Friday, March 16, 2012

Slow Progress

I am now more than three months post surgery. I am back to near full function as far as range of motion but my strength is still a bit off. The most annoying part is that the tendons in front keep snapping over something when I raise my arm, especially with any weight at all in my hand. There are still a few movements that hurt, like parallel parking. With my arm extended and my shoulders twisted around, the resistance of the steering wheel is painful. About the only thing I can't do yet is a push up position. Sometimes when I'm taking a low angle shot of something, I'm laying on my stomach with my elbows tucked in and when I go to get up, I look like a fish out of water, trying to figure out how to put my self up and not drop my camera.

I have a while to go before I'm 100%, but so far I'm not convinced to do the other shoulder yet, or at least not this coming December. Maybe I'll give it a year cushion to see how I feel with the left side and to see if my memory of the experience fades a little.

Recently, bought a book to help me understand the process of the surgery a little better and try and figure out what's going on inside. It's called "The Shoulder Patient's Hand Book", by Dr. Paul D. Roache. It was helpful but I think it touches on a lot of different types of injuries and surgeries, so when you narrow it down to your specific need it's only about a chapter long. I think I would have found it more helpful if I had the book before surgery than after. I think it would have put my mind at ease as to what they were going to do.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I went to the doctor today, thoroughly expecting to be done with the sling. Disappointed doesn't accurately describe how I felt when he said I will need to for at least another 10 days while I wean myself off of it. Deflated was more like it. I've been counting down the minutes to ditch the ball and chain and now I feel like the countdown has begun all over again.

On the bright said, I went to physical therapy after the doctor and began my rehabilitation. I am now allowed to increase my range of motion with the exercises I've been doing since the surgery, as well as doing strengthening exercises. The process will be long and slow, but at least I feel like I have some control over the situation now. My rehab consists of very moderate movements with resistance from the lowest level elastic bands. Right now I'm a yellow belt.

As a child I was very accident prone. We used to joke the Central General Hospital in Plainview on Long Island was going to name a wing after me since I was there so often. I was very flexible as a child to the point I should have had my own exhibit at a freak show. My siblings used to make me walk around doing all my freaky things at once. One would think I was having a seizure if it were not for my incessant giggling while doing it. One of my "talents" was to be able to dislocate my left shoulder using just my shoulder muscles. If only I had known how much damage I was doing with each game of freak show I played. Now the thought of using those same muscles to push my shoulder out is nauseating, however, that's exactly what it feels like my shoulder wants to do when I sleep. I walk up last night from a twitch that fired those very muscles. I don't think my shoulder came out, but what it did do was put a lot of pressure on a very sore joint. It almost feels like waking up to an electrical jolt, at least that is what I imagine it would feel like since that wasn't part of my freak show. In addition to voluntary shoulder dislocations, my other talents included rolling my stomach like a belly dancer, twitching my double jointed fingers and double jointed jaw while wiggling my ears. I know, there is no such thing as double joints, but that's what we called it back then.

To wean off the sling I was told to wear it when I sleep as well as when I go out in public. I went to the ice rink this afternoon as I do every day as a hockey goalie coach for several different teams, without my sling on. I was holding my gloves in my left hand when a little boy, who I know through association with his siblings but never really had any contact with him before, decided to yank my gloves out of my hand and run away with them. I wasn't expecting it and my initial reaction was to pull back to keep my gloves. The instant pain told me to release the gloves and he took off like a shot around the corner, so I sent my body guard, my 10-year-old son after him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Counting Down the Minutes

Five weeks. Five weeks since surgery. Five weeks in a sling. Five weeks of sleeping on one shoulder, closing my vacant jacket sleeve in the car door, holding my camera with one hand, not being able to pick up my cat or able to cut my food. I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm at my wits end. My next appointment is next Monday and it can't come a moment too soon. I'm counting down the minutes.

The Velcro on my sling has lost it's adhesive characteristics so it pops free whenever I take a deep breath or twist. It's infuriating. I know I'm not supposed to but I have been taking the sling off at home to keep my sanity. I totally understand why they want me to keep it one though. While it was off, something slid off a stack of boxes and out of reflex and flinched to catch it. It hurt a lot.

