Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Shoulder

Two weeks ago, I mentioned in a post that I had to go to the doctor’s and have him look at my shoulder, which has been giving me problems for almost a year now.  He took an X-Ray that was inconclusive, and then sent me off for an MRI.

I had the MRI done on 4/26; it was my first.  I’ve had CT scans done before, where they slide you through this giant donut that takes the scan.  In my case, it was to map my blood vessels, so they had to shoot me with “contrast”, which would then show up on the scans.  (The funny thing about that is that it all seemed to collect in my groin.  As soon as they shot it in, my balls got all hot.  Weird…)

Anyway, the MRI is another story.  This is the one where they slide you into a tight little tube for a HALF A GODDAMNED HOUR!  I can see how people might freak out about the cramped quarters and how you’re supposed to stay perfectly still.  For the most part, it didn’t bother me because I knew I was in a nice office building and I could see sunlight from the window behind me.  But if I were in the same physical circumstances, say, 1000 feet underground, they would probably find me dead on account of bashing myself against the top of the tube in a full-on blind panic.

In this case, I figured I’d just close my eyes and relax; maybe even have a sleep.  With your eyes closed, it doesn’t matter where the walls are.  The only problem with my course of action was the unbelievably loud noise.  They gave me earplugs before I went in, but whenever they turned on the machine it hummed and banged like an industrial machine shop.  It was kind of like going to a Nine Inch Nails concert.  I spent the time trying to pick a song from my memory banks that synched up with the rhythm of the banging.

They broke it up into segments, so it wasn’t like it was one big 30-minute chunk.  They’d say, “This part will be 4 minutes”, or “this part will be 5 minutes…” I escaped the tube none the worse for wear.  I left with a big sleeve of films to bring back to my Ortho doctor for evaluation, last Monday.
One of my actual MRI sheets… an real “inside look” at Bluz Shoulder

The doctor looked at the MRI and determined that I had 2 separate issues:

* A partial tear of the rotator cuff.
* A superior labral tear (SLAP tear), where the biceps tendon pulls the labrum (cartilage covering the end of the bone in the socket) away from the bone.

The first prescribed course of action he gave me was a round of physical therapy, 3 times a week for four weeks.  (And they have a PT unit in the same office, which is very convenient for me, as the office is about a mile from my apartment.)  He also gave me a cortisone shot, which was surprisingly painless… no more painful than having blood drawn.  I’d heard that it was sometimes very painful, but the doctor said if varied by where you were getting the shot.  The hands and feet were much worse.

I soon learned that things would be nearly as convenient as I thought, because the in-house PT unit didn’t take my insurance, so I was on my own to find another one.  Luckily, Pinky had already done some legwork on that, so I had the number of another PT center nearby that did take my insurance.  (I had no idea Aetna would be so hard to use… I thought they were one of the “big ones.”)

Tomorrow I go in for my initial consultation, so I’ll see how it goes from there.  I was glad that the doctor wasn’t all about surgery as a first option, but still, I’m worried.  Physical therapy is not going to heal torn tissues.  It can strengthen the surrounding musculature, but it can’t mend cartilage and tendons.

The doctor described it as being like a piece of paper… You can pull on the ends of a piece of paper and it is very strong.  But if you put just a small tear in it, pulling on it is likely to make it tear more.  So my long-term diagnosis is basically dependent on how much pain and restrictions on movement I care to endure, for the rest of my life.

So much for a second career in javelin throwing.

So just in case that didn’t panic me enough, I asked about the recovery time for a prospective surgery that would go in and fix it.  He said I would be in a sling for four weeks, with a recovery period of 3-6 months.

I am so screwed. 

All week I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to have one arm out of commission for a month.  This is my right shoulder and not only am I right-handed, I’m uber-right-handed.  My left is basically a little T-Rex arm that does nothing but act as a counterbalance for the right, so I don’t tilt.  Hence, I’ve come up with a whole list of things to worry about…

How am I going to brush my teeth or wash my hair?  How does one cut food with one hand?  Or put on socks?  How will I put in my contact lenses without my clumsy left-hand fingers poking my eye out?  Driving would be out of the question, I suppose, at least at first.  If it were wintertime, clearing the car of snow or scraping frost would be a major chore.

On the bright side, I could still type, because my arm would be down and relatively stationary.  Might have to move the mouse to the other side.  But I’d be able to telecommute and dial in to work from home.  That would solve the inability to dress and groom myself.  And for meals, I could just eat things that don’t need cutting, like, say, BACON!  They come in nice little individual pieces.  When eating, I’ll have to be careful of using any sharp utensils in my left hand.  Otherwise I’ll be down at the emergency room getting the fork removed from the side of my face.

And that was the start of my eating problem…”

Also, I wouldn’t look forward to walking around the streets of Baltimore with a sling.  That would be like being an antelope with a limp out on the Serengeti.  The hyenas would be all over my ass.  Normally I don’t worry too much because troublemakers like easy targets.  As I stand right now, they don’t know I’m not a former Green Beret gone to seed.  But in a sling, I’d look like prey.

