Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Can quitting smoking save my finger?
Now, I've been smoking about a pack a day for about 30 years. I've quit before, sometimes for months, but always started up again. What makes this time any different?
About six to eight weeks ago, around the beginning of March, I noticed the tip of my left index finger felt cold. After a few days or a week I Googled the symptom, and it said cold extremities are a sign of poor circulation. No other insight was immediately available. It said people often just deal with it as an inconvenience.
I went off to Florida and had a great vacation and came back. About this time--late March--the finger started hurting, and developing what looked like a callous. It became more difficult to play guitar. Within the past couple weeks it's really started hurting like a son of a bitch.
I first went to get it checked out at Quick Care on April 16. The doctor on call said it looked like an infection, ordered a tetanus shot and a week's worth of antibiotics. The scrip ran out yesterday, so I went back to Quick Care. This time the doctor on call was baffled, but said that ain't no infection. He told me to come back and see the hand specialist today.
Well, I just saw the specialist. Great guy, Dr. Cohen. He operated on my left hand when I broke my thumb seven or eight years ago. His initial thought is it might be something smokers get called Buerger's Disease, so he said I gotta give up cigarettes. Immediately.
OK, fine. I don't think I'll have a problem with it. There's nothing good about smoking, and I've wanted to quit for some time. Something about the severity with which he said it made me realize now is the time. I remember seeing blues harmonica player Billy Branch perform at Buddy Guy's Legends in January, and he said on stage he quit smoking 10 years ago and "now he can do this," then launched into about a harmonica solo that lasted a couple minutes but seemed a lot longer.
Anyway, my finger hurts like hell. I can barely play guitar or bass. Doctor thinks it may be a wound that is slow to heal due to poor circulation. Cigarettes, caffeine and chocolate all impair circulation, so I have to almost cut out coffee and chocolate too, doctor says.
We still don't know the cause of the condition. There was no traumatic injury, like getting the finger caught in a car door, though that's what it looks like. It just went cold and started shrinking and turning purple. It feels dead. I suppose I should cut out french fries and other fried foods and eat better while I'm at it.
One other clue: an X-ray shows part of the bone is missing. I said it hurts, didn't I?! I don't know where it went or how it's gone missing. Like I said there was no injury that started this, just a coldness. I have to go back for an MRI. I hope this is diagnosed so I can begin treatment soon.
If anybody out there thinks he or she might know what this is, let me know. I'll leave you with a picture of my finger. I warn you, it's pretty gross, so if you don't want to see it, stop reading here and don't scroll any further. I'll put a picture of a kitten first so you won't see it by accident if you don't want to.
OK, now here's the finger: