Avera Medical Minute: Mechanic’s carpal tunnel surgery restores feeling while reducing pain

Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 2:02 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Chuck Willey can fix just about anything.

"I knew as a kid, that this is what I wanted to do and this is, this is what was gonna be and we just keep progressing," said Willey.

His life centers around engines, tools, and parts.

"If I'm not in the shop here at work. I'm in the garage at home doing things working on the racecar working on things for other people helping out wherever I can help out," said Willey.

Increasing problems with his hands were slowing him down.

“I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. It was to the point where I couldn’t hang on and nothing new was getting very difficult to do my job,” said Willey.

That's when Chuck was referred to Dr. Kathlyn Drexler. She describes Chuck's carpal tunnel syndrome.

“A bottleneck at the level of the wrist, where there are nine flexor tendons and the median nerve all trying to fit through a small space called the carpal tunnel,” said Dr. Drexler.

Without surgery to relieve the pressure on both hands, Chuck’s whole world could change.

"The skills that he has, he would lose them all if he couldn't operate with his fingers," said Drexler.

The Surgery corrected two areas.

"The operations that I did for him, were a carpal tunnel release but also a cubital tunnel release, and moving that nerve to a better route, so that it doesn't have so much tension and pressure as he moves his elbow," said Drexler.

As soon as he woke up from surgery, he immediately had more sensation.

"The fine objects or the fine portions of my fingers to hang on to what I needed to hang on to do my job is since the surgery is unbelievable," said Willey.

"But when he told me that for the first time in forever. He could actually feel the fuzz on a peach. That really, that was heartwarming for me," said Drexler.

Chuck's feeling better than ever now that surgery is done.

"Great. Um, I have no pain. I have I'm able to sleep at night, cramping is gone," said Willey.

He says after dealing with this for years, he wished he wouldn't have put it off.

"Get it fixed. Dr. Drexler is a wonderful person, a wonderful doctor," said Willey.

Now he can pick out a part or a tool just by feel, without having to look at it first.

"And let's do it let's get it done and she did a wonderful job and I would recommend her to anybody," said Willey.

Carpal tunnel surgery patients often get to rediscover what they used to feel every day.

“We always think you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. But in the case of nerve compression sometimes you don’t know what you lost until you get it back, talk with your doctor may be able to get it back,” said Drexler.

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