Almost six years ago, just a few days before my youngest daughter’s wedding, I fell on my left shoulder. We had had a thunderstorm with 90+ mph winds and when I got up the next morning there was half of a mesquite tree in my driveway. Turns out, half a mesquite tree is a lot heavier than it looks. As it also turns out, you should not attempt to drag said tree off your driveway…by yourself…on wet cement…in flip-flops. Lesson learned.
In the course of getting pain medication, having x-rays and seeing both an ER doctor and an orthopedist, but mostly getting pain meds, I learned, in the words of my specialist, that my shoulders are “kind of deformed.” I don’t know but I think he might have broken the Hippocratic oath with his choice of words, plus it makes me question his medical training. The bone that comes down over the ball of my arm is too long and there’s not enough room for the rotator cuff and all the nerves. My mother, my father and one of my brothers have each had two shoulder surgeries. I could have probably guessed there was a genetic flaw involved. The good news was that I had a rotator cuff impingement. The bad news was that wasn’t all I had, although I didn’t know it at the time.
Both shoulders have given me trouble off and on ever since, but particularly in the last couple of years. They keep me awake at night and I’ve noticed a marked loss of strength. One day it dawned on me, like the light when you open the refrigerator door, that it should probably not take two hands to lift a gallon of milk to the top shelf. But, it wasn’t until the pain started messing with my ability to blow dry my hair that I seriously considered seeing a doctor again. You just don’t mess with the hair. So, last week I saw an orthopedic surgeon, here in Midland, who after looking at my x-rays said “I see what he (the Hippocratic oath breaker) meant.” Two days later I was having an MRI. Two days ago I got the news: a torn rotator cuff, bone spurs, muscle atrophy and, to add insult to injury, arthritis. FML.
Needless to say, surgery is on the horizon. Post-op I will be in a sling and will not be able to use my arm at all for six weeks, followed by six weeks of moderate physical therapy with limited use, followed by three months of intense therapy. Did they not get the memo about my hair? Hello! Not to mention the fact that I sleep on my stomach, nor will I be able to put on a tee shirt or button my jeans. I don’t want to even contemplate what this means about my ability to fasten a bra. This whole recovery scenario is just not working for me. Note to surgeon: Telling patients, especially female patients, these particular post-op details is not a stellar approach to selling the need for surgery. My needs run to not having six months of crappy hair days and being able to wear pants without elastic waistbands.
Even though my left shoulder is in terrible shape and my right one is not far behind, I have put off scheduling the surgery until June. We’ve got a trip to Turks & Caicos scheduled for late April and a trip to New York City scheduled for June…and I will not have my arm in a sling or bad hair. I have my priorities. Since I am waiting a while, I started physical therapy today to try to arrest any further muscle loss and to build up the shoulder as best I can before surgery. Since torn rotator cuffs are normally quite painful, the therapist told me that I must have an “incredible tolerance for pain.” He has no idea. Soooo many smartass comments came to mind in a split second, but I don’t know him that well…yet.