More Than Cool Enough

It’s still dark now as it’s just 6 a.m. I still do not feel nervous and that is because for several days I did and that’s over. I booked my taxi to the hospital for 6.30. It’s a 20-minute drive and I wanted a hedge as a margin for traffic or something else going wrong. The taxi was ten minutes lat because he hit some traffic. The driver and I chatted all the way to the hospital. He was new to Derby having taxied in London for the last ten years.

The hospital corridors were very long and abandoned as I walked along and I was glad for allowing extra time because of the hike. I’m feeling only a sense of anticipation now. Soon I will hand myself over to several others to steer me through various procedures and as I enter the hand clinic area where the surgeries take place I am greeted by a wide smile and a question of, “How do you take your tea?” The waiting room is empty one minute and then half a dozen others joined me. The accents are midlands or further north––my country. I loved it and loved the very distinct and different Northern humour as we all sat chatting about our various needs for hand work to be done. Every need was different but the third name to be called out was, “Paul!” Followed by, “Okay, let’s get you started.” A little form filling to check on my current health and blood pressure, blood sugars and so on. All good.

Before I knew it I was lying down head on a pillow and arm stretched out with two doctors discussing the procedure. “Slight scratch!” she said and almost at the same time she asked me if I could feel anything. ‘Only faintly.’ I said and she gave it two seconds before she asked, “What about now?” I answered no and then I could feel only the movement of my hand as she manoeuvred the needle inside and along the rising ridge in my palm. Yes, I could feel tugs now and then but nothing more than I could stand. I understood that she was systematically severing the fibres inside the palm skin. I confess some disconcerting snaps taking place in quick succession. There were two ridges on the side of my ring finger too. This needed more needle insertion and some tugging and such. The discussion between the consultant and the junior doctor was fascinating. It wasn’t too long before we were working on the other hand, a lesser problem but still in need. We were done.

Minutes after surgery my finger extended much more fully with only minor resistance. It’s up to me now to be diligent in my exercises.
Before surgery and after 25 years of gradually worsening disability. The finger remained around 45º and could not be straightened.
Twenty-four hours after surgery with the bandaids off and hands washed for the first time. No infection, only very slight (and expected) swelling to the ring finger where added needle work was needed for another chord.

I stood up and walked out to a waiting area to go to occupational therapy for follow-up physio and splints for my fingers. This was another insightful experience watching them mould thermoplastic to my hand to add velcro straps to to keep the splints in place as I sleep. This is DIY from here on. Exercises six times a day, splints to keep my fingers straight through the night to aid recovery and stop my hands from making a fist in my sleep.

These splints are made to measure in the Occupational Therapy Depsrtment where thre Thermoplastic is heated and shaped to the hand as needed.

In every department, I was greeted with warmth, smiles and the utmost care and respect. And it wasn’t just the ones dealing with me as a patient but even the briefest encounters carried a smile in both eyes and mouths. I have never had much to do with hospitals over the past 40 or so years. Minor visits. This was an eye-opener of total hospitality in care and concern. I dropped something and two nurses were there before I could move and handed it back to me. The experience was a total absorption into love! It was as if the whole hospital was utterly dedicated to carrying every injury and pain and absorbing as much of it as possible and without exception. Every door got opened and every chair moved to take your body. This type of human aid should never be taken for granted. Where am I? I am at the Pulvertaft Hand Centre, Royal Derby Hospital, Kings Treatment Centre. Who was the consultant working my hands? Miss K Brown. She was a dynamo of action with accuracy and care.

My taxi arrived to take me to the railway station and I said goodbye to Derby. The train came in on time and was zipping along the two zip-wire rails to Oxford. From there the bus outside took me into the city centre and as I got off that bus my next bus rolled up behind it.

At the house, I was greeted with wild anticipation by Rosie who raced around and around with leaps of joy matching my own relief that everything had gone so well.

Then she chilled . . .
. . . and waited to go to her own home with my grtanddaughter and her parents.

Today is Friday 24 November and my surgery is entering three days since it was concluded. I have no pain anywhere and even the exercises every few hours result in a slight pulling even when I extend my fingers as far as I can. I have had no bleeding nor swelling but I am planning to enjoy the rest and celebrate a later Thanksgiving day tomorrow when my family will all get together. Just so you know. I can already do everything as before but now my fingers that were affected no longer get in the way. Why i ended up two hours away in derby and not here in Oxford? Severl months ago I let everyone know about my hand problems. One person, a professional guitarist had had the same issues and had treatment at the Pulvertaft Hand Centre at the Royal Derby. I felt this would be where i wanted to go and I asked my doctor to refer me there which she did. Our wonderful NHS is brilliant and highly respected.


