Monday, February 6, 2012

Medical Mondays: Give me a (crippled) hand!

This week, Melissa Sarno has a great question.

She has a teen protagonist who is a serious classical pianist. She needs some sort of injury or illness that would make it impossible for her to play. Melissa also has a few stipulations:
  • If possible, she'd like it to be a strange and mysterious illness
  • She can't physically lose her hand
  • It has to be relatively sudden in nature
*cracks knuckles* *ow that hurt*

Okay, here we go with some possibilities. There are a lot of diseases that can cause hand or arm problems in teens, but many of them may not show up suddenly, so I tossed them.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (Specifically, Systemic Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, previously called Still's Disease, or if over age 16, Adult-onset Still's Disease)
  • any joints can be affected, so the hands and wrists would work in this scenario
  • a pink, spotty, flat rash also occurs often around the armpits and waist. It often accompanies...
  • a high spiking fever that can occur for days on end and is not responsive to antibiotics
Multiple Sclerosis
  • less common in teens but certainly can occur
  • symptoms for Melissa's character can include numbness, tingling, and weakness of her hands and arms. Other problems include unsteady gait, vision problems and weakness of other parts of the body.
  • unlike adults, children and teens with MS can also have lethargy and seizures
  • MS can be very mysterious for people who don't understand it. The cause is unknown and it's not contagious, but can be quite debilitating and wax and wane in severity
Trauma (okay, these aren't "exotic" but might be a realistic possibility for a teen)

  • Car accident. A hand can easily be traumatized in a car accident from rollovers, crush injuries, or contusions
  • Ring injuries. Ever heard of the kid who climbed a fence, got their ring stuck, and fell? Sadly, it happens. Catching a ring can cause a "de-gloving" injury that is repairable but debilitating.
  • A penetrating injury like a knife cut could injure a tendon. Though repairable, it could impact playing for quite a while.
  • Sports injuries. Think broken fingers, blunt impact, stuff like that. 
If you can think of others, please add to the discussion!

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
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Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary. :)

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53 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

I banged the funny bone in my elbow on the corner of a doorway once and I lost complete use of my hand for several weeks. Seems I damaged jut one particular nerve and also chipped the bone and had a severe bruise. (I banged it good. Not on purpose.) After I healed, or so the doctors told me, I had tingling in my fingers, with trembling and occasionally the loss of feeling. Twenty years later, some days I'm still affected.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Ouch to the ring accident. A friend's daughter has the arthritis. Sometimes she get sick easier too in general and is out of school.

Sorry I don't have any new ideas.

Laura Pauling said...

I hate to even think about teens having illnesses like that but good examples. Ring evulsion is terrible but it happens.

Miranda Hardy said...

Very interesting maladies. I can't imagine a problem with my hands. One of a writers greatest fears.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Even though I am cringing after reading some of those injury scenarios, this is a great post, Lydia!

I hope Melissa finds a situation that suits her story from this list!

Em-Musing said...

It'll be interesting to see how she overcomes "whatever" malady she gets.

Connie Keller said...

I had a friend in elementary school who had arthritis. She was sick a lot and ended up falling a grade behind.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love medical Mondays. :)

As a writer, I always fear something happening to my hands that will keep me from writing. Thanks for the list of the things to avoid. :D

Justine Dell said...

Oh how I love Medical Mondays. And like Stina, I am terrified that something might happen to my hands, too! Eep!

~JD

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

Hand injuries are terrible because it seems like they take three times as long to heal.

Emily Rose said...

Hand injuries are no fun. I play basketball, so I'm constantly jamming up my fingers:(

Coleen Patrick said...

Fragile capillaries. I don't know if that's an official term or if it's typically a symptom of something else, but the pain is weird--a sudden sharp stinging, then my hand/finger slowly turns blue and then it changes to purple and then brown. It it often sore and could interfere with piano playing.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the info, Lydia!

LTM said...

very cool. The penetrating injury made me flinch... :p As did the ring. Good morning! :D

None of these seem very "recoverable," if you know what I'm sayin. ;p <3

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You certainly provided a lot of possibilities.

Kelly Polark said...

Ouch!

I rushed my 1 yr old to the ER once when my 3 yr old closed a door completely on his hand. His fingers seriously looked like an accordion. I did ask the dr, "Will he ever play the piano again?" :) And luckily due to his young age, his fingers weren't broken. Alas at age 7, he still can't play the piano though. ;)

Shelly said...

When I was 16, I was kicked by a horse in the arm/ wrist and I couldn't feel or use my fingers appropriately for several weeks. Nothing broken, but much swelling impacted the nerves, etc.

Melissa Sarno said...

Thanks so much Lydia! And thanks everyone for even more ideas. So many to choose from. But yeah, all this research has me completely paranoid. Hand injuries are not good for writers either!

Old Kitty said...

I was going to say arthritis too! My sister plays the piano (used to) until her arthritis got worse (now she has swollen hands! But she's only than me and close to 50! Oh dear). Take care
x

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh man. I do not want more info on a de-gloving injury, because I'm sure it's as hardcore as it sounds.

lbdiamond said...

