Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finding Joy in a Broken Finger

On Monday night of this past week, I happened to be in the way of a speeding softball. Well... that's not exactly true... I just didn't catch the ball in time. I was playing 2nd base at a church league softball game, and after the batter hit the ball my way, I, being the completely clumsy and inexperienced sports player that I am, couldn't get my gloved hand there in time. Instead I got slammed by the ball on my unprotected hand... my left hand, the hand with which I draw, paint, eat, write, live. Buckled over and gripping my hand in pain, I knew immediately that the middle finger was broken. The ball had peeled the nail back slightly, causing it to bleed, but worse, there was the crooked silhouette of a bone being obviously out of place.

Steve rushed me to a minute clinic; I didn't start to cry until we were in the car... not because it hurt, but because the panic was setting in, about my future as an artist and classical pianist. I couldn't think of a good reason why God would let this happen, and yet, I knew I had to trust that everything would work out okay. Fear and panic should never be allowed to take over - I have learned that from painting! Fighting through the fear and using it to stop and re-focus, always leads to a better painting. Always. I tell that to my students, and now I am finding just how crucial it is in everyday life as well.

When we got to the clinic, the nurses got me in ahead of the line, put an ice pack on my swollen finger, and took x-rays. Then Steve pulled out his iPhone and we watched the Byan Regan skit about the emergency room to keep our spirits up while we waited for the doctor to give us a prognosis. When the doctor finally came in, he told me that the base of the distal phalange had shattered, and that he had counted at least four small pieces, floating around in there. He gave us some recommendations for hand specialists, put a temporary splint on my finger, and wrote me a prescription for pain meds before sending us on our way.

 Pretty sure it's not supposed to look like this...

The next day (Tuesday), Steve managed to get me in right away to see one of the area's best orthopedic specialists, Dr. Lund (all the other specialists were booked solid and wouldn't be available for a consult for an entire week!). After reviewing my x-rays, Dr. Lund confirmed that it was worse that we originally thought: the bone had been compressed by the impact of the ball, shattering the base into at least 6 pieces, maybe more. He said he would schedule me for surgery as soon as possible to try and push the pieces back into place before too much scar tissue develops. I'll have to wear a cast up to my wrist for at least the first week, to ensure absolutely no movement in that finger. Then I'll wear casts on the finger for several weeks after that, followed by several rounds of physical therapy. The doctor said a successful surgery would allow me to bend the joint 35 degrees, but that arthritis in that joint will be a given when I get older.

I took all this news with some degree of sadness, thinking about all the years I had spent practicing piano, and of course the months ahead, where I might not be able to paint at all. And in the back of my mind, I heard my parents telling me over and over again, "Don't play sports - you'll injure your hands!" (such wisdom, and this grown-up twenty-something ignored it...) Then I thought, "No, I'm meant to be an artist and musician! Even if they took my whole hand, that wouldn't stop me from doing what I love!" As one of my friends said, "You'll probably learn how to paint with your teeth or something. You can't NOT paint." She's right. I can't NOT paint.

That being said, I don't really know what the next few weeks will bring, once I've had this surgery. Right now, I am surprisingly okay. I used to worry about something happening to my left hand, and now that it has... I'm discovering that it's all okay, because I truly believe with all my heart that God is in control of this situation. And I'm not just okay... I'm filled with the joy of the Lord.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. - Psalm 28:7

One last thought: just after this happened, I was reading chapter 7 of Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts," and she described the Old Testament story about Jacob wrestling with God. The angel touched Jacob on the "sinew of his thigh", breaking him at the strongest place in his body. But Jacob struggled on and wouldn't let go until the angel blessed him. “The Lord has to break us down at the strongest part of our self-life before He can have His own way of blessing us.”  ― James H. McConkey  I have a feeling that this incident is going to be a real learning experience for me... I will be forced to slow down and take time for God, family and friends, and me. Maybe putting the art on hold won't be the worst thing in the world... maybe, it's really a blessing in disguise.