Having the sling does have it's advantages though. I went to Florida last week and was able to get on the plane during the pre board process for those needing more time boarding. On one of the flight, I was assigned a window seat next to two other seats occupied by two elderly people who boarded a few minutes before me in wheel chairs. They were not able to get up to let me in, so I had to shimmy past them to get to my seat. The challenge was that I was only able to grab the overhead for leverage with one arm. I felt like a monkey swinging from a branch, trying not to spin around while I was leaping past them. I flopped in to my seat like a ton of bricks as I launched myself the last 6 inches over the mans knee hoping I didn't misjudge my approach and take the poor guy out in the process.

While I was in Florida, I went out with a buddy of mine on a flats boat on the Indian River. I didn't fish much because of the sling, but I did toss the line out a few times. I caught a Sea Trout on one of the casts and reeled it in on my own. It must have looked ridiculous trying to reel in a fish with my an arm that can only go five inches from my body from the elbow down. I feel like I have a little T-Rex arm or like I have a lucky fin like Nemo. It's a good thing I didn't fall out of the boat. I would have just swam in circles for hours.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


It's three and a half weeks post surgery and I'm actually typing this with two hands. I'm not supposed to be out of the sling, but I need to exercise my wrist and forearm a little bit. My elbow is still tightly tucked to my body. I'm noticing small improvements in things which is a promising sign since for a while I felt like I was going backwards. As the swelling subsided so did the muscle mass so there seemed to be an abnormal amount of movement in the joint. Now the only real concern revolves around sneezing.

For the first few weeks, washing my arm pit was a challenge. When I would lean to the side the create a gap between by arm and my body, standing back upright caused a lot of pain and catching in the shoulder. That has calmed down a bit. Here is a tip that I have discovered. With the arm contained against the body all day, it's no surprise that it will get sweaty. Deodorant does the job containing body odor but I like to feel nice and dry. I like to put baby powder under my arm from arm pit to elbow. The challenging part though is sprinkling the powder down and hitting the correct spot. I discovered that if I shake the powder container in the upright position and squeeze it hard, I can shoot the powder up to wear I need it to go.

I'm supposed to be doing my range of motion exercises five times a day. That has been a real challenge since the normal breaks in my day are morning before work, when I get home and before I go to bed. I'm averaging three to four times per day. The external rotation exercise is painful but bearable. It's more a tightness than anything. Having to raise my arm though is a different story. I lie on my back and grab my left wrist with my right hand and raise my arm straight out. I then lift it up to an angle about ten degrees higher than straight up and hold for five seconds. I do that ten times. The painful part is returning the arm down to my body. For some reason that is bar far the most painful thing I do. I have figured out how to lesson it by relaxing my shoulder muscles as much as possible. Even when I think I'm relaxed, I find I can go further releasing a hidden tense muscle.

I have another three weeks to go in the sling and it won't come a moment too soon. Sometimes I feel protected by it and others I feel like a prisoner. My sister bought me one of the fake sheep seat belt liners. I hate them on a seat belt in the car, but it has been a life saver on the strap of the sling. The Velcro was eating my right shoulder.

I discovered a numb spot today about the size of a half dollar on my upper arm. It seems to be just below where the bicep tendon attaches to the shoulder just to the left of my arm pit. Being New Years Eve I will have to wait until Monday to call the doctor and see if this is anything I should be concerned about.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bite Me

Several people mentioned to me today that they think I'm talking about my shoulder too much or they think doing a blog on it is "gay". All I have to say to them is "Bite Me!" When you have something happen to you that's so life transforming, that changes the way you function by the minute, it consumes everything you do. When you can try it for one day where you can't dress yourself, drive yourself anywhere or sleep, then you'll have a right to saying something. Now do it for six weeks and tell me your life is normal.

You are not under any obligation to read these and if you don't like it showing up on Facebook feel free to defriend me. I'm writing this for a few reasons. The first and most important is that it gives me an outlet to express my frustration of being temporarily disabled. I can only imagine what it would be like to have a permanent disability. Doing this is also a creative outlet for me. I like to write and this just gives me a lot to write about. I'm also doing it for the benefit of those about to go through this. I went in blind and wished I had more people to talk to about what it would be like.