  1. Great to read that everything went well Mr. Sellers. I wish a speedy recovery.

    I have fond memories of the time I moved from London to Derby… fantastic people & very friendly.

    1. The Missus had a similar operation. I’m glad things went well and you are on the mend. Thanks for the kind words about the good folks at the clinic. The Missus is also a nurse, and they work hard. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    2. I’m so glad this already looks to be a successful pair of procedure’s. I’m on the other side of a few major hand surgeries myself for different issues, and those molded splints brought back memories; I still have the various splints from the same material kicking around. Wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery. You’re an inspiration in many ways.

  2. Glad to hear/read that it went well, and you were comfortable with the care you received. Always stressful when you have to put your lifestyle in the “hands” of strangers. Heal quickly!

    1. Paul, for a maker that knows of very little down time, and a work ethic that few would dare to follow, I fear that the next few weeks will be very long for you and your loved ones….take care

  3. So glad all went well with your hand surgery Mr. Sellers! And yes many of these surgeons are angels. They often work long hours to help people with all types of issues. Miracle workers. I have the same situation with my left hand ring finger and will likely need surgery like you had in the future too. Wishing you a fast and complete recovery! George from York Pennsylvania, USA

  4. Very glad to read all went and continues to go well. Wishing a speedy recovery sonyou can get back to the bench.

  5. Good morning Paul,

    I wish you a most speedy and healthy recovery. God bless you Paul and thanks for all your wonderful woodworking instruction.

  6. Paul
    Sometime as I read about what people have experanced , to walk you back to life living as other reader’s have to compare memories.
    I only think you should not rush to get back to work. As I read your blog, I think you should enjoy the time to recover, as weather permits. Bob

  7. Three cheers for your success and many thanks for your caregivers. You wrote, “It was as if the whole hospital was utterly dedicated to carrying every injury and pain and absorbing as much of it as possible and without exception.” If you haven’t previously, you may find it interesting to read about Tibetan tonglen. In the US, for some reason, physical therapy Rx does is the standard of care after many surgeries. If one asks, then the referral is immediate, but if one doesn’t ask, it never happens, yet it is so very important. Most patients do not know to ask. I do not know how things are in the UK, but if physio was just for fitting the splints, perhaps ask and find out if a significant program of guided exercise is possible and available? Maybe, for sake of comparison, ask your guitarist friend what physio he or she did, how much was in clinic vs. alone? It is such a relief to hear you are doing so well! Thank you for letting us know.

  8. GOD bless you! may I request a speedy recovery for you! our teacher (lol) . I was unaware of this undertaking. it sounds like you have had remarkable care as well as Execusite Seguin’s. this sounds like this went much better for you than this operation here in the U.S. I am happy for you!!!!
    I would think by Christmas you will have your hand around a plane and hammers as well, providing you do the required exercises.
    Happy Holidays Woodworking Teacher!!!!

    1. My surgeon says two to three weeks and back to woodworking as normal again. Due diligence in exercise will produce top results from here on and that is in my department alone. These are clear and simple. Any problem in the next few weeks I can call them and go in if needed. My last diagnosis in a hospital was in 1984 when the disease I had was incurable and then I was told that I had but 18 months of life left. DIY worked really well for me. A radically changed diet to remove an allergy from my life has now given me an extra post-prognosis addition of 38 years to date with no return of that disease and no return to hospitals until this treatment. For all of the life given me I am eternally grateful.

      1. I retired a few years ago after 40 plus years of work in hospitals. I learned many things in those years. I would like to share two. First, the vast majority of people working in health care are wonderful people who want to do their best for others in need. Second, every day we are given is a gift for which I give thanks. And thank you Paul for all that you do.

      2. Paul,

        Glad to hear the surgery went well and your prognosis is good. I too, am recovering from surgery. A meningioma tumor behind the left eye. The surgery went well and two months later I’m back at work. You cannot control what life throws at you, but it is what you do after the event makes you stronger and appreciate the things you can continue do.

        Yea… C’est si bon.

  9. Thank you for sharing and best wishes for a speedy recovery! You’ll be back wielding your #4 in no time.

  10. Prayers to you Paul for quick and full recovery. Work hard on those exercises so that you may enjoy the full capability of your hands.
    May God aid you on your recovery.

