Thank God May is over – tenta-p!

May has been such a crazy month. Let me summarise my month in bullet points:

  • I got operated on at the end of April/beginning of May
  • I underwent post-op hell
  • I moved three times with my newly operated arm
  • My phone got stolen

Oh and of course, I’m a medical student + researcher on top of that. Now May is coming to an end which means soon summer vacation, but before that even sooner, EXAMS.

Normally during what I used to call revision week in the UK but here tenta-p, I would turn off all social medias (especially Facebook), pull all-nighters with the help of caffeine pills and stop eating. However it seems like it’s not the case here in Sweden. My friends even had plans to do things during the exam period. Much healthier I’d say.

Nevertheless, I have my game face on. I’m gonna study everything I need to know, and I’m gonna pass these exams. Until then, wish me luck guys!

How I developed radial tunnel and lost the ability to play the violin

Five years ago, possibly owing to my Type A personality and absurdly high expectations on myself, I lost one of my biggest passions at the time, which was the violin.

Starting at the age of 16, I decided to pick up the violin again after a hiatus of three years. I auditioned and started taking lessons and playing in an orchestra at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. I quickly picked it up again, and starting from playing in the furthermost row in Violin 2 in my orchestra, the following year I was playing in the front row beside the Concerto Maestro in Violin 1. The College also allowed me into their violin vault filled with priceless violins to pick one for myself. After going through several priceless violins, I picked a Danish violin from the beginning of the 1800s. That moment I chose my violin is a very special memory for me, which I can most closely describe as like when Harry Potter chose his wand from Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

Harry Potter chose his wand at the Ollivander wand shop

My teachers at school found out I play the violin, and so apart from the pieces I played at the College, one could see me with my violin at assemblies as well. For all these pieces I was expected to play, I practiced at least 4h a day, especially during concert season nearing the summer. People had very high expectations on me, and my expectations on myself even higher. I had my violin with me everywhere, we were inseparable.

Nearing the end of concert season right before the summer of 2011, I suddenly would start getting severe shooting pain and numbness/tingly feelings in my fingers in my right hand/arm. My doctor told me I needed to rest and was referred to a physiotherapist. But no. I was going to finish concert season.

I would hide my wrist splint prescribed to me by the physiotherapists every time I came to the College, so my teachers won’t know I’m actually not allowed to play. Eventually my arm got the best to me near the end of concert season, to the point I couldn’t move it for an entire month. I skipped exams as I couldn’t write anymore (I’m right handed and that was where I got injured), attended my medical school interviews wearing a wrist splint etc. It was very hard on me physically, but even harder on me emotionally. But somehow through it all, I managed all my concerts.

At the end of concert season, I told myself I need to rest my arm. I rested it until I moved to university in St Andrews. I started playing a little for myself there, but I still kept getting pain. Now the pain was persistent every time I used my arm. I lost the ability to play the violin.

Oh days of MSA studying, I can't wait until you're over…

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The following years, I sought healthcare back and forth in the UK with no result. I started getting physiotherapy including ultrasound (or what my teacher calls whale song therapy) and was prescribed NSAID anti-inflammatories. I started getting tested in various ways such as X-ray, MRI, electrophysiological tests you name it. I was given different diagnoses all the time and met various doctors constantly. Carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, repetitive strain injury, tendonitis… but none of them were correct until I came back to Sweden after four years in the UK.

I was referred to see a hand surgeon who happens to be a lecturer at Karolinska (my friends remember him and said that when they came out of his lecture everyone wanted to be hand surgeons!) and within 30min of hearing my story and examining me, he decided that I was to be operated. I was finally diagnosed with the correct diagnosis – radial tunnel.

It has gone three weeks since my operation and right now I’m on my way to Stockholm to see my hand surgeon for the first time since. We’re finally removing the steri-strips (the protective layer applied on the surgical site during the operation) and I’ll be seeing my surgical scar for the first time. Or my battle wound as I’d like to call it. My violin battle wound.

Soon I can play the violin again. Soon I can return to one of my passions. Soon. ❤

girl with violin from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm

This is a photo of me and my precious violin from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm five years ago when my problems started. This was the last time I could properly play the violin. My violin was repaired in 1862 by a Danish instrument maker named G. Enger in Copenhagen.

Tonsillectomies are not just routine operations anymore

Sorry for the hiatus, but I am finally feeling better now. I have returned to my normal activities-ish. I now only have a plaster over the surgery site and wear a wrist splint every now and then. Thankfully, my recovery was quick! I promise to write about the surgery and put photos ASAP!

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I am currently on my ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) placement, now on my final week. Last week due to my newly operated arm I missed more than half the week. But I’m bouncing back now!

Yesterday I attended my first ENT operation (tonsillectomy) ever. This is the first time I’ve attended a surgery for almost a year, and almost two weeks after my own surgery. Suddenly, after being newly operated on myself, my attitude towards operations have changed. It really is different when you’ve been on the other side of healthcare.

Despite tonsillectomies being routine, a range of new thoughts popped up in my head that I’ve never thought about before during operations. Thoughts such as:

  • I wonder what the patient is dreaming about right now. Are they dreaming?
  • Would they remember being woken up and leaving the operation room?
  • How would they react now that their tonsils are gone?
  • How long will their pain last?
  • I wonder if they’d be able to go back to work/school with their throat – sooo painful…

I no longer only think about the long term effects of the surgery, but how the patient will feel right after the operation. I was there too. You enter the hospital with full control of your body and feeling okay. Then you go to sleep, and all of a sudden, you wake up and everything has changed.  

After my operation, I was in pain. I was in such excruciating pain in my arm, that I was dependent on strong opioids such as oxycodone and morphine. I remember how debilitating it was, and how one was so helpless and dependent on others. The pain took over one, and all one can do is wait until it passes – or until the opioids knock you out. But then you wake up several times in the night with the pain needing more. Then you take more painkillers and can finally fall asleep again…

When I see a patient get operated now, I can relate. I can relate to their fear, anxiety, and sympathise for the pain they will undergo post-op. I recall how it was for me and realise, even though this is one of the hundreds of routine tonsillectomies done, the bi-product of the operation itself is the same. All patients will experience a change in their daily lives, with its impact highly underestimated in the beginning. That was definitely the case for me anyway. Of course I think like myself too, all patients are willing to undergo it. Patients have so much hope and trust in the treatment, that its bi-products is long overweighed by its benefits.

After being a patient myself, I understand now why patients feel the way that they do before an operation – even one as common as a tonsillectomy. One is scared for the drastic change that is about to happen – both the good and the bad. One is scared because there is nothing one can do but accept the change, and be patient.

Arm is that you? I've missed you 😭

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Post-op hiatus 

Hi all, I’m so sorry for not writing for a while but I want you all to know that the operation went well and I’m recovering well! 🙂 So much has been going on on top of my recovery that I haven’t had the time to write… I’m so sorry! But I promise I will write about my operation and what’s been going on soon 🙂

Until then, here’s a video of me singing Lucky by Jason Mraz with my two little sisters here in Linköping. One week after my operation. You only need a thumb to play the ukulele!