Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jersey Finger - Detached Ring Finger Tendon

My middle finger hurt like hell and looked worse, but the numbness in my ring finger was more troubling. My ring finger turned white after the accident and felt ...empty. The tip was completely unresponsive, meaning that the last joint wouldn't bend.
When I went to the orthopedic walk-in at Kaiser Panorama City, Dr. Ostrovski, and his assistant ignored my concern about the numbness and focused on the middle finger which had snapped in two. They diagnosed the ring finger as a sprain, when it was really a detached tendon that needed emergency surgery.
What that meant is that I waited 3 weeks to see the hand specialist . He immediately and correctly diagnosed my injury: JERSEY FINGER.
Now you might think Jersey Finger is named after the state and has something to do with the middle finger, but you'd be wrong. It's actually an injury common to football players who grab onto another players jersey and, as the opponent pulls away, their finger tendon tears away from the bone. It is an injury that happens to the ring finger. Sad.
Mine happened when I was riding on the back of the Sea-doo with my husband and he took off without warning me.
I grabbed onto the strap of his life vest to keep from being flipped into the water. Eventually when my tendon tore and my finger broke I got wet anyway. :-(
My hand surgeon, Dr. Esmail, who I came to love even though he rubbed me the wrong way at first, told me that because of the misdiagnosis and the delay I would probably never regain the use of my finger. WHAT!!!!????? Live the rest of my life with a numb, limp, lifeless finger!?!????
You have no idea how many people will tell you that losing a finger is no big deal. "You'll get used to it." Dontcha know if it was them they would NOT go through surgery and gruesome recovery when there is such a slim chance that the finger will work again anyway. "Write it off. Chalk it up. Your kinda old anyway."
So I tried that for a week and it was horrible. It felt like a part of my body was already dead but still hanging on waiting for the rest of me. Creepy. The fear of surgery, confusion and people pleasing cost me another week and a half and when Dr Esmail finally did the surgery it was 5 full weeks after the injury.I'm sure Kaiser would have been thrilled if I had learned to live with the dead finger. Everyone made the surgery sound like it was going to be painful as hell with 3 months of horrible recuperation (6 weeks in a cast). They couldn't tell until they cut the finger open how far down the tendon had retracted. They may have had to open up my whole hand down to the wrist, but turns out my tendon was balled up in the bottom of my finger.
So Dr. Esmail and his lovely assistant Maria Occulum carefully threaded that tendon up through the scarred sheath it used to inhabit and attached it to my bone with a thread that they poked up through my nail and secured with a button of all things!
The cast they put on my hand weighed about 6 pounds and was itchy as hell. You can't get it wet either. I was a big baby about it every step of the way. And the pain killers made me crankankanky.
But by the time we went to Australia six weeks later I was wearing a lighter removable cast and was way way happier. I still had to keep everything dry because of the button, so I didn't get to dive the great barrier reef. But so what! I have my finger back. Not all the way. But if you have this injury, get the operation. Get it right away.
That's my recommendation, based on my experience.


  1. Nice post! If I ever get Jersey finger I'll know exactly what to do. Well, actually, I'll just call you. LOVESSSS you!

  2. Hi- I had the same procedure six weeks ago, 'cept mine was to my middle finger and my procedure was done a week after the injury. I was kept in a hard cast for only a few days. So when I searched and found you, I've been showing people "see? this is what I've been going through!"

    My question is how are you now? My button is coming out next week--is yours still in? If not, how is your nail? My big fear is that it will fall off. You are kind of my guide through this--please share!!

  3. OMGosh!!!! BlkPrl123, I just got your comment. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I'm so glad my experience helped you. I posted what I wished I could find when I was going through this.
    My finger doesn't work like it used to but it is MUCH better than it was. And I never think about it anymore. YAY! How is yours?

  4. Thanks so much for this post.
    I had the button procedure last Monday (08/30/10) to my left index to repair damage from a table saw mishap. Also had nerve repair in the index and middle finger. Remainder of ring finger was folded over and sewed up. From initial injury to surgery was five days. I am in the removable cast and do therapy every (waking) hour.

    I am (was ???) a motorcyclist & shooter so I guess things will change some.

    I am extremely thankful that it was not more severe and that the Lord provided prompt and proficient treatment.

    Again, thanks so much for the post.
    Tennessee, USA