Upcoming Surgery, and other news

I've noted in the last several posts my problems with my left shoulder following a bad fall on a wet kitchen floor at the end of August. The problems haven't been getting better, but worse: my range of motion with that arm is getting less, and the pains are getting stronger and sharper.

So I finally got an MRI on that shoulder last week, and it found what I'd been afraid it would find: a rotator cuff tear.

Most rotator cuff injuries and tears take place on the upper part of the rotator cuff. Mine's on the front of the rotator cuff, a more unusual situation, and harder to repair. (Also harder to diagnose, which is why I wasn't sent for an MRI earlier.) The surgeon has told me that while he prefers to do most rotator cuff surgeries arthroscopically, in my case he thinks it better to do an open surgery, laying the shoulder open to go in.

That will mean at least one night in the hospital. Surgery's curently scheduled for October 20th, next Wednesday.

The last time I was in the hospital for surgery was forty years ago, and I wasn't thrilled by the experience. But I'm a lot more anxious about the recovery period. I've been told that the left arm will need to be used not at all for the first month post-surgery. In the second month, it can be moved, but only in passive therapy where a therapist moves it around. Only in the third month will I be able to start doing some resistance exercises to build arm strength back up again.

I'll essentially have only one arm for about three months. (Oh, and the surgeon told me I shouldn't drive during recovery, either.)

When you're the primary caregiver for a disabled spouse, and have been helping her with... well, almost everything... for years, this is not good news. In fact, this situation -- ending up disabled or out-of-commission myself, and unable to care for Hilde -- has always been just about my biggest source-material for nightmares.

The good news is that we've had a charming young woman, Tabbi, living with us for several years, who acts as backup caregiver for Hilde when I'm at work or running errands. So she'll be able to take up a lot of the slack once I'm unable to do the heavy lifting I usually do. But that will put a big crimp in her own activities, which I'll feel guilty about (because I'm really good at that sort of neurotic navel-gazing).

On top of needing the surgery in the first place, the long recovery period will also mean I'll be off work for those three months. Hilde and I will still have her disability income and my Postal Service retirement check each month, but the lack of those security-job paychecks will mean we'll be running into red-ink territory each month I'm off. (I have some disability coverage through my insurance, but it won't kick in until after the first sixty days off work.) So I'll be having a financial ouchie as well as a physical one.

I've been trying to practice living one-handed before I go into surgery. One of the things I found is that it takes a long-g-g-g time to button a shirt one-handed. So I went down to the local Good Will store and picked up some snap-button shirts to use during recovery. I may also pick up some suspenders, to avoid having to try and thread a belt thru belt-loops, even if suspenders make a person look like a grumpy old guy. (Oh, wait! I am a Grumpy Old Guy....)

One piece of good news comes out of all this: Being off work for three months means I'll be able to grow my beard back! WOO-HOO!

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In other news, last week the Phoenix area had a fairly spectacular storm, including heavy -- and large -- hail. "Golf-ball size" hailstones were reported widely, with some baseball-sized hail in a few areas. Lots of broken windows and damaged roofs across the city, though fortunately not in our neighborhood. (The hail here was heavy enough to set off the car alarm, though.)

I took a picture of one of the hailstones that fell here. This isn't the largest -- others were about half again as big -- but this one was in easy reach:

1 comment:

Will Shetterly said...

Man, that is some serious beard commitment!

But in general, much sympathy. I'm very glad you've got your housemate there.