Anyway, I have a lot to think about.  I’ll just have to see how the PT goes.  I’d hate to think I’d never be able to toss a ball or throw a Frisbee with my nephews again.  Not even 50 yet and already it’s like I’m in mothballs. 

Not a happy thought for a Mother’s Day.

And speaking of, let me first wish a happy Mother’s Day to all my blogging friends who are mommies or are about to be.  I hope you receive the love and adoration you deserve.  I’m perpetually amazed by the things I read about you doing for your families.  You are truly heroes to this nation.

Secondly, let me wish a happy Mother’s Day to my own “Lil Mother,” without whose influence, this blog would have never been.  My mother instilled in me from my earliest days, the joy found in writing and storytelling.  Everything I do here is a direct result of her influence.  Except maybe the dick jokes.  I was going to say “fart jokes,” but remembered that she was the one that taught me my first fart jokes, back in 3rd grade, complete with elaborate gestures.
Cleveland, 1989… a big chip off a tiny little block.

22 comments:

  1. Director's DVD Commentary:
    That picture was from a Steelers/Browns game in Cleveland, while I still lived there. God, I was so skinny then, due in most part to the Retail Manager's All Stress and No Money Diet.

    And no, we did not coordinate outfits that day. I was in my Roy Buchanan phase, rocking Roy's hat and vest. I still have the hat; the vest doesn't fit. I'm not sure I can even get my arms though the holes...

    But yes, here you can see why I call her "Lil Mother." Hard to believe the a big galoot like me came out of that!

    I was 28 in 1989, meaning I was older 21 years ago than Cassie is now. Sigh.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your shoulder. I know that stinks right now, but hopefully a little PT will have you feeling like that 28-year-old in the photo.

    Your mom is adorable... and you look just like her!

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  3. I like my diagnosis better, because there is no chance it will require surgery down the road. Torn rotator cuffs are very common around here in golfland.

    I remember that dye stuff. It wasn't my balls that got hot, though.

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  4. Jessica,
    Yeah, I have Mom's eyes, and size, if you can believe it. Her dad and his sibs were all tall, whereas my Dad's side topped out at 5'9".

    Judie,
    Oh yeah? What got hot on you?

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  5. Bummer about the shoulder. Been the MRI route, too. Fortunately, I was pretty out of it when they scraped me off the ground and threw me in there. Can they inject the shoulder with Cortisone for some relief?

    And that photo of you and your mom is adorable.

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  6. Sigh - I read that twice and it definitely said Labrum. Why did my brain go to labia? I was like, "Wait? What?"

    Hope you don't need surgery. I'm looking at another knee surgery myself - I can tell you they blow chuncks.

    Just have Chuck Norris fix your shoulder. That will do it.

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  7. Jayne,
    They gave me a cortisone shot on Monday, and it's helped a bit, with smaller movements. But I still have a pretty limited range of motion. Can sleep a little better though...

    Goldey,
    Geez, with your knee and my shoulder, we should just recuperate together... split the cost of a caretaker. Then we can just relax, get better, and watch a Delta Force movie marathon.

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  8. Awesome post man! Keep blogging cause this is great!

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  9. You went to Hertz "Rent-A-Mom" that day. Nice choice! She almost looks like you albeit short.
    Your present problem comes from shouldering too many responsibilities for too long. You need a long overdue, well deserved REST!

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  10. Oh my God! It did it to me again! Dammit. I think the livejournal sign-in doesn’t play well w/your site for some reason, but not every time; sometimes it works great. *sigh* And, did I learn from previous times and copy my message? Um, no. *sigh* Okay, I'll attempt to recreate it (writing in Word first this time):

    You do have your mom’s eyes AND her style. I love the looks you both are rocking in that pic. :)

    I’m so sorry about the shoulder thing. :( I came really close to having a panic moment when I got mine done for my back. It took some serious deep breathing to calm down and not punch the “get me the hell out of here NOW” button as soon as I was all the way in. *shudder*

    That bites that there is not a real “fix” for it. My back is like that, too, though they’ve poked and prodded me in every way possible to make sure nothing else worked first. *sigh* There’s a surgical option for me, too, but it doesn’t actually “fix” it, just makes it not as bad to deal with over time. Though I’m not really anxious for them to go digging into my spinal column anyway, to tell you the truth. I don’t blame you for being skeptical and hesitant about going that route.

    I’ve had to relearn how to do all kinds of stuff around the house and stick to my *ridiculously low* limits when doing things now in order to avoid screaming pain at the slightest wrong twist. Sucks big time.

    I wonder if you could switch up or evolve different types of sports that you could do with them (and on your own) that would be better for it? Maybe swimming (and using an inflatable ball) or kickball or soccer or anything with just running? I know how hard it is to look at the gloom of the future that way, but I hope you’re able to find some compromises. Good luck! Feel better!

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  11. The worst thing about the damn MRI was the tech saying, "Now DON'T move" over and over and over for the whole hour or so I was in there. Nothing like being ordered not to move to make you suddenly develop an itch...

    Get the surgery over and done. Otherwise it will be hanging over your head (or under your head) forever...

