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Living with Amniotic Band Syndrome: How I Got a Thumb


Candida Sullivan

A Prayer and a Dream

When I was a little girl, I prayed the same prayer every night. I asked God to heal my scarred hands in my dreams. In my heart, I believed wholeheartedly and knew He had the power to do it. Every morning as my eyes opened, hope danced in my heart. As I went through my routine of jerking my hands from underneath the cover, expecting the big voila moment, the only thing I received was more disappointment.

The Fall that Changed Everything

Life was especially hard for me. The pain in my arms, hands, neck, shoulder, and ribs had gotten worse it seemed. In an effort to manage my pain, I had learned to exercise. On this particular evening, however, I was exhausted. Instead of skipping my workout and going to bed, I tried to just push through the pain. One wrong move was all it took to send me tumbling over. I landed on my left side and put my hand down to brace my fall. I felt the stabbing pain immediately in my elbow and hand. I couldn’t help but wonder why this had happened to me. Life was already hard enough without me hurting my arm.

The Doctor’s Appointment That Gave Me Hope

After several months of pain and sleepless nights, I finally set up an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. Even though my X-rays didn’t show anything wrong, I still had pain and limited range of motion in my elbow. Honestly, I thought this would only be another obstacle that I would have to learn to live with. Doing everything with only my right hand had made it hurt so much worse. The morning before my appointment, I prayed for compassion.

By the time I had my appointment, three months later, my elbow had improved. After the doctor examined my elbow and took a few more X-rays, he concluded that it was fractured, but healing well. Then he looked at my hands and wanted to know what kind of problems they cause for me. When I told him that it’s hard for me to write, drive, and type, he rolled his chair over to me and asked to see them. He picked them up and took pictures. After a few minutes, he looked and me and said, “I believe I can help you. Do you want me to fix your hands?”
It just so happened that the elbow specialist was also one of the greatest hand surgeons in my area. He specializes in congenital hand deformities and nerve reconstruction surgery. I will never be able to express how I felt in that moment. No doctor had ever given me that degree of hope before. Usually they tell me that nothing can be done to help me, and eventually, my hands will get worse. 

After he reviewed my X-rays he talked to me about my options. As I sat in the room and listened to the doctor explain my options, and possibility of a thumb on my left hand, there was such a peace that filled my heart. I felt as if I was right where I was meant to be. The elbow injury was to get me to the doctor who could help me. And I remembered all those prayers as a little girl. After all the years, it seemed that God was going to answer my prayer after all.

The Surgery

Going into the surgery, we knew there was a possibility that the surgery to reconstruct my hand wouldn’t work. We also knew with my history of allergic reactions to pain medication that there was a chance I would have to go throughout the whole process without anything to alleviate the pain. But the thought of gaining a thumb outweighed any negative thoughts. Waiting on the surgery, I would randomly burst into tears of gratitude. I’m getting a thumb!  

The Recovery

It was hard to leave the bandage on for two weeks, knowing that there was a thumb underneath it all. Even though I was extremely excited, it felt as if a metal rod had been shoved through my hand. I reacted to every pain medication they tried, with severe reactions. After several attempts, I decided to do it without any medicine. It was the longest two weeks of my life. My emotions were all over the place.

A Glimpse of my Hand

This time I knew when I removed my hand from beneath the bandages, God had intervened on my behalf. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. The first glimpse of my hand stitched together was heartbreaking. I focused on the part of my hand that was missing and felt guilty for the part of my hand that was gone. Even though I was so grateful for my thumb. The only problem was that my thumb didn’t move. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make it move. And I had phantom pain in the part of my hand that was gone.   

With sheer determination and prayers, I sat at my kitchen table and focused on making my thumb move. For a while, it didn’t cooperate and all kinds of negative thoughts entered my mind. I have learned when determination meets with faith, however, anything is possible. Living with Amniotic Band Syndrome has taught me the importance of perseverance, so I continued to try. When my thumb finally moved, my heart was overjoyed. I moved it so much that the muscle cramped. Then I would give it time to recover and start the process all over again.

Life with a Thumb

Now I can do things that I have never been able to do before. I can drive with my left hand, open a door, carry things, and use it more to take the pressure off of my right hand. The difference that this thumb has made in my life is astounding. It has eliminated most of my pain. 

Whatever your struggle, don’t give up on the Lord. He has grace for our every need, and He knows the desires of our hearts. God is so wonderful! When we go to Him with a broken heart, He hears our prayers and answers them in His perfect time. My thumb is proof of that for me.

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