At last, 4 ½ months after the accident I saw the hand consultant. I paid privately to be told it was unfortunate, but nothing could explain or change the reasons why I was not assigned a hand consultant and hand therapist sooner after the accident and surgery. There was not much hope of progress at this stage. Now all the hand consultant could do was to order more therapy in spite of the standstill in progress. The hand consultant would have another look after that.
During the consultation I was asked, what did I need to use my hand for? Why did I need my fingers to work more than they did? To hold my tools, I said. How exactly? To grip and turn. I panicked thinking if I did not come up with a good enough reason for wanting my fingers to have a full range of motion, I would be dismissed. Although I was a primate like most of the human strain given I had given up brachiating from branch to branch quite some time ago. But, as a human and a sculptor I use my hands and I need my fingers to make work.
Being put on the spot trying to think of the many instances when my fingers could not manage tasks caused them to evaporate from my mind. It seemed all wrong. It seemed the premise should have been that of course anyone would want full use of their hands and fingers. They would not have to justify or provide the right sort of evidence to prove their hands and fingers were necessary. I did not want to waste anyone’s time or money on have unnecessary surgery or therapy, yet somehow I was expecting to hear, “it seems the therapist has done everything possible, let’s see if there is anything else that might reasonably be done to gain improvement.” There was no such hope on offer.
Of course, quite rightly, the hand consultant was simply trying to analyse what exactly my hands and fingers could and could not do But it felt much more like an exam I was desperate to pass, and on the day failed.
The hand consultant manipulated my fingers, asked me to grip, felt the damage, and assessed the possibilities, the degrees of movement, active and passive. Perhaps the hand consultant’s line of enquiry touched another kind of nerve. A nerve of insecurity, that not on only were my fingers unnecessary, so was I unless I came up with the correct justification for my existence. Never mind that the garage door had put paid to my fingers, in this strange inquisition a perceived failure to produce might result in the proclamation, ‘Off with her head’.
As children we had responsibilities. Everyone was expected to pull their weight. The hierarchy of tasks followed age and size. Generally the older boys had outdoor jobs; the younger girls’ chores covered the rest. We cleaned loos, dusted furniture, swept and mopped floors, set and cleared tables, dried dishes and generally applied ourselves to internal domestic chores. Compared with the work our parents did keeping things running, our children’s contributions were mostly minor lessons in being responsible.
I made the mistake one day of taking a breather on the sofa, there, lost in day dreams and staring out the window. Mother swept in looking astonished that one of us would dare to sit down. Did I not realise there was work to be done? Could I not see there was much to do? Did I think I was some sort of princess others would fetch and carry for? Not knowing the correct answers, I panicked. I did not see the dust, dirt and dishes needing attention. I was puzzled and confused by the line of enquiry. It all seemed wrong. It seemed the premise should be that I did not see with my untrained eyes. It wasn’t malice but a child’s self centeredness, ignorance and innocence that motivated my inertness.
Unlike today, the day before further surgery to my hand, when I am trying to organise as much as possible in anticipation of the lack of use of my hand for weeks and months, back then, the to-do list for the house and life was invisible to my child’s eyes.
I see silicone moulds sitting on my workbench waiting to be filled. They are tiny casts of the centres of cities and their famous monuments. To melt and pour bitumen into these small forms requires both hands to be strong and steady, the left hand and fingers to grip and hold the pot and pour, the right hand and fingers to guide and measure. Eventually the black cast cities, like their counterparts in the real world will be built and then, necessarily fall to ruin in time.
So it is today, I am preparing for tomorrow’s surgery where the hand consultant will cut my fingers open, clear scar tissue and free up tendons to try to improve range of motion. Recovery and rehabilitation will be long and painful I am told. This time my fingers will not be in pieces so I am telling myself it won’t be as bad. There is 50% chance of some improvement, 40% chance of no change and 10% chance of things being worse.
Unlike the discouraged and self-pitying figure in the drawings made a year ago this week, I trust the hand consultant. I am scheduled to see the imaginative hand therapist within days after surgery. I have no doubt they will do their best.
In readiness, I get out the A3 sketchbook, the wire cube and my pen.