Friday, January 23, 2009

Hand Update

I don't think I ever did update you all on what happened with the new doctor we saw at the Kitakyushu General Hospital. We had been rather unsatisfied with the Beppu doctor, and were actively seeking another one with the help of a doctor friend and her anesthesiologist husband, when the Beppu doctor announced he would not be continuing at the hospital and would introduce us to the new surgeon on our next appointment. Instead we took out chance to switch (luckily, as the new doctor looked very young!), and requested transfer notes and a referral to the doctor advised by our friends, but instead he gave us a referral to his teacher, the plastic surgery department at Kitakyushu General Hospital.

We went there back in December, and we were both very happy with the new doctor. The old one had taken a brief look at her hand, prescribed cream, asked us to put her hand in a splint, and sent us on our way, telling us she'd have to have a graft next summer. I felt we lacked support in how to use the splint, and what to do about the problems we had with it, like effects on her skin, pain, and her hatred of having it put on. The man who made the splint was kind, but I would have liked something like nursing support or tips on day to day care. All I got was told to 'do my best'. Japanse speakers will understand all the nuances the word 'gambaru' can imply!

This doctor was so different! First of all he wasn't afraid of English, picking up my medical dictionary and having a good look at it! We spent at least twenty minutes discussing the graft in great detail, in Japanese and English, with the doctor using a wall chart of skin to describe the differences between dermis, epidermis, etc, the depth of different grafts, and the reasons for them.

He explained that since the palms have no pigment, he would probably take the skin from her sole, with a second graft from her hip to cover the sole. The hip wound would be let to heal by itself. He also explained that since her first wound scarred, the graft would probably scar and contract too - it's just her genetic tendency. (Her TB stamp has also not healed. Guess she'll get stretch marks too as she gets older). And that therefore, she'd probably have further surgery in her teens to straighten up any further problems BUT not to worry as he assured us that she will eventually regain full function.

Best of all he said the first surgery would not be until she was about three (phew! it's a lot easier to deal with a three-year old in hospital that with an 18-month old! The previous doctor seemed to have no idea how willful and difficult toddlers can be!). And we would only need to visit him every three months, so we are going back in March.

He also said we could ditch the splint. Or use it if we want, if we think it makes any difference. Needless to say, she hasn't worn it once since he said that! He was of the opinion that the contracture happens anyway, and with surgery full function will be restored, so it's not really worth the effort. He also said we could use whatever hand cream we liked, just any ordinary cream. I am still using the Hirudoid though, and now I've been prescribed more for her dry skin, which is partly contributing to her 'mizu ibo' these kind of pimple-like wart thingies. What the heck are they called in English someone?

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