A trigger finger, anesthetic and haiku

Ever had a trigger finger?

Not just the index finger of your shooting hand. Nearly everyone has one of those.

I’m talking about the malady in which one of your fingers “locks” down when it’s flexed. In serious cases, the lock is permanent, and the individual can’t ever straighten it out.

For several months I had a trigger finger situation with the ring finger of my left hand. It would lock uncomfortably, especially in the morning when I first woke up. Sometimes it was serious enough that I had to straighten it manually with my other hand. It was fairly painful.

Dr. Jeffrey Wahl at Greene County Medical Center gave me a cortisone shot a couple of months ago, and that helped loosen it up for awhile. But it returned, and was getting worse. Dr. Wahl suggested a simple surgery procedure, and I agreed.

The procedure involved a slit about an inch long in the upper palm of my hand, below the ring finger. The cut released the swelling above the pulley tendon that was causing the problem. The trigger disappeared, and the cut is healing rapidly. Total success.

The operation took place Monday morning of last week. Took about 15 minutes, and I was back in the recovery room.

That’s where things got interesting.

My anesthetic, administered very professionally and successfully in the operation, was totally effective.

I can remember lying down on the operating table and being made comfortable with a warm blanket. The next moment of consciousness was in the recovery room afterward.

I was pretty groggy when I woke up there. OK, I guess I’d call it loopy. Kathy was there, seated in a chair, and my nurse was making me comfortable again.

But the anesthetic was still at work, doing its disorienting thing. I knew where I was, and what had transpired. But my mind wasn’t its usual self.

Somehow I knew, I just knew, that my job right then was to compose haiku poetry.

I’m not a poet. I rarely even try. Maybe a limerick or two, or some doggerel once in a while, but serious poetry? No way.

I’ve tried a haiku or two in the past. I’m not very good.

Haiku is a venerable Japanese poetry tradition going back several centuries. A classic haiku consists of three lines, the first and third with five syllables and the middle one with seven syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

The poem is supposed to stick to a single theme.

Why I thought I was duty bound to compose haiku (the plural of the word is the same as the singular) in the recovery room is a mystery to me. But at that moment there was no doubt: it was my job.

So I lay there with my eyes closed, mentally composing what I thought were beautiful haiku. After a couple of minutes I would open my eyes, recite a haiku, and close up again to create the next one.

Kathy says I rattled off 10 of them before finally returning to ground zero.

Most were pretty poor, she said. But two or three might have been acceptable. She wrote down some of them, and I agree: a Japanese haiku master I’m not.

Kathy was relieved when the drug wore off and she was satisfied that I would not be trying to become a haiku poet thereafter.

The whole episode, though, got me thinking about drugs, opioids in particular. The anesthetic dose I received was weak, and in just the right amount to eliminate the pain of the surgery and the immediate aftermath. It did its job perfectly.

But even so, the mind warp lasted for about an hour.

I can’t begin to imagine the effect of a full-strength opioid taken over a long period of time by an addict, someone who has come to crave it as an integral component of life.

That kind of dependency must be incredibly dangerous, to the addict and those around him or her. There are treatments that can work to make things better for addicts, but so far society hasn’t been willing or able to head off the growing scourge.

There are parts of America where opioid addiction is laying waste to communities. It’s a challenge we must meet, and it will take lots of resources to do so.

Cutting billions, or trillions, of dollars of tax revenue will only make things worse.

How do our elected representatives plan to fund that fight?

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