Cate Thomas overcomes hand injury

Feeling the adrenaline surge through her as she steps out onto the spring floor, Cate Thomas looks over at her parents, her biggest supporters, sitting front row in the bleachers and it gives her the extra boost of confidence she was looking for. With passion flowing through her blood, Cate gracefully flips across the floor, impressing the judges and audience. Ever since she was merely 2 years old, Cate has been participating in gymnastics and her love for the sport has never wavered. 

“My favorite part about gymnastics is being able to work hard and learn lots of life lessons while doing what I love,” Cate Thomas, a freshman at Ladue High School, said. 

 During her 12th year of gymnastics, Cate tore a tendon in her hand, but the problems didn’t stop there. September 2018, Cate came home from practice and finally admitted to her mom that she had been experiencing a lot of pain in her right hand. After visiting her doctor, Cate discovered she had torn a tendon and would need to wear a brace for two weeks. 

“Cate has had a lot of injuries at gymnastics and she is very stoic, so usually when she comes to me and says she’s hurt, she’s very hurt.  I was concerned because she rarely complains,” Sue Thomas, Cate’s mom, said.

Sadly the brace didn’t help repair her tendon as much as the doctors thought it would, so Cate went through her first surgery; a tendon repair. Five stitches were put in Cate’s tendon, and Cate was hopeful she could return to gymnastics after her recovery. The school days missed for doctors appointments and surgeries, in addition to the constant pain, had begun to take a toll on Cate. 

 “The worst part is that my hand affects more than just gymnastics, it affects everything I do,” Cate said. ”My hand is in constant pain so it takes away from everything, including my school work.”

The tendon surgery had failed and Cate and the doctors were left back at square one. After a few MRIs, another surgery, biopsy and a cast, Cate and her doctors believed the problem was bigger than just her hand. Desperate for help Cate saw almost every type of doctor imaginable, as well as trying various experimental treatments; including a nerve injection and steroid injection. 

“I would guess we have been to around 20 different doctors.  That includes physical therapists, surgeons, physiatrists, pain management doctors and plastic surgeons.  We even traveled to the MAYO clinic in Rochester Minnesota,” Sue said. 

After the failure of all the other surgeries and tests, most people would give up, but Cate is not like most people. Cate plans to receive a PRP (Platelet-rich plasma) injection, a recently developed treatment. She has hope this treatment will work, but if it does not Cate doesn’t currently have any other options, in fact, if this injection fails, Cate may have a much worse problem than a pulled tendon or cyst. 

“There is a slight chance I have a complex regional pain syndrome. Which would mean my hand would slowly become swollen and stop functioning,” Cate said.

Despite her chronic pain and many surgeries and treatments, Cate has found a way to do what she loves. This weekend Cate competed a beam and floor routine without her right hand and placed 1st with her floor routine. What most people can’t do with both hands, Cate can do with only one hand. Through all of these hardships Cate has been able to keep her head up and continue pursuing her passion.

“Cate has had an unbelievably positive attitude and has conducted herself with more courage and grace than I could ever imagine,” Sue said.