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Giving the Thumbs Up to Hand Surgery and Therapy in St. Cloud

A one second fumble with a knife cut into what would have been a harmonious evening at home for Jacque Polipnick and jeopardized her livelihood as a music teacher.

Jacque and her daughter were chopping vegetables for a stir fry and chatting about their day when the knife blade flipped and sliced into Jacque’s right thumb. She immediately grabbed a paper towel and put pressure on it. The cut was small and barely bleeding but it was deep.

“I then realized I couldn’t move my thumb up, and I thought, ‘You’re kidding me, I think I just cut my tendon,’” said Jacque. She abandoned the dinner plans and went to the Emergency Room at CentraCare – Sauk Centre, where they cleaned and stitched up the wound and referred her to the Hand Program at CentraCare – Midsota Plastic Surgery.

Once at Midsota, Jacque was pleased they were able to reattach the ends of the severed tendon during an in-office procedure at her very first visit. At the time, Jacque was just returning to in-person learning at the school where she was a music teacher, so she appreciated the value placed on her time.

She also appreciated how comfortable the Midsota staff made her feel during the entire appointment. “I’m from a small town and when I go to a bigger hospital or clinic, it’s always a different experience. But Midsota made it feel like I was getting care in my hometown,” said Jacque. “They were professional, yet so personable at the same time. That meant the world to me.”

Saying she is not a “needle person,” Jacque recalled how her nurse went above and beyond to put her at ease — from playing some of her favorite music, giving her a stress ball, carefully explaining the procedure and making small talk. “For them, it wasn’t just about my hand. They did all these small things to show that they cared about me and to distract me while the surgeon performed the procedure.”

One major aspect of the Hand Program at Midsota is the rehabilitation. Hand therapy is a specialized practice — every patient’s injury, anatomy and lifestyles are unique. “At Midsota, we take this all into consideration and individualize treatment to maximize outcomes so people can return to what they love and need to do,” said Christopher Harbaugh, an occupational therapist with Midsota. “It’s a great day for us when we take people from injury to independence.”

Once Jacque’s procedure was over, Chris came in to make a cast and discuss needed therapy. From then on, follow-up appointments were every few weeks with the Midsota team checking on the wound and thumb movement, as well as providing at-home exercises.

For Jacque, her end goal was a functioning thumb. Being right-handed, a non-working thumb interfered with household and work duties. “It’s amazing that such a silly, random event had the potential to change my life forever,” said Jacque. “I do the paperwork for my husband’s business and it was taking me three times as long doing it with my left hand. And thankfully I have six children who pitched in to help with daily chores like sweeping and preparing food.”

Jacque said, however, “In my heart, I think the thing that would have been the hardest to lose would have been my ability to do music.” For this reason, she hoped and prayed her thumb would return to normal. “As a music teacher, I play piano and guitar. I could still teach, but it gets tricky not being able to show the students a skill.” For Jacque, music isn’t just a job, but also a hobby, one that her entire family enjoys for fun and relaxation.

Fortunately for Jacque, Midsota surpassed her expectations. “My thumb looks great and feels good. I can clean my house and play my instruments — all those little things that are just part of a great quality of life.”