SMCH Occupational Therapy: Restoring Function Hands Down

Stewart Memorial Community Hospital occupational therapists Lisa Findley (left) and Amanda Kerber (right) worked with Deanne Strandberg (center) after Deanne’s surgery to release the contracture of the fingers on her left hand to great success.

As Deanne Strandberg cuts fabric for her newest quilt creation, she pauses to massage her left hand the way the occupational therapists at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital taught her.

Last winter, Deanne noticed the pinky finger on her hand was beginning to contract toward her palm. She could not straighten her swollen hand and found the fingers catching on items. It was painful. She had difficulty doing chores around the house, like dusting her beloved antique chandeliers, and sewing and tying her quilts was nearly out of the question.

In 2004 her right hand suffered the same symptoms. The diagnosis was Dupuytren’s contracture. The Mayo Clinic describes the condition as “a hand deformity that usually develops over years. The condition affects a layer of tissue that lies under the skin of your palm. Knots of tissue form under the skin — eventually creating a thick cord that can pull one or more fingers into a bent position.” There’s no known cause for it, but it most commonly occurs in men, in people over the age of 50, in people of northern European descent, and in families with a history of the condition.

Thirteen years ago, Deanne opted to have surgery on her right hand. During the operation the surgeon removed tissue affected by the disease. In May 2017 Deanne decided to have the same surgery on her left hand. With surgery came the need for occupational therapy to help Deanne regain more use of her hand.

When she spoke with friends about her upcoming surgery, they recommended she utilize the occupational therapy services at SMCH. “They told me Lisa Findley is the best for hands,” recalls Deanne. For the Rockwell City resident, the drive to the Lake City hospital was convenient.

A week after her surgery, Deanne started therapy with occupational therapist Lisa Findley and later continued with Amanda Kerber, doctor of occupational therapy. “Deanne experienced hypersensitivity with her scars. We worked on desensitization techniques to help retrain the nerve endings to not react so intensely.” The therapists also utilized photolight and ultrasound therapies, strengthening and range of motion techniques, and massage.

Deanne has noticed a huge difference. “The feeling in my hand is starting to return. We are really gaining, because nerve-wise it’s waking up.”

Deanne’s sessions at SMCH ended on September 15. At home she massages her hand and performs the stretches prescribed by Amanda. She is pleased with the success of the surgery and therapy. “I’m able to move my fingers. I can sew again and dust my chandeliers. I’m getting back to my life,” she says with a smile.