  1. I told you in Atlanta that you had a very bright future as an artist, and I still believe it - God wouldn't waste such talent!

  2. Loved this post Anna! It's so inspiring seeing you cling to the promises of our Lord through this very scary trial. I was really blessed by this post :)

  3. Anna, here is "my" story to give you a little hope. 1995 winter in Anchorage, Alaska was cold and no snow, so since I could not cross country ski I decided to learn to skate on the clear ice lakes around. One weekend I was in a high speed turn and (yep it was stupid I know) I crashed and burned. Working in Xray I looked at my right wrist and seeing it do a Z shape ( my right wrist and oh am I right handed ) I knew I was in trouble. Ended up crushing 3 different bones in the wrist, tore 3 ligaments loose that had to be reattached. But thanks to a great Orthopedic and rehab people, and some extra metal hardware now in my wrist that the metal detectors just love at the airport, I got about 95% of my mobility back. My wife after all the rehab was done one night told me "You have always wanted to be an Artist, now you have a 2nd chance--go for it" so that is how my career as an artist started. I have not looked back since. In my case it was the kick in the butt I needed to refocus my life. There is a silver lining somewhere, so "Go For It". Best of wishes.

    1. Julia,
      Thank you for sharing your amazing grace story - that is such a great testament of how much God can accomplish if we are willing to trust our lives to Him. Even though my own injury is minor compared to what you dealt with, I am so encouaged by your words. Thank you!

    2. @Kurt - Yours is a pretty incredible story, too! Wow - I am so glad you healed and were able to pursue your art after that. Thanks for sharing - I appreciate the encouragement and words of hope.

  4. Anna, I will be praying for you! The Lord holds the future and doesn't allow anything to come our way that isen't first filtered through His hands of love. I can relate with your fears though - seven years ago they found a tumor in my thyroid. When we went for the surgery consult the fear of cancer was minimized as soon as the suregon told us that the surgery was usually not a problem unless you are a singer (which I am) he then told us that there is a small nerve that runs through the thyroid that strongly effects the singing voice (if it's snipped, I would never be able to sing as i had). I bawled like a baby for an hour. I remember saying to God in prayer a few days later (when i was a bit more composed!) "God this is your gift and if you choose to take it from me, I only ask that you give me some other way in which to praise You." Long story short - they were able to only take half my thyroid, and missed the nerve that runs through it - my voice is actually better now than it was before the surgery. But - through that time period I also began to really pursue art as i had never before - and in doing so found an additional way to praise Him. His ways are amazing - be encouraged :-)

  5. Anna, I appreciated this post, your faith in the LORD's healing and in His giving you the desire and ability to paint. I, too, am a fine artist. I have sprained my left painting wrist very badly at least twice, I've nearly dislocated my left arm, and I have badly sprained my eyes. Each injury brought a change in my ability to paint. I prayed at lot and sought the LORD for healing and direction. My eyesight fading was the most difficult, I had worked twenty years to gain the skills I had, and they seemed to have been suddenly taken away. Five months of rest brought my vision back, although it's never really been the same since that time. Once I continued to paint with my RIGHT hand, because I had a deadline to meet. Really, what you know about color/light/value/shape is largely in the mind and heart. The hand is just the tool. While the dexterity may not be there right away, you can probably paint right-handed. May the LORD bless you with a full recovery!

    1. Thanks, Elise, for sharing. I am 100% agreement with you that the artwork really comes from the heart and mind, and that our hands are just the instruments. If we are determined enough, we can do anything! Your story is very inspiring and just what I needed to hear... in fact, I took a "first step" today and varnished some paintings with my right hand. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually start a new painting with the clumsy right hand and finish the whole thing that way. It could be an amazing exercise in slowing down and painting with focus rather than out of habit. Thanks for the challenge! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...