Ouch!

Degloving is such a...well, icky word, LOL!

Suze said...

Sounds like Melissa has an interesting narrator, too.

Indigo said...

Love the fount of information that comes out of Medical Mondays. (Hugs)Indigo

Meredith said...

Ew--this post made my hands hurt. Ring injuries sound absolutely awful!

Southpaw said...

Reading the last bit actually hurt my fingers!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I used to play piano as a kid/teen - my parents pushed me so hard at it that I probably would have wished for something temporarily debilitating just so I didn't have to play for awhile. :/

As usual, super cool post!

Laura Josephsen said...

Oh, I winced at the thought of the the ring accident.

Very informative post--thanks for taking the time to do these!

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Good suggestions. Or could she have seriously bad RSI maybe?

Jax said...

My entire family suffers from MS. When it's cold outside, the tips of my fingers go numb and turn white. Is this a sign?! Do I have it?!?

Ug...

Clarissa Draper said...

What a great question. I love the choices. The more unusual, the better.

Shelley Munro said...

Ouch! My hubby injured the finger of his right hand last year. He crushed it when an engine block moved while he was shutting a packing case. He severed nerves, which required an operation then he had heaps of physio. He still has his finger, but it does get quite stiff at times.

Something like that might work for you.

Colene Murphy said...

Seems like there isn't much, but you did a great job with the list! Interesting stuff!

Linda Gray said...

Wow, you get the best questions! And the answers are cool. It's like tuning in to the final question on some modern-day medical version of Jeopardy. If it works for the writer who asked this question, I vote for 'ring injury.' (I know, you didn't ask for votes, but that one really stands out for me--made me wince because it's so easy to visualize, and could play well into characterization of protag that she'd be doing something like climbing a fence)

mooderino said...

another great post. Makes me want to give my character an injury so I can ask yo0u how to do it.

mood

Barbara Watson said...

All so interesting. So many possibilities. A girl on my daughter's basketball team broke her pinky (it was sticking out at a 90 degree angle from the norm), and she's been out for WEEKS with surgery, pins, casts, and now taped fingers as it heals. Even little things affect our miraculous bodies in huge ways.

Carrie Butler said...

These are always so thought provoking! I love Medical Mondays. :)

February Grace said...

Time for me to add my weekly "fascinating!" just so you know I was here :)

Actually my daughter has JIA and they say she will grow out of it. I hope so...most of her joints are affected.

another great Monday!

bru

Leslie Rose said...

The ring injury was really wild. Makes sense though. I have arthritic hands from gymnastics. Mostly achey wrists.

Abby Minard said...

That's interesting! Would rheumatoid arthritis take too long to cripple her hands? She could do some kind of mutant strain of some of those slower diseases...turn it into a sci fi ;p

Krispy said...

Eek, thinking about some of those injuries is making my hand feel all squicky!

But thanks for the info!

julie fedderson said...

I saw a violinist once who developed overuse Raynaud's syndrome--he could not play for over a year without excruciating pain.

Bee said...

That ring injury sounds scary. Actually, all of them do, but that one's particularly...sudden.

This is a very interesting list, Lydia.

Sarah Pearson said...

I want to never wear rings again ...

Rachna Chhabria said...

Another very informative post, Lydia. Its giving me lots of new ideas for my books where illnesses are concerned.

Carol Kilgore said...

Ooh, lots to choose from. The idea of catching a ring sorta makes my skin crawl. Probably because I can imagine doing that. And the pain wouldn't be fun at all. Ouch!

Saumya said...

So interesting! Just learned about M.S. I love your Medical Mondays.

Nancy Thompson said...

I slammed a car door on my finger once and the driver started to drive off. That hurt like a mother...

And once, when I was working retail as a teenager, someone broke a glass display shelf then put the 2 broken pieces, sharp side up, next to the trash box under the register counter. I leaned down to throw something away and sliced my left ring finger to the bone. It didn't work for nearly 6 months, and then only after surgery, and it still doesn't work completely, even after 25 years.

I'mJustSayin' said...

Oh this poor piano girl. What if she had recurrent rheumatic fever that was undiagnosed? There could be a chapter where she goes dramatically nuts too...awesome. Depending how important she is, kill her off, or treat and end happily:)

Susan Fields said...

This post reminds me of the picture I saw on Facebook the other day of my neighbor's son who got a serious wound on his hand from a saw when he was helping his dad in their woodshop. The poor kid is a pole vaulter, and track season is only three weeks away.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

De-gloving sounds...well, it sounds pretty horrible. And from now on out, I'll be sure not to climb fences while wearing rings. Not that I climb fences much anyway.

I don't have anything helpful to add, but this post was really interesting! I'm bookmarking it, just in case I ever need to cripple somebody, as wince-worthy as that sounds.

vbtremper said...

Wow, I love all the stipulations in Melissa's question. Her ms sounds fascinating!

AJ said...

As a parent of a child suffering from a serrious case of systemic onset JIA I find this post offensive. Here I am looking to find someone with experience as a parent and instead I find an uninformed doctor listing it with sports injuries. You obviously have no idea what the course of the disease is.

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