  11. Wonderful news Sir! I’m so glad it went well!

    I appreciate your knowledge and skills more than I can say. whenever I am in my little shop working on something I always think: “How would Paul do this?” you are such an inspiration!
    I look forward to seeing you back in the shop!

  12. Paul,
    I’m glad to know that your procedure went well, and that you’re home safe on the mend. I wish you a speedy recovery and a happy holiday season!

  13. Paul, so glad to hear that your surgery and the hospital experience went so smoothly. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  14. It’s Thanksgiving here in America and I’ve seen no better expression of gratitude than your post today. So glad that your doing well and getting better.

  15. Dear Paul,

    I wish you a good and complete recovery. As stated by others, take your time and do not rush. Some natural processes need their own time.
    God bless you.

  16. Hello Paul.
    Very happy to hear that the procedure went well, and you will be back in action soon. Work on the exercises and hopefully you will have a total recovery.
    From Australia, best wishes for the future.
    Manuel de Sales

  17. Paul, your hand problems looked like Dupuytrens Syndrome (my apologies if that’s not the case); but if so, very common amongst us with Viking heritage! I had surgery about 10 years ago and I sincerely hope that your early excellent results continue. Mine did not and my finger (little only thankfully) was back to 45 deg after only a few weeks, despite splints, therapy and acupuncture. I am writing this Paul out of concern for you, and with all best wishes for your recovery, not to put a dampener on things – but sometimes the medical profession can be less than candid about the possible outcomes. Go well, my hopes are with you Paul, and thank you for all you have done for the woodworking community around the world, from me in New Zealand.

  18. Best wishes for your recovery Paul. Recovery from invasive surgery is as much about the patient’s attitude and diligence in the physio exercises as anything and I’m certain you’re as well placed as anyone in both areas. I would expect a good outcome for you.
    Rosie is absolutely beautiful by the bye, could you give her a belly rub for me? Thanks!

  19. Hello Paul, I am so thankful the procedures went well. I have had these operations too and happy to say very successfully. Mine were done a little differently. He made a slit in the palm at the base of the finger and had stitches. I think mine took longer to heal than yours perhaps will, about two weeks but no problem though. It’s been two years for one and 6 months for the other. Absolutely no problems. Interestingly, both mine were on my ring fingers too. The doctor said it could happen on other fingers too. Anyway thank God you’re on the mend. Paul I’ve been reading your blogs since the beginning in 2011. I am totally amazed at your ability, your teaching skills, your perceptions into human nature and and nature. Your patience in unsurpassed. Since I taught English in North Carolina public schools as a career I am amazed at your skills as a writer. You rank up there with the best novelist and poets. I also feel another connection since my father and his family immigrated from England (Chichester) in 1907. I am 79 years old and discovering woodworking thanks to you. May God bless you Joe Barden

  20. Paul, Greetings from Washington Crossing , Pennsylvania, USA
    (Yes the very spot where he crossed the Delaware River)
    Great to hear of the fine care you received, and the excellent results you are experiencing.
    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
    All the best

    1. Good morning, Ed, She’s an English born and bred cocker spaniel with an amazing sense of smell. Hide her ball and tell her to find it and she will. Roll the ball along the floor and around corners, between pallets and such and put it on a shelf and she will go nose to the scent and find it without fail. When the scent stops she’ll look up and then look at you to get it if she can’t jump high enough to retrieve it herself. More than that, she is amazingly affectionate and well loved.

      1. Such a wonderful companion! Rosie barked me a note saying that petting dogs is excellent hand therapy…at least 15 minutes a day. My shop dog is a cat who thinks he is a dog. He doesn’t fetch or chase anything. He just follows me around, sits on my stool with his back towards me, and scans the basement to make sure predators aren’t sneaking up on us.

  21. I’m recently out of a three-week stint in hospital here in Sydney, and was similarly treated with kindness, respect and humour. Like you, I’m grateful for our many wonderful health professionals, worldwide it seems. Go well Paul.

  22. An early good morning, Paul. So happy all went well for you. Sometimes a little forced ” R&R ” is good for reflection, and for reading. When you return to your wood working it will be with even more vigor, although I can’t imagine that being possible! Seize every minute of every day…priceless gifts, as you have so often pointed out in your writing.

  23. I ‘got’ so called trigger finger 7 years ago . Although woodworking has been a life long passion I am a guitar player , a rigidly bent , left middle finger was a major disaster . I was referred to Dr Lee in Penrith , Australia , Dr Lee was also a guitar player and had seen me play so our first meeting mainly revolved around guitar playing , both technique and interpretation , at our second meeting we were accompanied by three nurses , two holding up a sheet so I couldn’t see the procedure although I could feel the cuts and tugs . Our third meeting was at his house where we worked on a set to be played at his daughter’s wedding . My finger is still fine and I have almost no scar on the hand .

