Man holding a trimmer about to do yard work outside his home

A Speedy Recovery at Hand

Orthopedics
Years of typing took a toll on Richard Van Emburgh’s hand. In his former career he managed transportation and logistics for a global corporation. It involved lots of work with his hands—first on a manual typewriter, then a computer.

After he and his wife moved to Delaware, they looked forward to enjoying their retirement years while working around the house and gardening together. But over time, Van Emburgh had lost considerable strength and mobility in his right hand. This made even the simplest tasks—using his dominant hand—much harder than they needed to be.

Van Emburgh could barely close his hand around objects without pain. And he could only bend his fingers about 20 degrees. His primary care doctor referred him to Bayhealth Orthopedic Surgeon Andrew Park, MD. Dr. Park specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery. He sees patients at Bayhealth Orthopedics—Sussex Campus, Dover and Lewes practice locations.

Dr. Park found that Van Emburgh had a severe form of carpal tunnel syndrome. This occurs when the nerve in the hand is pinched. The most common symptoms are weakness, pain and numbness in the hand and arm.

“Not all cases of carpal tunnel require surgery,” said Dr. Park. “We always try other measures first and see what works for each patient.” Bayhealth has a dedicated outpatient therapy and rehabilitation team with several specially trained certified hand therapists. They work hand-in-hand with the orthopedic specialists to carry out personalized treatment plans.

While Van Emburgh said he was impressed by the expertise of the hand therapists who worked with him, the therapy was not proving to improve his symptoms. He knew it was time to consider surgery.

“I liked how knowledgeable Dr. Park was and how he took his time in listening to me, examining me, and thoughtfully considering the specifics of my condition,” Van Emburgh said. “Over the years my wife and I have had a lot of experiences with doctors at many reputable health systems. I like good doctors and I know a good one when I meet them. Dr. Park is one of the best I’ve had.”

Dr. Park performed a successful carpal tunnel surgery on Van Emburgh using local wide-awake techniques rather than general anesthesia. This was performed as an outpatient procedure at Bayhealth Surgery Center, Kent Campus in Dover.

"The tissue covering the tendons that bend his fingers surround the nerve. They had become inflamed and caused a lot of swelling, which occasionally happens with severe carpal tunnel. I surgically removed this inflamed tissue and decompressed the nerve so he didn’t have to continue living with the pain and limitations he had,” Dr. Park explained. “Using local anesthesia is a good choice in some cases. There is always some risk with general anesthesia, particularly in patients with other health conditions. It also may be advantageous for the patient because of the ease of scheduling and the steps before and after surgery.”

Van Emburgh found the local anesthetic approach to be comfortable and convenient for him. He liked being able to avoid lab work and the pre-surgical testing required for general anesthesia. And he didn’t have to fast beforehand and could safely drive himself home soon after the procedure.

He was thrilled with the overall experience and outcome.“Bayhealth’s Surgery Center was a very nice place and very well-run. Dr. Park did a fantastic job. I would recommend him to anyone,” said Van Emburgh.

Several follow-up visits with Dr. Park have confirmed Van Emburgh’s quick and solid recovery. He was back mowing his lawn again just a couple weeks after surgery. He’s glad to now do activities like that without any difficulty or pain.

“I’ve always had great experiences with Bayhealth and this was no different,” said Van Emburgh. “I felt complete trust in Dr. Park and everyone else at Bayhealth who helped take care of me.”

If you’re in need of an orthopedic physician or other specialist, visit Bayhealth.org/Find-a-Doctor to view our online directory.