‘Trigger finger’ cannot shoot down the health care morass

Opinion January 3, 2013 0 Comments

by Maggie Wollman

I recently read the obituary of a man who changed my life. Dr. F. William Bora, Jr. received a full column resumé of his career as a hand surgeon.

Thirty years ago he cured my trigger fingers. “Trigger finger” describes a condition where the finger joint locks in a closed position. It can be manipulated to open, but that is not how a hand should work. This condition did not keep me from playing tennis. I simply slipped the handle in my curved palm. However, it was difficult to control a steering wheel with a fist, and wearing a glove on a cold day was challenging.

Dr. Bora came recommended to me by a doctor friend who had also benefited from his skill. On the day of the surgery at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, I sat at a table with a low curtain through which I extended my hand.

I could see Dr. Bora enter the room with an entourage. He performed his surgical magic and then said, “I’m going for coffee. You close up,” and he left the room. The show was over, and I went home with a follow-up visit to the office a few days later. I had two subsequent surgeries on two other fingers without any discomfort.

The middle finger of my right hand was recalcitrant, and to keep it open, it was bound to a tongue depressor. For this finger I also required physical therapy. I don’t remember how many sessions I had, but I do recall the sensuous pleasure of moving my fingers in a vat of warm sand.

Recently two friends of mine also had surgery for trigger finger. Their experience is a paradigm for our health care problems. Both men were in an operating room in surgical gowns. Both had a full anesthetic, spent half a day in the hospital and left with their hands in slings, reducing all activity to what they could do with one hand. They were incapacitated for several days. For one the operation cost $12,000 with an additional $60 for the sling.

What for me was a simple out-patient procedure which allowed me to go home, prepare dinner and my other quotidian chores has been elevated to surgery on a theatrical scale. There’s probably an insurance excuse for this. On the other hand, right or left, the more time spent in a hospital, the greater the exposure to the germs which reside there.

While a simple medical procedure can be unpleasant for the patient, imagine how frustrating it must be for the doctor to find the practice of his skill entangled in politics.

Maggie Wollman is a long-time Mt. Airy resident, curmudgeon and member of the Lovett Library Writers Club. And be careful what you say to her. Remember that her trigger finger now works perfectly.

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