”

Well! I just wasn’t at all ready to be crippled. The doctor planned to keep me in the hospital a month when she finished the surgery late Sunday night. By Wednesday afternoon, she was ready to let me go and the hospital staff was more than ready to get rid of me. I’m not a proper patient at all. I don’t stay in my room, I refuse to act sick… etc. etc.

On the way home, I made my ride stop at the health food store I shopped at most frequently. The lady who owned the store was a bit surprised when I walked in in scrubs with my arm in a sling. We talked about what kind of damage I had done and which herbs would best repair nerve damage. She suggested raw mushrooms and valerian root as well as a complex of herbs to help the other muscle and tendon healing. (A note on Valerian root… do NOT take it continuously. Take a bottle and then wait a month before you begin a new bottle. It can build up and become toxic.)

Well, I went home with herbs and started taking them (they don’t do you any good on the shelf, after all). In follow up check ups, my doctor was surprised at how fast I was healing and sent me to rehabilitation much sooner than she originally planned. And then was amazed because once I could start trying to move, I could. It took a good while for me to build up strength again… and some longer to make my nerves respond… but in six months I was picking up a styrofoam up in my left hand. In 8 months I was able to pinch my thumb to each of the fingers (something she told me I would definitely never be able to do again) and after a year it took a close examination to determine that there was any reduced function.

It still feels like my pinky is asleep and there is slightly reduced circulation (which means half my hand always feels cooler than my right hand) but unless someone is looking hard (and I’m wearing short sleeves) there is no indication now that I’ve ever been hurt.

I am not attributing all of this to herbs. I had a fine surgeon who went to a lot of trouble to put things back to where they should be 9or as close as she could). I had a really good team of physical therapists who’s attitude was “TRY. You never know…”. I also had a great many people, some of whom don’t even know me, saying prayers for me. And I’m naturally stubborn. But I still think the herbs had a lot to do with it.

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