Using the left hand


I have a whole new respect for people who are left-handed. In this column in the past, I have written about left-handedness and actually chided left-handed people about the things they can’t do and how their brain might not work the same as for a right-handed person. Now I am paying for it.
Just so you know, my left hand is worthless since I am very right-handed … apparently. Here is how I came to know this.
I recently had an accident with a piece of glass and cut a tendon in my right thumb. Now you might say, “ouch.” Oh yes it did hurt at the time, but was not a terrifically painful thing. However, the one-half inch gash, where I could look way into my thumb, was disturbing. I could move my thumb side to side and back-and-forth, but I could not bend it at the joint. After more than six and a half hours in two different emergency rooms, it became apparent that my tendon was cut but I was not going to get any help that day other than having it stitched up.
I was referred to a hand surgeon who fixed me up a few days later, repeatedly telling me how lucky I was that I didn’t cut the nerves on either side of the tendon or the nearby artery. So that was now my new mantra – I am very lucky!
I am in the early stages of healing and have a removable splint on my right hand, which immobilizes my thumb. Then there were the warnings – don’t do this and don’t do that. But it’s my right hand and I do everything with that hand.
Now my journey into the world of left-handedness has begun. If you can’t use one hand you might as well just tie it behind your back, except I do have some limited use of my fingers. But I’ve been warned not to overdo things. That said, I really protect my right hand.
That leaves me with my fairly useless left hand. At every doctor’s office I have visited since this injury, I have been asked to fill out mountains of papers – seriously! Thankfully my husband was with me every time to complete the task.
Then there is doing my hair. Here is an important thing to all women. We want it to look nice. However, I have discovered that my husband is only mildly trainable. I asked him to do some simple tasks with my hair and you would’ve thought I had asked him to pilot a spaceship. You can see where this is going. He’s totally clueless and I’m sure if he chooses another profession, it will not be as a hairdresser. This has forced me to ramp up the left-hand skills in that department.
Another simple task is putting an earring in a hole in my ear. It seems I can’t guide that very well with my left hand and my husband has been useful there, too. Actually he’s done that much better than the hair.
The surgeon and the hand therapist showed me how to put bandages on the wound. There are quite a few stitches that have to be cleaned and covered every day. Here’s where my good old husband really excels. He’s great at getting that bandage in the right place with the tape on, which is something I have discovered that I cannot do with one hand.
He also has to tie my tennis shoes. It takes two hands to do that. On the upside, I am learning to fasten the watch I wear on my left wrist with all the semi-useless right fingers. This is exhausting. You should see me trying to get the lid off a child-guard medicine bottle. At one point, I resorted to using my teeth – a very bad move. I won’t do that again. I finally went to the drugstore and got replacement lids.
Also, all the lids of jars I might use during the day have to be very lightly screwed on so I can get them off. This loose-lid jar thing could cause a problem if one tips over and all the stuff inside spills out. I’m trying to be very careful with that because I would have to clean it up with my semi-useless left hand.
Tasks that I have mastered with my left hand include the computer (thank God for the microphone on my iPad, which is how I am writing this story). I can also do some mild cooking at the stove and I can dress myself. I can also drive.
So, I am left-handed for now and I’m not nearly as good at it as all of you who do this every day. Some other problems I have with left-handedness involve my car. Being left handed in the driver’s seat means you have to reach across to hook the seatbelt – that’s difficult with the far hand. I’ve also become aware that the gearshift is on the right, something as a right-handed person I never thought much about. Now I have to reach over with my left hand to do that. I’m not sure if left-handed people do that or if they just use their non-dominant hand.
I salute all left-handed people who deal with these little things every day and do so well. I hope to go back to being right-handed in the next few months when all is healed and my thumb is working again.
(Melanie Behrens –

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