Biting the Hand That Feeds Me

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

Blogging with my right hand
Damn carpal tunnel got me
Left thumb...oh, so numb.

I used to laugh at so-called "Blackberry Thumb" sufferers. "What a geeky, sham condition!" I'd scoff as I pounded out article after article on my laptop.

Until I woke up Thursday morning with a lifeless, numb left hand. I shook it. I shimmied it. I did everything I could to breathe life back into the poor thing but there was no denying. Something was seriously messed up.

Owing to my incorrigible hypochondriasis, I immediately Googled "numb," "thumb" and "sudden" (with one hand, natch). My sadomasochism was rewarded with possibilities ranging from frostbite to multiple sclerosis. I made a mildly hysterical call to my internist and her ever-patient nurse urged me to think horses, not zebras. After all, I'm a writer, I had been travelling with luggage and I had lifted weights the day before for a photo shoot, holding a barbell at a very awkward angle. In my left hand. All signs pointed to a nerve injury.


"You don't know!" I shouted into my cell and clicked off, marching into a drugstore in search of some sort of splint that would announce my potentially fatal injury to the world. I settled for a snappy black ACE Bandage Tekzone wrist brace. A friend of a friend asked if he could borrow it for a bowling party. For street cred.

Now that a few days have passed and about 20 percent of the feeling has returned to my digits, I can look at my gimpy hand and realize that yes, I will live and perhaps even button my own jeans again (Thanks, Strange Lady in the Panera bathroom!). I think I just so wanted this to NOT be carpal tunnel syndrome -- not only because of the damper it puts on a writer's livelihood, but because it's just SO DORKY. I might as well have Badminton Ankle or Dungeons & Dragons-Induced Psychosis. Indeed,, definer of all lexiconography that is cool and slangy, defines CTS as "a nerd's worst nightmare; can happen when you play video/computer games or just typing for way too long. Can cause significant pain, and numbness in the median nerve of the wrist." They then list the following TV scenario, from South Park, to illustrate:

Kyle: Ahh! Ahh!
Stan: Kyle? Kyle? Dude, what's wrong?
Kyle: Carpal tunnel, carpal tunnel! It's aahhh!
Stan: Oh Jesus, he's got it bad.
Cartman: Quick, we need Bengay.

I wonder if ailments defined by a depraved cartoon best known for the tagline, "He killed Kenny!" are covered by United Health Care?

It's quite an eye-opener to realize how many things your non-dominant thumb does for you. Massaging shampoo into your hair; pulling up your socks/underwear/pants; fumbling for your wallet; opening a jar of spaghetti sauce. Now, like a blind person forced to hone her hearing skills to survive, I rely on my right thumb to pick up the texting-induced slack. It has become quite strong. Yesterday I caught her trying to hitchhike when I wasn't looking. The digit has a freaking mind of its own. Meanwhile, Lefty languishes, flaccid and sad.

I could go on but my all this computer work is causing my eyes to become tired. They're blurred and itchy. I'm disconnecting from the internet because Lord knows what will happen if I Google that symptom trio.