It feels an immense privilege to be able to play the piano again, 100% completely pain free! Huge thanks to my surgeon, Mr Mark Phillips

 trapeziectomy

I’m a professional pianist and a number of years ago, I was practising Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto and I started to get pain in the base of my left thumb. As the years went by, I started to experience similar problems in my right hand. Then in 2016, something serious happened. Very suddenly the final joint in my little finger suddenly went ‘bang’! It hurt immensely, just to press a note down, even mezzo forte. I found a surgeon (who has now gone to Australia) who fused my finger at an agreed angle, and I made a remarkable recovery from that very quickly and was able to get straight back to playing.

A few years ago, I met my present amazing hand surgeon, Mr Mark Phillips, who successfully treated my right thumb for tendinitis, a severe form of Dequervains. In 2018, I came back to see him with a similar problem in my left hand. He gave me a temporary ‘sticky plaster’ solution to it, which included a couple of steroid injections, which did last me through until February, when I had a concert.

I put everything on hold at that point. As an advanced pianist and professional player, I was quite fearful about having surgery. I did lots of research first. I finally had the first of two operations in May 2019, which was on my right thumb, which was giving me the most pain.

The operation was performed by Mr Mark Phillips and Mr Ian Winspur. It was a fairly new procedure, which involved removing the trapezium bone at the base of my thumb and then using part of my FCR tendon, which was cut into and spliced, and threaded back underneath the skin and made it into a cushion for my thumb. A hole was drilled into my thumb bone and a silicon bone implant inserted as a spacer and then the tendon was then threaded round to perform a positioning sling and sewn into place. The recovery from a standard procedure is usually a number of months. However, I was playing normally in just five to six weeks!

In August, I had my second operation, on my other hand. This was undertaken again by Mr Mark Phillips. That was a tougher operation, as there were more serious problems there. In spite of a hyper extended hand joint, astonishingly, I was back to full play, even better, at just 4 weeks.

Only now I realise how handicapped I’d been in recent years. It feels an immense privilege to be able to play the piano again, 100% completely pain free, after 10 years! I can move faster, and I am stronger.

I really do want to pay tribute to and give huge and grateful thanks to my surgeon, Mr Mark Phillips. I always thought that my job as a performing pianist had immense, huge pressure attached to it. But Mark, I came to you with my whole life’s work at stake. You cut my hands wide open, you did incredible brave things inside, and you sewed them up again. That’s what I call pressure! Thank you Mark for being such a support and becoming such a good friend throughout.

So, if you are a pianist, and you’re facing these sort of problems with your hands, my advice is, don’t walk away from it. Get a good surgeon and get it fixed. If you want proof, then you can watch me 12 weeks after my last surgery, playing the 2nd Scherzo of Fredrick Chopin and keep an eye on my thumbs! To view click here (playing starts at 8.02).

Richard Meyrick

23 July 2020