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  12. Glovey,
    Seriously? You got that from 12 seconds of reading? (Statcounter knows all!) Not that you’re mistaken, of course. So thanks!

    Mary Ann,
    Sorry, I have about another 20 years before I can retire… unless they move retirement age to 80 by then.

    Cristy,
    Sorry about the tech problem. Maybe you should skip the LiveJournal login and just use Name/URL.

    Swimming would probably be “out” too… no long, reaching strokes for me. Owie.

    I sympathize with the back pain… I get is on an off, myself, usually from doing something simple like bending, pivoting or reaching for something. Or sleeping! Sucks… I hate feeling so fragile. I spent about 40 years being indestructible.

    Sherry,
    They had me wedged in there pretty well, so I didn't need to move much. I did have a nose-itch scare, but luckily it went away. Not sure I even could have reached it to scratch... I'd have no choice but to mash it against the top of the tube.

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  13. You mean if you ignore things they don't actually go away? Hope it works and you feel better soon. Constant pain sucks.

    You and your mom look so cute together. I feel that height differential is where I am heading with my boys. I will have to carry a bigger stick.

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  14. I would never survive an MRI, so here's hoping I never need one. *knock on wood*

    Your mom is TINY. Is your dad, like, 6 feet tall or something? That said, you definitely resemble her.

    Hope the shoulder thing all works out.

    And thanks for the mother's day wishes. :)

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  15. DG,
    “Leaving it alone” is always my #1 option regarding health care and it’s surprising how often it works. But sometimes it doesn’t.

    I’ve had accidents where I’ve hurt this shoulder twice in the past; they’re called “subluxations.” That’s where the end of the bone jolted in and out of the socket quickly. Hurts like a mother------. It happened once when I was a teenager, hitting a heavy-bag. Happened again about 12 years ago, while playing football. (I went down on my elbow, which jolted the shoulder.) I didn’t seek treatment for either, and it took about 10 months each time before it healed. So I was hoping for the same for this go-round, but it’s just getting worse.

    Mom also carried a big stick… it was called a wooden spoon, the weapon of choice for little Italian mothers everywhere. I don’t recall ever getting whacked with it; just the sound of the utensil drawer being opened was usually enough. Although, I do remember my brother getting a few shots… in fact, she once broke her spoon over my brother’s butt. I figure it must have been weakened from prior usage. Or maybe she just didn’t have the label facing up.

    Red Pen Mama,
    Believe it or not, I get my size from Mom’s side of the family. Her father and his siblings were tall. Dad topped out at 5’9” and has been shrinking ever since. People seeing the 3 of us walking around assume that either I was adopted, or we had a tall milkman.

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  16. Yeah, the name/url is what I usually end up doing, I just forget sometimes. Dangit!

    It's interesting how height can transfer like that. My brother's 6'2", which he gets from my mom's side, though she's only 5'4". My uncle and grandfather are over 6-footers, so there you go. Love the comment about the milkman! Ha!

    I guess I meant swimming in a pool that's shallow enough to walk in. I don't enjoy swimming in deep water, so I never think of it that way. *shrug* I was thinking more beach ball (i.e., light) catch or something.

    So sorry it's worse now. That so sucks. Hang in there, man!

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  17. Cristy,
    I'ma working on it. PT... so far/so good.

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  18. At least it wasn't a labial tear. That'd be both painful and awkward...given you're a man.

    Your Mom is HOT.

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  19. Cassie,
    Yes, I’d have quite a lot of ‘splaining to do if I had a labial tear. Wouldn’t that have made for an interesting blog post?

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  20. Ouch. Hope PT does the trick. It's still better than losing use of a leg as I did when I tore a cartilage in my foot. You feel freakin' useless having to hop everywhere. And crutches....

    Of course, other activities that would suffer with one working arm... buttoning a shirt, using a smart phone, spreading peanut butter on toast, opening pill bottles, eating ribs (hence the bacon), using scissors, and clapping.

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  21. Carpetbagger,
    At least with a bum leg, I’d always get a seat on the subway without having to endure the stares from people that got on after me and think I should give them my seat.

    Your additions to my Unable To Do list with an arm in a sling gave me a mild panic, but I settled down once I considered the details:

    Smart phone: I don’t have one and I rarely use my “dumb” one.
    PB on Toast: I don’t have a toaster and we don’t keep PB in the house. (Pinky would eat it all in a weekend.)
    Ribs: Rarely eat them… so messy with a beard. And bacon is one-handable.
    Scissors: That’s a problem. I’d have to use my left to cut and hold w/ right, and lefty cutting is tough.
    Clapping: Note to self: no shoulder surgery during football season. Also, the Terrible Towel would be problematic. I could try it lefty, but would probably accomplish nothing but wrapping it around my face.
    Pill bottles: Might have been a problem but I have neither kids nor pets. I don’t have to fasten down the lids, so even now, I don’t. I can spin off the lid w/ one hand.
    Lastly, buttoning a shirt now that one is a problem. Will probably have to wear pullovers. With BIG armholes. Or jackets. Or maybe I’ll just have to have Pinky dress me.

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