17 March, 2005

The Vague-aries: I am Brian's Ganglion

It pains me to write this, no really, it is physically painful to type this. I have a small lump on the back of my right hand, just above my wrist, it contains fluid, intermittently it swells, with the entire back of my hand puffing up, knuckles losing all definition, the arthritic feeling shoots down into my fingers.

Short version, two months ago, I startled one of our dogs in the act of stealing food from another. Instead of admonishing her first, I too quietly sidled up and took the bowl away. She instinctively lashed out, sinking teeth in, but releasing immediately as she saw what she'd done. Not ever an aggressive dog, she's more likely to sit in front of you with a somewhat nervy steely determination to receive attention and cuddles than to attack anyone. The bite gave me two deep puncture wounds, one on the back of the hand, the other on the side of the wrist, both far enough from any major artery, some blood oozed, but they stayed mostly closed. Following phone advice from the NHS I washed the wounds for half an hour (surprisingly painful, but I'm new to deep flesh wounds), and they put a dry sterile dressing on it the following morning.

For two weeks the hand swelled up, was stiff and uncomfortable. For a few days I couldn't grip anything It was the kind of feeling you get in the muscle you've just had an inoculation injection in, but instead of a large arm or buttock muscle, small set of tendons on the back of the hand, the sterile hypo replaced with a dirty dogs tooth. At least my tetanus jabs were current.

Anyway the hand calmed down for the most part, with some occasional arthritic feeling, but then a month on this lump erupted, like a reverse wannabe stigmata.

I let this continue for a few days and then thought I ought to have the benefit of expert advice from our free National Health Service. The doctor told me that it was fluid, that they could drain the fluid off, that this would be a hospital procedure, but that it would probably re-occur, and there wasn't much point in doing it unless it got infected or continued. I was told to go away for three to six months, pretty much to put up with it.

My hand swelled again, causing a bearable but nearly constant level of pain. Sharp pain would occur doing the simplest things, putting a hand in a pocket, holding a pen, cutting vegetables for stir fry. I was losing sleep, not being able to get to sleep until utterly exhausted, or waking in the middle of the night from pain.

After another few weeks I was at my quarterly appointment with my chiropractor, who also dabbles in "alternative therapies", to which I'm simultaneously skeptical and open minded. I'm willing to try things, but I don't expect them to work. Over the years I've seen the folk remedy Arnica regularly used against bruising, and St. John's Wort used with mild depression. I've seen acupuncture and cider vinegar work treating arthritic conditions in dogs, who are ostensibly free from any kind of placebo effect. Even if us human's are susceptible to placebo, if it's a positive effect, that's OK too.

My chiropractor wanted me to try using Colloidal Silver. At first glance this is pretty close to snake-oil as you may be likely to get. It's claims are that by taking very small ionized particles of silver suspended in a purified water solution, these particles interfere with the metabolisms of viruses, bacteria and fungus, but are not at all harmful to healthy tissue. Hmmm. Whilst have a reasonably high pain tolerance (for a guy), the chronic condition is very wearing, so I'm willing to try anything to at least feel like I'm doing something other than waiting for gangrene to crop up so that the NHS will deign to treat me.

For your benefit, and at no small cost, I've become a willing, if uncontrolled (scientifically), test subject. I'm told to take a large dose initially (200ml), followed by a half hour of rest, then to take a tablespoon (15ml) each subsequent day for a week. As instructed I take the initial dose followed by a pint of water, I return to bed and oversleep the half hour by two hours, it's Saturday anyway.

On waking it seems a miracle has occurred, my hand has come down significantly. The lump is still there, but my knuckles are visible again, I can flatten my hand, almost without pain.

Through the week that follows the hand remains mostly calm but the arthritic feeling in my knuckles slowly returns, with unfortunately some new pain in the next set of knuckles down my fingers. Worried, not alarmed by this, I had been told to repeat the procedure again from the beginning if it didn't clear up after a week, I leave this an extra day because on the Saturday I have to drive with my wife to the Crufts Dog Show. Sunday I again take a whopping 200 ml of the colloidal silver, a pint of water and return to bed dozing merely for the required half an hour, to little or no effect. I'm now slightly worried.

Over the next two days the pain increases again, and the back of my hand starts to swell again. I book an appointment with the NHS for Wednesday, Tuesday I get a hold of the chiropractor, she reconsults her literature and suggests that I should be taking the tablespoon of silver twice a day, and I should hugely elevate my Vitamin C intake to between 2000-4000 mg a day. Oddly enough, I do already take a 500mg a day supplement, and I had, through a certain laziness, missed a couple of days during the previous week when my hand seemed to be getting worse again. Anyway, I take this new advice on board Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning, the hand is the best its been since the beginning of this. This is almost unfortunate, as in front of the NHS doctor it looks a bit of nothing. He is able to prod the lump itself without pain. I have a different doctor this time, and at least he explains my condition in greater detail. I've had damage to the sheath that protects the muscle and lubricates the space between the skin and muscle. The body that has formed is called a ganglion. He offers to drain the fluid off then and there, but states that it should vanish eventually left to its own devices. We elect to wait and see, so I know that if it doesn't disappear I don't have to wait six months to get it drained, this doctor will happily stick it on a moment's notice.

I continue to use the colloidal silver and Vitamin C, and things are steadily improving. Perhaps coincidentally, but my fingers will tell you a different story. It no longer pains me to write this.



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