Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


That would be on me. I'm getting surgery today on my left hand. Specifically, they are going to remove the bone at the base of the thumb, called the trapezium, and stuff the space with tissue harvested from a wrist tendon. Grotesque, isn't it?

The reason is osteoarthritis. I have no cartilage left between the trapezium and the metacarpal bone, that is the shaft of the thumb. It hurts all the time - it hurts to take money out of my wallet, it hurts to button my shirt, it hurts to take a paper cup off the shelf. The proximate stimulus for taking this step is that my cousin-in-law talked me into buying a guitar, and I just can't play for more than a few minutes. I studied up on it carefully, and this surgery has an excellent record of long-term outcomes. However, it will be an ordeal. I'll be in a cast for six weeks, I'll need weeks of physical therapy, and it will be months before it's fully normal. But, then I'll have the rest of my life to be glad I did it.

I don't blame evolution -- we weren't supposed to live this long. But most of the world's people, obviously, have no access to this kind of intervention. If they develop osteoarthritis, they just have to live with it. It's the price of stayin' alive. So just think about it -- being in your fifties or sixties, and taking it for granted that you have many productive years left and shouldn't be, and don't have to be, disabled, is a very recent, very unusual version of the human condition. And maybe it won't last much longer.


robin andrea said...

Good luck with the surgery! Hope it all goes well. I really love your perspective here about our long-lived selves.

roger said...

your surgery sounds ever so more serious than my excision of some squamous cell carcinoma. mine turned out well. hope your does too. if the ari isn't too thin for comedy, i still can't play the piano.

roger said...

nor proofread