It never fails, while driving down the road and some moron driver cuts me off or is driving three miles per hour, I have to refrain from flipping them off because inevitably it will be my client who is walking up the studio stairs behind me that was behind the wheel. It's happened several times. As a business owner and a hockey coach, I'm supposed to be a role model so I have to bite my tongue when I really have a lot to say and a creative way to say it. So when I say "Bite Me", I'm being polite, read between the lines.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One Day At A Time

I'm almost two weeks post surgery and I'm already getting antsy to get out of the sling. I have at least another 5 weeks to go in it. It definitely does offer me a degree of comfort and protection though. I feel vulnerable without it, but at the same time smothered by it. Last night while I was laying on the couch drifting off to sleep, I kept wanting to roll on my left side and put my hand under the pillow. My mind forgot that I couldn't so the sling did it's job in not allowing me to.

On the brighter side, I'm getting pretty good at typing with one hand. On the other hand, my Photoshop dexterity has been cramped since so much of it is a two handed operation. The thing I miss most right now though is driving my car. It's a six speed manual transmission so until I can grasp the wheel with my left hand it's staying put. I can shift and then grab the wheel again, but with winter conditions approaching and my car's high amount of torque steer under acceleration I'm better off letting my wife drive me around like Miss Daisy.

I passed my first reaction test the other day. While opening the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, my deodorant and several other objects came tumbling out at me. Normally I would be flailing my arms in every direction, snagging things out of the air like a praying mantis. Instead, I let the things fall to the ground, pieces bouncing and flying everywhere. I smirked at my success of having passed the test. Then one more thing fell out as if mocking my success and wouldn't you know it, I flinched sending a shockwave through my shoulder. "How rude!", I thought.

I went to the ice rink today to watch my daughter's hockey game vs Skaneateles. I never realized how many people greet me by grabbing my left shoulder. I also had to take evasive action to avoid being run over by a pack of little hockey players making a mad dash to the snack counter for their post game Slushies. It's a dangerous world out there I tell ya.

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Flinch or Not To Flinch

To flinch, or not to flinch, that is the question. As the nerve block wore off, I knew I would be needing a little help with the pain that was settling in. When I left the hospital, I was given a generous supply of Hydrocodone. I'm not a big fan of the dopey feeling that it causes, but I'm also not a big fan of pain. Besides, I could use a little help sleeping that second night. I snuggled comfortably on the couch, nestled between blankets and pillows to give me just the right amount of support. As the pills kicked in I began feeling nice and light as my eyes got heavy. My body was getting to that perfect state of relaxation where you almost feel like your floating when WHAM!, I was hit by a massive flinch that sent me through the roof in pain. I've flinched before as I'm falling asleep and have even done the head bob as a passenger on a long road trip, but this one was brutal. In fact, I think the epicenter was right in my left shoulder. I was sure I just yanked some stitches out.

After a few minutes my heart rate settled down and I began to allow myself to drift back in to that blissful state of relaxation. WHAM! It happened again! Seriously? Is my body trying to kill itself? What the WTF is going on?

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Three more times that night I was jolted awake like I was struck by lightning. The next morning I was exhausted and sore to say the least. After the allotted six hours, I took two more pills. Those started to kick in around noon. While watching TV, I began to doze again. I don't know if it was the pills, my exhaustion or the fact that daytime TV sucks. All I knew was that I needed to get some sleep. WHAM! It happened again. By this time I was wide awake, scared to close my eyes.

I was up until about 2 a.m. when I decided to give it another try at sleep. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! I wanted to scream. I honestly started whining out of delirium. I finally fell asleep around 3:30 only to wake up at 6:20 to the sound of my nine-year-old son puking in the upstairs bathroom.
I fell back asleep at 8:30, not for lack of flinching, but at that point I was so tired, I was back asleep ten seconds after the flinch.

The next few days were a blur of small doses of sleep, lots of medication and way too much tossing and turning. I did some research online as to whether or not Hydrocodone causes flinching and I never did find a clear answer, although the list of other side effects was longer than Santa's naughty list. I decided to ween myself off of the pills, at first splitting the dose with one Tylenol and eventually switching over to just Tylenol. The flinching is still there although the intensity has subsided.

Now the real question is why am I wide awake at 3:20 a.m. to be typing this. Last night I took two Tylenol P.M., which knocked me out way more than the Hydrocodone, but it also made me very irritable. I woke up fighting with the blankets because I couldn't get them to go where I wanted with one arm. I didn't like the irritability so I didn't take anything tonight, and here I am.