I reached out and grabbed the metal lever to the door of my apartment building, twisting it downwards to release the latch; a searing pain tore through my left wrist. I recoiled, as if the door handle had stung me. The pain lasted a few minutes than waned. I shrugged it off, continued on, making my way to the bus stop. I didn’t think of it again until I reached out to grab a pole on the bus and the pain returned, trekking up my arm. It stayed with me for the rest of the day. I was not able to bend my wrist upwards or grasp a pen; lifting a mug was almost impossible; I didn’t realize how often I leaned on my hand when getting up off the couch or standing up from a chair – the sharp pain accompanied any pressure placed on my hand.
Upon returning home, I retrieved the wrist brace I bought in the early stages of RA, before I knew my diagnosis, when the first pains appeared like an innocent sprain or tennis elbow, perhaps from too much computer work. I lifted its black woven body from my dressing table, watching flakes of accumulated dust drift into the air. I cleaned it off and wrapped it over my left wrist, slipping my thumb through the support. The brace prevented any upward or downward movement, securing my hand and reducing the cause of any more pain.
The wrist brace accompanied me to work and social visits for several days. Its strong fabric assisted me in picking up mugs and gripping pens; being left-handed, it was difficult to write and I hoped my wrist would return to its normal function soon. The idea of attempting to write with my other hand was not appealing. I popped pain killers to dull the searing pain triggered from any type of movement.
I was able to release my wrist from the stranglehold of the brace in a week – but I was extra cautious using my left hand against any resistance. The old lady had made her presence known, reminding me how fragile my joints had become under the weight of her grasp and I was not about to antagonize her again.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.