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Incisions, Incisions…

January 30, 2011

*Day 3 ☼ This is not my first adventure with shoulder surgery, God willing – it is my last!  The first was 6 years ago, and entailed an open-rotator cuff repair on my left shoulder, meaning they cut my shoulder wide open.  I don’t remember the pain of surgery as being any more than expected.  However PT (physical therapy) was excruciating and lasted forever, or so it seemed.  The agony was so intense I thought (as I bawled in front of a room full of strangers) I should suggest it to captors in need of new torture regimens.  I’m sure they are always on the lookout for alternative methods of making prisoners cry… and break.  Shoulder PT would bring even the most resistant to their knees.

Despite the pain, I persevered and regained 100% of my range of motion in the shoulder, and it was as good as new.  Successful and with the torture securely behind me, I highly (and blithely) recommended this surgery to family, friends and complete strangers that crossed my path and who were in search of options and personal experiences.  So, even though I knew what I was in for, when my right shoulder began its familiar bad behavior about a year ago, I began preparing mentally. 

Decisions, Decisions ☼ The right shoulder had always been the trouble-maker, which was why I was so surprised when the left one “went” 6 years ago.  20-odd years ago I was rear-ended at 40 miles while at a stoplight.  I was holding onto the steering wheel of course, and the resulting jolt tore something (in addition to giving me a nasty whiplash) in my shoulder.  Thus began years of PT, cortisone injections, remission and recurrence of the symptoms.  I guess over time it finally just gave up and grew a bone spur out of spite or something, leaving me with a tear, a spur and eventually, a frozen shoulder. 

In September, I knew full-blown shoulder-shut down was immanent – I could literally feel it in my bones.  I kept trying to move, stretch, and use my arm to try to stop the ravages of the inevitable, to no avail.  In November I gave up.  I researched and found a surgeon.  In December, as a reaction to a yearly insurance deductible, I changed my appointment to January.  A day before the surgery it was moved up a week. 

‘sigh.  I can’t tell you what a drag it is to be “ready” for the dread experience of surgery, (which you are willing to endure just so the months of sleepless nights and the pain due to your stupid shoulder, will end) just to have it cancelled.

Finally last Thursday, after a year of more misery, I had my right shoulder repaired.  Athroscopically this time; here begins a new journey for me.  A little late to think of this, I am mostly struck with the enormously difficult task of doing things left-handed.  I wield a fork like a 1-year old, dumping scrambled eggs down my front and forgetting my right arm doesn’t work so well.  Imagine the painful shock of unconsciously reaching with the right for the remote… an explosively offered “SHIT” is an oft-heard word lately.  It us usually preceded by “OW OW OW, DAMMIT, CRAP, OHHHHH!!!!” in a high-pitched screech. 

As I venture into the world of the south-paw, I have an uncomfortable feeling this recovery is going to be much more challenging.

Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repairs

By Jonathan Cluett, M.D., Guide

Image © Medical Mulitmedia Group

rotator cuff tear

A tear of the rotator cuff is an injury to the tendons of the shoulder muscles.

Arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs cause minimal trauma to the tissues that surround the shoulder and the rotator cuff. Because of this patients have smaller scars and less damage to these nearby structures. Most important of these surrounding structures is the large deltoid muscle over the outside of the shoulder. One potential complication of an open rotator cuff repair is detachment of the deltoid; this potential problem is avoided by the arthroscopic technique. Some surgeons also believe they can see the rotator cuff much better through an arthroscope, and can maneuver throughout the shoulder joint without the limitations of an incision.

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Sweet MorpheusThe things that “get to” me because of my experiences or fears, most likely aren’t the same as yours.  My doctor opts for the “shoulder nerve block” method of anesthesia during shoulder surgeries.  When I told Dr. Anesthesia “I don’t want that.”  She dispassionately explained the harsh reality of getting knocked out to me.  As I agonized over them using their usual method, versus using narcotics to sedate me, I tried to assimilate the information. 

No block meant narcotics (necessitating “protecting my airway” by intubating me).  Narcotics make me nauseous at best, and produce uncontrollable vomiting and depression for days afterwards at worst.  The block and its anesthesia have the benefits of non-narcotic knock-outs and pain relief for 24 hours following surgery as your entire shoulder, and arm, are numb.  For me the down side of this method is the freaky way I feared I would feel from said numbness (valium, please!)  I envisioned 24 hours of nails screeching down a chalk board.  After anxious contemplation I surrendered and said, “go ahead with the block”.

Upon arrival at home I felt positively crawly and weirded out.  When I would move, this alien appendage would flop like a great, hot, limp, fish; and lay their kind of tingling and swollen, silently mocking me for succumbing to the block.  As I walked it would swing eerily with flailing, pendulous, heavy movements – apparently of its own accord – making me doubt it was actually attached at all.  When I would grab it to try to stop it (as it was freaking me out no end) I wondered in alarm “WHOSE IS THIS???”  I was tempted to let it go – It sure as hell didn’t feel like anything of MINE.  When I would roll on my side, it remained dead, just laying there back behind me, “it can’t be good for it to be at that angle, right?” I thought, as I called David to come pick it up and place it in some semblance
of normalcy at my side.

Add to that the fact that my neck and face were numb too, and that my eye kind of drooped – well, it’s over now.  Thank God.



*Please forgive typos and lapses in grammar, logic, etc… it’s really hard to type and I am still recovering!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Isabella permalink
    January 30, 2011 11:54 am

    Wow – that sounds like hell- I didn’t like the bit about the anaesthetic – I hope that you have a swift and full recovery!

  2. January 30, 2011 4:16 pm

    You are a brave woman. I know, there was no alternative, still…kudos to you, and godspeed on your recovery.

  3. January 31, 2011 8:33 am

    Day 4: My shoulder pain is manageable with Tylenol – I can’t raise that arm (like to put a ponytail in my hair or put deodorant under my left arm) or make many daily activity kind of movements. I keep it well iced – about an hour on at a time after something like being on the computer as it makes it ache to put my arm up and type.

    I go to the doc tomorrow a.m. for the post op appointment – Do they take out stitches after only 5 days??? : – ( oh nooooo!

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