Clippings: 'Carp'-ing for perfect Christmas gift
This year, as I sat down to write my letter to Santa, I found my list populated with items like fingerless gloves, Velcro wrist guards, ergonomic keyboards and heated keyboard pads. The big item this year (not a Barbie Jeep or a puppy as in years past): surgery.
When I first found out that I would be writing the Clippings for the Christmas Eve eve issue, I imagined writing about Christmas music culture (Wham’s version of “Last Christmas” vs. Savage Garden’s), or the history of tinsel or something else along those same festive lines. I never imagined that I would stray to writing about something so dismal as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Then again, I never imagined that I would suffer from such a disorder while only in my 20s. No offense, Santa, but carpal tunnel syndrome is for oldpeople. At least, that’s what I thought.
It was in my sophomore year at Middlebury College that the tips of my fingers began hurting as though they were bruised. Had I closed a drawer with too much force? I wondered. Did I high-five my friend a bit too hard? All sorts of ridiculous notions began popping into my head as I sought to deny that the strange pain was anything more than a temporary throbbing.
But then the pain spread to my wrist, then my thumb — when I began waking up in the middle of the night sobbing from the sometimes dull, sometimes sharp pain pulsing through my left wrist and hand, I realized that I couldn’t just ignore it any longer.
I went to see the nurse at the college’s health center, and after she finished listening to all of my symptoms, the woman declared that the pain was most likely the result of an inflammation of the nerve passage in my wrist caused by (drum roll) too much typing.
Lame, right? I get that all the time.
While at Middlebury, I suppose I may have typed a bit more than my fair share. I was an English major, and most of my assignments were in the form of essays, papers and short stories. I was also an editor of the student-produced newspaper, worked part-time as an office/web assistant on campus, and catalogued books at the Henry Sheldon Museum.
Yes, I acknowledge the fact that I did (and still do) type a lot.
But then again, take a look at my generation as a whole (am I old enough to say “my generation” without sounding too obnoxious?). We are all typing and texting fiends — or “fools,” as my dad once put it. When kids and young adults are not on computers at work or school, they are surfing the web, G-chatting, Skyping, playing online games and searching for bootleg TV shows to stream. And this applies to just about everyone between the ages of five and 50, by now.
Everyone from my 11-year-old sister to my 20-something-year-old friends is on his or her computer for hours and hours and hours each day. So, it’s no surprise, really, that my little wrist is acting out. It certainly deserves some attention, and especially, some rest. The real surprise, I think, is that I’m one of few 22-year-olds who has been diagnosed with the “carps,” as my unaffected friends affectionately refer to it.
But this will change.
Indeed, it’s already starting to. Within the last year, I have heard of two other people my age who have been forced to break down and buy a wrist guard. They send me emails with pleas for help and solace. “How can I make the pain go away?” they ask desperately, and, accompanied by a sad-face emoticon, “Will it ever end?”
And my sage answer is this: Stock up on ibuprofen, Richard and Karen Carpenter, because we’ve only just begun.
As a 22-year-old journalist — aka writer — my lifetime of carpal tunnel, of numbness, pain and overmedicating, is still in its early stages. Each year, I write, blog and text more and more and, subsequently, each year, the problem only gets worse. Just this fall, my ring and pinky fingers, previously free of the shooting pain that has often debilitated my thumb and wrist, went over to the dark side — the “carp” side.
So my real question is this — and if Santa can answer it for me, he can keep all of the fancy carpel tunnel gear: As kids start using computers at a younger and younger age, will they be more prone to carpal tunnel in their 20s or teens than people like me? Or, will the next generation of computer-obsessed kids start so young that their little hands and wrists will evolve to the point of carpal tunnel immunity?
If it’s the former, carpal tunnel wrist guards are going to start showing up on kids’ wrists at the rate of Silly Bandz (throwback to my summer “Clippings”). And if it’s the latter — cool. But also, no fair.
So this year, instead of my two front teeth, a hippopotamus, a hula hoop or even you, all I want for Christmas is one tiny little incision into the nerve channel of my left wrist and whatever temporary relief it can offer. Oh, and a tambourine ... just because.
Tamara Hilmes is at firstname.lastname@example.org.