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Mitch’s story: ‘Innovative’ hand care

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“It’s the dumbest thing ever,” Mitch Staszak says of the injury that led him to Dr. Andrew Kirkpatrick, a hand surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.

Staszak and his fiancée visited Mackinac Island in Michigan for a weekend getaway in 2019. After settling in and enjoying dinner, Staszak spotted an arcade punching bag machine. He couldn’t resist.

“Those punching games, where you hit the bag and it tells you how hard you hit it,” he says. “Yep, I hit the bag and it went up but then my hand went through and hit the back of the machine. I turned to my girlfriend, now fiancée, and said, ‘I just broke my hand,’ because I could tell right away something wasn’t right.”

Staszak had an intensely painful hand injury only hours into his stay on Mackinac Island. But he had no intention of cutting short his weekend getaway.

He applied ice to his injured hand and wrapped it in a bandage. It helped ease the pain enough for him to get out and enjoy activities around the island.

“I know the next day, Saturday, we did the bike ride around the island and I just kinda propped my hand up on the handlebars, just kinda drove with one hand, which wasn’t so bad,” he says.

By Sunday, though, Staszak was ready to see a doctor.

“I was like, yeah … it’s getting worse,” he says.

When he got home, X-rays showed Staszak had indeed broken his hand. He was referred to Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic where he saw Kirkpatrick.

“His injury was more extensive than we initially thought,” says Kirkpatrick, a fellowship-trained hand surgeon.

Staszak broke bones in two fingers. Of particular concern was a shard of bone that was causing damage to a tendon.

“His extensor tendon was peeled away and actually retracted down into his wrist,” Kirkpatrick says. “Without the extensor tendons, you can’t extend your fingers or thumb. In addition to that, there was a piece of Mitch’s bone stuck in the retracted tendon and it was causing some damage.

“This type of injury just doesn’t happen often,” Kirkpatrick says. “We honestly had, I believe, nine documented case studies on the books. There wasn’t a ton of literature on this very specific injury.”

Staszak’s broken hand and the fraying tendon would require surgery and therapy.

Kirkpatrick surgically re-anchored the tendon and reattached the stray bone piece.

“We had an exceptionally good outcome,” Kirkpatrick says.

Staszak agrees. He’s back to playing golf, lifting weights and other physical activities.

“We’re a year and a half out from surgery. Everything is back as far as like, strength wise, with lifting the weights and stuff. I’m doing the same stuff that I was doing before the injury,” says Staszak, who is in his early 30s.

Staszak remains impressed by his surgical experience with Kirkpatrick.

“He was very professional about everything and yet he’s very relatable,” Staszak says. “I didn’t feel like I was going in and seeing some old, grumpy doctor. I felt like the treatment and everything that he did was very geared toward today, like everything was new and innovative … it felt like everything was up to date.

“Everything went smooth. The post-op visits and everything … for something so stupid, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

And the next time he’s out and about and sees an arcade punching bag machine?

“Nope, I’ve refrained from doing that,” Staszak says.

Published: Thursday, November 4, 2021
Author: Femi Cole