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Sorry, that title is a bad pun. But I needed to make light of something that, otherwise, isn't particularly funny. For a few months now I've started to lose feeling in one of my fingers and generally, strength in my left arm. Here's the story of what happened and what I'm doing about it…

So, what appears to be the problem?

The story starts at the beginning of the year when, occasionally, I'd feel some numbness and tingling in the little finger on my left hand. It usually happened whilst I showered, so I assumed it had something to do with my hand being raised above my head. It was mildly concerning at this point but nothing I felt the need to do anything about. Eventually, that became more regular, to the point where, today, it's like it all the time – I haven't lost all feeling in it, it's just mildly numb.

But there's a second strand to this story. Back in February, I was cutting my finger nails with some nail clippers. I did my left hand but then when I came to cutting my right hand nails… the clippers didn't work. Wouldn't cut through my nails. Damn nail scissors – these were supposed to be a good make too. As an emergency measure I continue with some over-sized toe-nail clippers, which work fine.

Anyway, a week later and I'm in Lisbon. My nails need cutting again and I have a different, barely used, set of clippers in my travel bag. I cut the nails on my left hand and then on the right… again, they won't cut. Okay, this isn't a bad set of nail scissors. It was then that I realised the real problem – I'd lost strength in my left hand and I wasn't able to push the clippers together well enough to cut through my nails. The whole finger/hand issue had gone from mildly concerning to definitely concerning.

Once back in the UK I made a Doctors appointment – and like many GP surgeries today, mine was rammed for weeks. It wasn't an emergency so I waited. In the meantime, it became more apparent that my left arm has become so much weaker – the laptop I keep by the side of my chair in the living room is a lot more a struggle to lift now, with my left hand. So, yeah, it's not just my hand but my arm in general.

It's not really affecting me in life, though, although I am finding I'm making more typing mistakes, mis-keying letters where I've used my left hand (I think it's when I'm typing quickly and my now, weakened fingers aren't reaching the keys quick enough, even though my brain expects them too have).

The Doctor – Part One

When I got to see the Doctor she couldn't explain it. She would be expecting some shoulder pain or even a similar numb sensation in the finger next to my little finger (apparently, they're linked, so an arterial issue affecting one should affect the other). But I have none of this. I'm in rude health other than my left arm, with no other symptoms other than those I've mentioned here.

So, the Doctor formulates a plan…

  1. Get a wrist splint and see if that makes a difference. Ordered from Amazon.
  2. Have a blood test (booked for the next week).
  3. Return to her in 3 weeks time to discuss results. My family has a history of arthritis, so the blood test is really looking for this.
  4. Depending on the results (in fact, I'm not if the results will make a difference), she'll send me to a physiotherapist. 

All of this is good. Except the blood test. I nearly walked straight past the receptionist, rather than book the appointment, because I really am terrified of them. And this needs some explanation too.

What's the beef with blood?

When I was about 10 I was in hospital. For quite some time. And during my stay I had a LOT of injections. However, I seem to have a problem where getting blood out of my arm is pretty much impossible. I don't know why, but they'd stab needles in where they were sure a vein was and come away empty syringed. It's like I have a number of fake veins just trying to fool people. These days, they'd just stick a cannula in the back of your hand at the beginning and just use that every time. But, back then, nope – it was the syringe of doom instead. And due to the repeated attempts my arms became like pin cushions. If that doesn't put you off needles at an early age, nothing will.

And the problem remains today. New nurses will try my arm and fail before eventually doing what I suggested to them in the first place – using a cannula in the back of my hand to get the blood out. The problem with the latter is that it hurts. Oh, dear God does it hurt – it hurts going in and it even hurts as they extract the blood too. But it's that or watch them stab me repeatedly in the arm looking for a blood-filled vein that is unwilling to give anything up.

So, yeah, I hate blood tests. And needles in general.

The Next Day

Next day, I get the wrist splint, although it needs a wash first so it's not until the next day (today) that I start to wear it. Whether it makes a different is to be discovered. Meantime, I remain nervous about the imminent blood test which, as much as I try and forget about, I'm not very good at doing so.

What are you? Yellow?

I don't know if I put over sufficently just how much needles scare me. And when you combine that with the inability for anybody to get blood out of arm but, instead, have to resort to the back of my hand which hurts like hell… well, that knocks it up a level.

And I spent the weekend actually feeling sick. I slept badly and felt constantly irritable.

Last night I spoke to my wife about it and, today, cancelled the blood test. Why? Well, the Doctor told me it was to do one thing – to test for something that she didn't think it was. And even if it was that thing the next step, physicotherapy, is the same. So, I'm putting myself through all of this stress (which is getting worse as the day approaches) for something as vague as this.

When I last had a blood test, a couple of years, ago it was a result of an unknown condition that had caused me so much pain that I'd passed out and needed morphine to suppress. At the time, the hospital couldn't work out the cause so I was discharged to the care of my Doctor who arranged two seperate blood tests to try and get to the bottom of it. As much as I didn't look forward to those needles, getting to the bottom of a problem that had caused me so much more pain was worthwhile. What didn't help either was that the results of those blood tests showed no problems and we never did get to the bottom of the problem (however, on a hunch, I made some changes to my diet and I've not suffered from the problem since).

This time, there is no searing pain that I hope can be made better from the results of this blood test – just a slightly numb finger. And as my Doctor didn't seem overly concerned about it… well, it's not quite the same really.

So, that's it. I feel a big let-down but the sense of relief has been huge. I'm still due to see the Doctor again in 3 weeks and apart from telling how I got on with the wrist splint, I can have a genuine heart-to-heart about the blood test. But she's got a lot of convincing to do to get me to have it.