Monday had arrived and with it, the much-anticipated ruling to be handed down by the doctor. I had been having worrying issues with my fingers and palms, to the extent that intricate movements had become troublingly difficult. Typing, writing and opening packaging were among the problems I had been facing while cycling, but it was the long-term that concerned me.
On approaching the administrative desk, I was told to explain the nature of my problem, and how it had occurred. I described the lack of sensation, coordination and strength in my fingers, and suggested that long-term pressure was to blame. The nurse shot me an inquisitive look, and more out of curiosity than necessity, I’m sure, she enquired about the specific circumstances I was referring to. I hinted at a smile. This was a longer story than I could tell. I decided to give her the abridged version of the 400 page tale of which this is a part.
I wasn’t sure if my fingers were trembling for neurological or emotional reasons as I took the biro from the nurse, but I willed the disobedient hand to calm itself before scruffily penning my signature onto the form.
A short wait later, and I was led through a narrow corridor to a brightly lit room. Another few moments, and the tall Middle-Eastern doctor shuffled in. He had just been told the situation by the nurse. He was a naturally cheery-looking guy and smiled plenty, but it seemed he was trying to make a point of being professional. He asked how much longer I had to go on my cycle, as he turned my hand over gently pinching my fingertips. I told him about a year. He looked up. His smile didn’t seem so bright any more.
“This is nerve damage”, he explained, “and is only going to get worse unless you stop putting pressure on your hands. You can probably restore function as it is, but only by removing the source of the problem, and even then, it is likely you will need physiotherapy”. My heart sank. I knew what this meant. “How long will it take”, I pushed out. “Months, I would think”. I swore he winced when he said that.
Some minutes later, I was outside with my bicycle. I noted the irony inherent in the fact that the bike was my ticket back to Mel’s. I sat down to try to reflect on what I had just heard. Thoughts of continuing the ride anyway echoed through my mind. I have always strongly believed that you can get whatever you want as long as you are prepared to pay the cost. But there, my train of thought stopped. It was hot, I was sweating, and I was looking directly at my coiled fingers. Until recently, I assumed that the “whatever you want” automatically outweighed “the cost”. It was a presupposition that had driven me through a lot, but the price this this time was surely too high. Quite apart from the obvious, things like drawing, grip strength or the playing of a musical instrument in the future were also all at stake. I wasn’t sure I would ever forgive myself that magnitude of expense.