  24. Thank you for the update and so glad to hear that it went, and has gone, well. I have never been fond of being ‘messed with’ by doctors of any kind, but as I approach 73 I appreciate that they are there for us, and that health maintenance is a fact of life, just like sharpening a plane when it’s time. Not getting older, getting better!

  25. I’m so happy the surgery’s went so smoothly for you. Oddly about six or seven years ago I self diagnosed Dupuytrens Syndrome in my left hand. At the time I’d never heard of it before then. Strangely enough after my self diagnosis and later confirmed by my PCP, Dupuytrens was everywhere in the the news. For whatever reasons local anesthetics such as Novocain and the like have never worked for me. Therefore chiseling is out and I’ve watched videos on the fully open hand surgery and none of my options are too appealing to me. Unfortunately the rest of my health outlook doesn’t make more invasive procedures very appealing. At this point it’s mostly just a minor issue so I’m just gonna live with it. I do hand/finger exercises and they help some.

  26. Paul, so good to hear all went well and that everyone in the hospital took good care of you. All my best wishes for good healing and a full recovery. You’re the best!

  27. Paul, I’m glad to hear that your procedures went well. As woodworkers our hands are gold, especially hands that work with hand tools and that depend on them to feel and read the wood. A few years back I had prostate cancer. Surgery went well with 100% removal of cancer. During my recovery I went out to my shop and hand built a saddle seat shop stool for my shop. I was very weak at first but with each day working with my hands with purpose I grew stronger. My results with the stool wasn’t the prettiest of things but there was great satisfaction with it. You were my inspiration for getting back at it after a life threatening experience. I sent you a short thank you for giving me the appreciation of hand work with wood and you were kind enough to send me a wonderful reply. Blessings my friend for your total recovery.

  28. Quick and full recovery wishes for you, Paul! Thanks for taking me on your journey. You do important work!

  29. Paul, I wish you a speedy and complete recovery. Thank you for all that you do. I have learned so much from you.

  30. Woodworker heal thyself! Wishing you a quick and un-boring recovery!

    I’ve got a jacked up right pinkie that looks like the side of an accordion all squeezed up. Hit it against a steel post in the garden (US: garden). I’m stalling on going to the doc. Over here it is EXPENSIVE!

    I envy the NHS! We have the Department of Veterans Affairs for military Veterans. Underfunded, overworked, etc etc. They do what they can with what they’ve got. I had a colonoscopy. My wife said it was the perfect operation for a guy like me 🙂 The procedure was a success: Doc said it was a hole in one!

  31. Good to hear it went well and you were so well treated. 🙂

    Paul it occurs to me that the Japanese might refer to you as our Sensai (like a martial arts senior black belt/teacher), which I believe means something like “one who has gone before”. Like you I moved to the USA for several years and started our family before returning to blighty. I also developed type 2 diabetes since returning several years ago, like my mother’s family. You are an example and inspiration to me and us all 🙂

  32. Hi Paul, Wonderful to hear about your successful procedure. Thank you for the detailed story of your special day. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  33. Paul

    Great to hear the surgery was successful and you are making a full recovery. Thanks for giving your full support to the NHS. For sure it never gets the credit it deserves. Most people don’t appreciate it but we would be in a very sorry state without it. So many skilled, dedicated and under appreciate doctors, nurses and support staff. Please can you give them and extra plug in your next blog!!!

  34. Hello Paul.

    I’m glad to read you and know that everything has been ok. I wish you a complet and succesful recovery.

  35. Happy to see that you’re out of surgery Paul, and that it went smoothly!
    Even though we’ve never met, reading these posts had been pretty emotional for me.
    Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery!

  36. Paul,
    Glad to hear things went well for you. I always enjoy reading your posts, and watching your videos. Hope you have a speepy recovery.

    1. I am not sure how things could go any better than they have and are. Thankfully I have no infection as a result of the hand procedures and this seemed to be high on the list risk factors. Light duties are leaving me underwhelmed which is what I actually wanted for a brief season but I am determined to follow the advice of the medical
      team (and my five-year-old granddaughter who left a message taped to my door outlining my exercises and reminding me not to neglect them) directing me and monitoring me. My hands are now able to encompass whatever I choose to lift, zero weights and strains, and most of what I am currently doing complies with the occupational therapist who has and will be advising me.

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