Hand Surgery: A WOSM Patient’s Story

by Debra T.

I have a career that involves managing therapy and support programs for both service members suffering from traumatic brain injury and for their caregivers. While it’s personally rewarding, there’s also a fair amount of stress that’s involved. So after work, I love going to the gym to relieve tension and pressure from the day.

hand injuryI like my spin class, but what I really enjoy is boxing with my trainer. I’m in my 60’s, but so what? To me, exercising is the same as drinking from the fountain of youth, and boxing is a wonderful way to stay in shape and feel good.

The problem

One morning a few months ago, I woke up like I always did—except, this time, I couldn’t recognize my left hand. Overnight, it had somehow swelled to the size of a football, and I couldn’t move it either. There wasn’t any injury to my hand the night before from my workout, so it was a total mystery.

I immediately made an appointment with my primary care physician, who examined it the next day and decided that I needed to see his “hand man.” He made a phone call and made arrangements for me to see a specialist, who turned out to be Dr. David Moss at Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. I completely trust my primary care physician, so if Dr. Moss was his go-to guy for hand injuries, then I had faith in Dr. Moss as well.

The diagnosis

When I got to Dr. Moss’ office, he took x-rays and reviewed them with me. He said, “Good news—your hand isn’t broken.” But then he pointed to an area of my hand on the x-ray and said, “The bad news is that you’ve got quite an infection. And we have to clean it out immediately, so I’m scheduling you for surgery—tonight.”

The procedure

After I got over the shock, Dr. Moss detailed exactly what he was going to do during the procedure, which was important to me. I got checked in at Sibley Hospital and was soon prepped for my procedure. All along, I received very attentive care from Dr. Moss and his staff at Sibley and was continually informed of what was going on.

The procedure involved Dr. Moss opening up my index finger and then going into the area in the left corner of my palm. Obviously, your fingers and hands don’t provide a lot of working space, so there had to be some delicate maneuvering around healthy tissue in order to get to the infected areas. In any case, Dr. Moss got in there and did what he needed to do to save my hand. The surgery was on Friday night and I went home on Sunday.

The recovery

Afterward, there wasn’t much drama getting my hand back to normal. I had several follow-up visits with Dr. Moss and two visits to the SMARTherapy facilities. During my first occupational therapy visit, I was shown several exercises to strengthen my hand; the OT (occupational therapist) made sure that I thoroughly understood how to do them so that I could easily replicate them at home or work. On the second visit, the OT helped give me a better idea of how much activity I could safely do with my hand. She showed me what the limits were and explained how some pain was still okay when I performed certain tasks.

While I couldn’t go back to my boxing routine in the days right after my procedure, Dr. Moss allowed me to continue exercising on a limited basis. Several weeks later, he gave me his approval to put my boxing gloves back on. I went straight to the gym that day and resumed my training. Below is a picture of my hand—good as new—90 minutes after I got the OK from Dr. Moss.

debra thumb injury


All in all, I couldn’t have gotten any better care from Dr. Moss, the SMARTherapy center, and Sibley Hospital. Dr. Moss is great at what he does and I really trust his judgment. I appreciate that he took immediate action with my hand. Today my hand is perfectly fine, there’s no scar, and my punch is just as strong as ever.

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