The First Few Weeks of Having an Upper Limb Prosthesis: Lynda’s Perspective
by Amber Henson, on Aug 15, 2023
Our patient Lynda was injured in September of 2021. She had a traction injury that resulted in the loss of the fingers on her right hand, and a portion of the right thumb and left pinky finger. After 21 months of healing and physical and occupational therapy, Lynda was fit with Point Designs Digits and a custom silicone thumb. She will soon be fit with a Naked Prosthetics pinky on her left hand. We spoke with her about a week after she received her right-hand prosthesis about her experiences as she was healing and what she was discovering with her new prosthesis.
“Every day, I figure out how to do something new. Today, I brought in the garbage cans. I used to be able to do two at a time. I wonder if I’ll be able to do that again. And I’m new at all this, so I dropped the garbage cans like five times. We’ll see if I can practice and get back to doing two cans at once. But it’s like everything else — I have to try everything all over again.”
Lynda owns a small farm in California. After her accident, she stayed with friends until she felt well enough to take care of her farm again and could drive herself to weekly hand therapy appointments.
"In the beginning, I would reach for something and have no fingers, which was devastating.” Lynda pauses, and it’s clear just how devastating it has been. "It still happens sometimes. Just the other day I had to catch a chicken. She had gotten out and I had to put her back. In the heat of the moment, I kept missing her by the length of my missing fingers.” Lynda has yet to catch a chicken while wearing her prosthesis, “but that might change”.
“One major thing that has changed since I started wearing my prosthesis...I’m around large animals on the farm, and I was cautious when near them because my affected hand felt so vulnerable to injury. Without the prosthesis, I didn’t have the confidence to protect my personal space. With the prosthesis, the sensitive, nervy areas in my residual hand are protected. Now I can use it around larger animals including my dogs. I have a smallish dog and a 110 lb. puppy. When they’re getting too rowdy, I can put my prosthetic hand down between them.”
There is a learning curve when first using a prosthesis. “While my prosthesis is great for heavy-duty activities, of which there are a lot on a farm, these Point Designs Digits can make fine motor tasks more difficult because of the shorter length of my thumb. So, I’m having to learn to grip things in a different way than I used to before I had a prosthesis. I am relearning yet again to write with my right hand. I’ve spent my life honing the use of my hands. Now I’m 21 months in to relearning how to do the most basic things, and a few weeks in to relearning another way to do things with a prosthesis.”
“A lot of this stuff will take practice. I know that. I know it’s going to take some time, and sometimes it will be exciting, and sometimes it will be frustrating, and sometimes I’ll go too far. Like the other day, when I was digging ditches for a long time and when I stopped, my hand hurt. I wondered if I did too much, if I took it too far. The answer was yes. My hand hurt the next day and I had to leave off my prosthesis for the day. So, I’m still learning — about myself and about the device.”
Lynda will return to our Arm Dynamics center in Portland, OR, to receive a prosthesis for her left pinky finger. When she arrives, our prosthetist and clinical therapy specialist will sit down with her and ask how she’s doing and her thoughts on her device. If she has ideas about changes to her prosthesis or any feelings of discomfort, our prosthetist and technician will modify her device and be sure she’s happy with the changes. Our clinical therapy specialist will work with Lynda on positioning the prosthesis and techniques to minimize overuse issues in her other hand. Our goal is to get Lynda back to where she wants to be.
If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you or someone you know, please contact us. If you have advice for people who have recently started wearing prosthetic devices, please leave a comment in the section below. We hope you have found Lynda’s story helpful.