When Ray Tipperreiter of New Egypt woke up on Superbowl Sunday to find his driveway covered in snow, he fired up the snowblower and got to work so he could relax and enjoy the game later. However, when he tried to clear a clog in the machine, he severely damaged his right hand.
Ray, 73, underwent surgery after receiving emergency care. Unfortunately, three of his fingers—the index, middle, and ring fingers—had to be amputated above the first knuckle. His plastic surgeon recommended that he see a certified hand therapist to learn to use his altered hand.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Since Ray didn’t want to use prosthetic fingers, he had to learn how to use the remaining parts of his fingers to complete his daily activities. Lara Cohen, MSOT, CHT, a certified hand therapist at CentraState OceanFirst Rehabilitation Center, showed Ray and his wife, Alice, how to care for the wounds. She created a custom splint to protect his fingers as they healed. Once healed, she helped Ray strengthen his hand by instructing him to manipulate and pinch therapeutic putty. This also helped desensitize the scars by increasing his tolerance to pressure. In addition, he learned adaptive techniques, such as using a wider diameter pen and larger utensils.
“The injury affected Ray’s dominant hand,” Lara explains. “Whenever you lose fingers, you also lose strength and the ability to complete fine motor skills, so Ray had to learn how to overcome these limitations.”
Ray met with Lara several times a week for three months. She coordinated care with his surgeon and encouraged Ray to improve blood flow to his hand by giving up smoking and limiting caffeine. Now, Ray’s back to tinkering in the shed and mowing the lawn. He’s also able to do fine detail work, like fixing Alice’s watch.
“I still get exasperated sometimes, but I’m able to do most things around the house without any issues,” Ray explains. “I was devastated when I thought I wouldn’t be able to pursue my hobbies, but thanks to Lara, I can work on many of the maintenance projects I enjoy.”
For more information about surgical services at CentraState, visit centrastate.com/rehabilitation or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).