Shooting myself up with a needle

I pressed on the plunger to release the substance.  A strange warm sensation radiated up my arm…

I sat there.  My left forearm exposed and spread out on the table.  My right hand held a syringe with the needle unsheathed.  It carried a clear liquid with some white milky fluid stirring around it in. I had disinfected the area with alcohol and was ready to do it.  I was going to give myself an injection.  It was a Saturday and nobody was in the clinic. I was tired of the pain and needed the sweet relief that could only be found behind the needle dangling from my fingers. I took a deep breath and pointed the needle at my wrist.  The tip of the needle vibrated exposing my shaking hand from the nerves.  

I couldn’t stop.  I had to do this. I pressed on and felt the tiny prick of the needle as it pierced the skin.  “That wasn’t so bad,” I thought.  But the needle had to go deeper and I put a little more pressure.  The razor sharp needle slid easily through fascia and subcutaneous tissue diving down to the area I needed it to be.  I gently drew back the plunger to make sure I was in the right place.  I was and then I pressed on the plunger to release the substance.  A strange warm sensation radiated up my arm.  It took a couple seconds to completely evacuate the syringe. I quickly withdrew the needle and threw on a bandaid.

I waited there wondering when it would take effect.  Two minutes passed.  I started to sweat wondering it it was all for nothing. Finally, the sweet sensation of relief enveloped my left wrist and thumb. It had worked! I quickly cleaned up all of the paraphernalia.  I locked up as I left and went home.  

While drug use and self injection of addictive substances by physicians is a known problem, that was not this case.  The area I injected was my left wrist over the distal radius at the base of the thumb. The medication that was an injection was a combination of lidocaine (a numbing medication) and depo medrol (a steroid). I had what is called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a condition of severe inflammation over the tendons to the thumb as they pass through a canal over thumb side of the wrist.

This condition is very common in new mothers as they hold their baby on their hip with their arm wrapped around and wrist flexed stressing the tendons. The condition was caused by my second son who was a tank.  I would always hold him on my left hip and try to get my chores done around the house with the right hand.  I was well acquainted with the condition because, not only had I treated it and done injections on my patients, I had the condition 2 years earlier with my firstborn (who was also “of ample proportions”). At that time I had received an injection from an orthopedic surgeon who was a friend of mine.

This time I did not have access to a colleague to do the injection so I took action myself.  I was surprised how easy it was to do the procedure.  It worked well and the steroid cleared up the inflammation.  In the future I don’t think I’d do it again. Often as doctors we think we can self treat but we don’t always make the best decisions when treating ourselves.  (I’ll have to have Dr. Mark Vaughan talk about his friend who was going to do his own vasectomy on his youtube channel).  Fortunately now I have a partner physician I can run things by.

Perhaps this transfers to non-medical life as well.  Going solo can have dire consequences.  In making delicate, tough or important decisions in your life, I hope you consult a trusted friend.  Recently my wife and I have had to make a big decision and I am so glad we made it jointly and are going through the transition we decided together. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it says: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  Find that trusted person in your life and be that person for someone as well.  It mostly comes down to truely caring for and having compassion for those around you. This will open you to some vulnerability but when you have that special person who looks out for your interests as much (or more) than you do, it is a wonderful thing.  Thank that person in your life this week.

If you enjoyed this, check out some of my other medical stories here.

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