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Pushing for Answers When Doctors Didn’t Have a Diagnosis for My Pain

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“It’s not broken,” the doctor said. “I don’t see why your hand hurts you so much if it’s not broken.” I was sitting in the doctor’s office, and as I heard his words, my mind began to wonder. What was wrong with me? I felt the pain in my hand, I couldn’t write and I couldn’t grip things. Nothing about the situation made sense. I was so confused.

I began to think back to when it all started, the car accident. It was a warm, spring day — Friday, May 14, 2010, to be exact. Little did I know that on this lovely afternoon, my greatest challenge would begin. I was walking into Costco with my mother. Within seconds I felt the impact that would change everything. As I walked across the parking lot into the entrance, I was struck by a car from the right side. Miraculously, I didn’t fall or get run over, but the car’s entire force and weight hit my right hand. The ambulance came and I was taken to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor told me I had a scaphoid fracture and she put my hand in splint, but the pain was persistent.

A few days after the accident, I went to an orthopedist at the hospital to get fitted for a cast. Little did I know that my injury would turn out to be far more complicated than a simple fracture. About two months later, I went back to the doctor and they removed the cast so they could take a MRI of my hand. The MRI results did not show any muscle or nerve damage in my hand. According to the MRI report, my hand was “absolutely normal.” The only explanation the doctors had for my persistent pain in my hand was that I was “overreacting.”

Hearing those words made my blood boil. How could my hand be OK? I knew there was something wrong, and I knew I had to be strong and keep pushing the doctors for answers. I knew this wasn’t a typical situation, and it was going to be hard on me.

Only as recently as 2014, I went to a different doctor in the orthopedic surgery and musculoskeletal services department. He was the only doctor who gave the true diagnosis of my injury. I had what’s called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis in my right hand. It’s an injury and inflammation of the tendons, and if left alone it would’ve be a problem that I would have for the rest of my life.

A photo of the author's wrist
A photo of the author’s right hand and wrist

Right after I finished my junior year of high school, last June, I had the surgery. The surgery was successful, and since then I’ve been having physical therapy to gain back full use of my hand. I still have some occasional bad days. Although it’s been a year, my hand is still healing, but soon I won’t have to worry anymore about my hand hurting when I write. I have finally been able to conquer the struggle I’ve had for nearly eight years.

From that young age of only 13, I developed real perseverance, in a time when it was the most difficult thing for me to do. I pushed through the doctors’ words repeating in my head, telling me my pain couldn’t be real and didn’t make any medical sense. I found deep-rooted confidence not only in myself, but more importantly in what I knew was the truth. I pushed for what I knew was right, until I got to the doctor who finally gave me the correct diagnosis. My accident and the injuries that followed has had a huge impact on me. As I look back now, five years ago I would have never imagined that getting hit by a car in middle school would lead to a self-actualized development of this magnitude. I believe that despite the pain and the struggle, the accident allowed me to find strengths within my character that I did not know I had. I persevered through all of the voices telling me I was wrong, when I knew I was right.

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Thinkstock image by Cherries JD

Originally published: April 5, 2017
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