Published September 2021
Cheryl Todd has filled her life with family and music.
The Oswego, Illinois, resident is a mother of seven and grandmother to 17. When she's not with her blended family, Cheryl is playing the organ. She's been a church organ player for as long as she can remember.
For the past 14 years, Cheryl played at Church of the Good Shephard United Methodist until the arthritis in her hands became so bad that she had to stop.
Cheryl had arthritis in the base of her thumb. Like arthritis elsewhere in the body, thumb arthritis is very painful. Anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone injections can help with the pain, but when those interventions no longer suffice, surgery is the next step.
"It got to the point where it was really hard to play the organ because it was so painful," says Cheryl. "I went to another orthopaedic surgeon who gave me many injections, which alleviated some of the pain, but they eventually stopped working." "Then my stepdaughter recommended I reach out to Dr. Kiesler at Northwestern Medicine. Right away I had faith in him as my doctor."
Alleviating Cheryl's Arthritis
Northwestern Medicine Hand Surgeon Thomas W. Kiesler, MD, went into orthopaedic surgery because he likes to fix things.
"Hand surgery can be daunting for many people, but I always advise my patients that if their pain is stopping them from doing what they love, it's probably time to consider surgery," he says. "Most often, the four-month recovery is worth it, the results are very good and the patient says they want to do it again on their other hand."
To fix Cheryl's hand, Dr. Kiesler did a surgery involving the two bones at the base of the thumb. He removed one of the bones and reconstructed the thumb joint using a tendon from the wrist to build a ligament.
The first surgery was so successful in alleviating Cheryl's pain that she came back for a second one on her other hand. That surgery was timed perfectly with the COVID-19 pandemic, as her church congregation was not meeting in person. Before she underwent her second surgery, Cheryl recorded enough music for six weeks of church services so that her parish could use her music for online services. Now Cheryl says her hands are 95% pain free, back to playing the organ and she is very satisfied with the outcomes of both of her surgeries.
"Your fingers and thumbs do so much for you. Unlike your arms or legs, your hands are doing this for you all the time," she says. "I'm so grateful that I didn't have to quit playing the organ. Without question or doubt I made the right decision."