The Arm: The Weasel Gets Weird -- Unexpected Changes

In my last update to the seemingly neverending saga of coping with the breaking the hell out of my right arm last December, I reported that I'd decided to go ahead and have the revision surgery, replacing the standard replacement humerus head implanted in December (and which had seemed to be failing, resulting in quite a lot of pain) with a Reverse Shoulder Arthroscopy, a different type of replacement shoulder joint, hopefully (but not guaranteed) to reduce the amount and intensity of pain I was having.  That surgery was scheduled for June 28th.

And then, beginning last weekend, an unexpected thing started happening.

The arm started hurting less.

Quite a lot less.  I've gone from six extra-strength Tylenol and two Aleve (or, occasionally, one Aleve and a Celebrex) per day (about the maximum dose you're supposed to take per day, or start worrying about liver and kidney damage), all the way down to one or two Tylenol and one Aleve.

I don't know why it's hurting less.  No apparent rhyme, no apparent reason.  I don't know if it's going to last, or if the pain will rack back up at some unknown future date.  But you'd think I'd be relieved and grateful for the change.

In actuality, I experienced an anxiety attack that came close to panic.

For the first several months after the acccident, I seemed to be making slow but steady progress in recovery.   So I thought I'd probably be able to go back to work sometime in late spring.  Then the arm started getting worse again in late March, and planning on the future went into a cocked hat.

When I finally decided, about two weeks ago, to go ahead with the second surgery, it meant that I'd know what my life would be like for at least rest of the summer and most of fall:  Surgery at the end of June, the arm in a sling and immobilized 24/7 for at least six weeks, followed by at least several months of physical therapy.  After that, things would be uncertain again until it became clear if the second surgery had made any improvement.  But at least I knew what would be happening for the next four months.

But when the arm suddenly started hurting less, I had to start wondering if the second surgery was absolutely necessary.   The arm still aches, but the aching is a lot less intense, and I've had very few of the sharp stabbing pains I was having before.  Two weeks ago I was at the point where I was sure I needed the new surgery.   And now... I'm not sure.

Which makes the future very uncertain again.  Which is very upsetting and anxiety-inducing.

So.  After nearly a week of the lower pain levels, a few decisions have been made.  The revision surgery has been cancelled.  I'll be referred to a physiatrist, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  We'll try and work with the arm to get its strength and stamina back, or at least better.

I'm still, whatever happens, going to end up with pretty significant limits on how high I can reach with the arm, and how much I can carry.  But the pain has been the most compelling problem these last months.

I also had an out-of-pocket consultation with the doctor who does Hilde's pain-management for her own significant problems.  I got a fairly long list of non-surgical, non-narcotic treatments and medications that might be useful in dealing with the remaining pain.  (One of the suggestion was for adhesive Lidocaine patches.  Hilde used those for pre-surgical pain before one of her joint replacements some years ago, and we still had a partial box way at the back of a closet shelf.  So I tried one today for the aching, and it helped significantly.  This makes me hopeful that I can continue to keep the pain at tolerable levels.)

(Hilde and I get most of our medical care from Mayo, who I mostly think of as wonderful.  But surprisingly the only pain-management service Mayo has is part of the Neurology department, and it only treats back pain.)

There are still a lot of  "If's" and "Maybe's" and "Possibly's" floating around in the forthcoming months.  But for the moment, things are better than they have been.

In the last update, I said the pain was like having a bad-tempered weasel strapped to my arm.  It growled a lot, and sometimes started clawing and biting at the arm.  Well, at least for the time being, it's being a lot nicer, growling less, and even sleeping some of the time.

A well-behaved weasel.

1 comment:

Will Shetterly said...

The older I get, the more I hate uncertainty, but at least this one's veering in the promising direction. Good luck with the new plan!