Debora’s story: 'Pain free' after thumb surgery

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

By: Femi Cole

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Debora Markusen knew years ago that she would need surgery to fix the thumb joint on her left hand. Thanks to arthritis, it was swollen, so swollen that it appeared to protrude out of its socket.


Surgery seemed more likely when her knuckle continued to swell and became painful. Even so, Debora, a pharmacy technician in Lakewood, Wisconsin, held off on pursuing a surgical solution.


“I don’t look at surgery very lightly,” she says. “I have some issues managing pain medication and anesthesia, so I put things off for a long time.”


Plus, it brought her no comfort that a friend in the Appleton area underwent thumb surgery for a similar condition and experienced less-than-stellar results.


“She had extended swelling. She actually had nerve damage in her first finger and her thumb and so that kinda delayed my decision in seeking treatment also,” Debora says.


But when Debora’s thumb pain started interfering with her sleep, putting off surgery was no longer an option.


“It got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping at night because the pain kept me awake,” she says.


Then there were the simple tasks and daily activities that became herculean feats thanks to the constant arthritic pain in her thumb.


Opening a jar? Debora had no grip strength in her left hand.


Holding a steering wheel? Not with her left hand.


Keying information into a computer keyboard at work? Each keystroke sent waves of pain through her thumb.


“Some things like riding a bicycle, holding onto the handlebar, just that vibration and the jarring caused some pain. Things like yoga moves, pushups, a lot of things like that, things that you don’t think about just caused me a lot of pain," Debora says.


“The arthritis did cause me some grief, actually, a lot of grief.”


Debora Markusen


It was time to seek a surgical solution.


During an online search, Debora came across Dr. Brian J. Klika’s bio. It impressed her.


Klika is an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic in Green Bay. He is fellowship trained in hand surgery.


“I noted that he’s part of a band and that demonstrates right-brain, left-brain activity, it’s a higher brain function to me. I find that very intriguing and also really fascinating,” Debora says. “He’s younger so I think he probably has fresher ideas, newer ideas and after my first appointment with him I felt very comfortable with him as a surgeon.”


That’s noteworthy, Debora says, because at the time she was still apprehensive about surgery, in part, due to what she knew of her friend’s negative surgical outcome for a similar thumb condition.


“I did explain that to Dr. Klika,” Debora says. “He was very patient and said that his technique is very different. It is supported by science. It’s supported by research and that I shouldn’t have the same outcome.”


That technique, treatment for thumb carpometacarpal arthritis, removes part of the trapezius bone in the hand and cushions or suspends the thumb joint to eliminate irritation. Anchors are then placed to stabilize the thumb.


Still, Debora waited a year to have the surgery. Regularly-scheduled cortisone shots provided temporary pain relief while her apprehension about surgery faded.


She underwent thumb surgery in December 2018. After surgery, she started physical therapy. Since then, she’s had no adverse issues with her thumb.


“It’s been very good,” she says. “I’m pain free.”


Debora says she’s thankful for Klika’s expertise and reassuring demeanor. His confidence stood out to her as well, she says.


“He knew my apprehensions about the other surgery, of the type of surgeries that were out there that didn’t have the same results, but he was confident it was gonna work and I was gonna be happy with the results.”


And if Debora has similar hand issues in the future?


“If I had the same condition in my right hand, I wouldn’t hesitate to have it done again.”


Dr. Brian J. Klika sees patients in Green Bay, Manitowoc and Kaukauna. To request an appointment, call 920-288-5555 in Green Bay, 877-618-6676 in Manitowoc, 877-884-8796 in Kaukauna, or do so online.

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