When I was a little girl, my shoulders were the envy of my neighborhood. People came from far and wide (as long as they didn’t have to cross any busy streets) to see me clasp my hands behind my back and raise my arms from back to front without unclasping. Without getting too graphic, my shoulders literally rotated under my arms when I performed this act. My pediatrician said I was “double jointed.” I was a true marvel.
Fifty-ish years later, when the orthopedic surgeon looked me in the eyes and said: “You will have to have bi-lateral, total shoulder replacement,” it was quite shocking.
I told him my story of long ago and asked if that was the cause. He smiled sympathetically and said, “Age and arthritis are the causes.”
Any residual pride and glamor from my amazing shoulder days disappeared at that moment. We decided to do the right shoulder first, as I am right-handed and “in case you decide not to come back” the surgeon said with an ironic smile.
The surgery was literally a breeze. I felt nothing. So, armed (literally) with my giant ball and catheter of nerve pain meds that was to be my constant companion, my beastly sling and a 42-page “Total Replacement Shoulder Handbook,” we were on our way.
My husband set up the bedroom as our headquarters, making it so homey, and stocking it with ginger ale, oyster crackers for my iffy stomach, and my gigantic ice machine. My dear friends tried to bring food. Bless them, but I had absolutely no appetite and I had to bring the train to an abrupt halt.
The enormous sling, which had seemed so simple to attach initially, became our nemesis. We had diagrams, videos, YouTube, and every time I took it off, which was not often enough, we couldn’t remember how to put it back on. I have always thought of us as relatively clever people, but the sling was our undoing.
Who knew that the shoulder handbook would become my favorite (and only) reading material during this time, especially at night when the discomfort was pretty intense and I was hooked up to the ice machine, pain pump and could not find a comfortable place to put my sling (have I mentioned that it was enormous?).
I found two comfortable, and not the slightest bit fashionable, outfits that I alternated during my recovery.
Each day he helped me take a shower, got pretty good at putting my hair in a ponytail and that was it for my personal grooming.
Pain meds are a necessary evil. They do their job. When you try to let them know that their job is over, they make you psychotic.
Physical therapy — or PT as those of us in the know call it — came next. Another breeze! I actually look forward to it for two reasons: they make me feel better physically and emotionally (sometimes calling me the “poster child”) and they have a big bowl of chocolate at the front desk.
I must mention that I fell in love with my husband all over again during this ordeal — in any possible way that he could make things easier for me, he did.
My other roommate, Ivy, the energetic Aussie doodle, somehow just instinctively knew to be gentle. My little sister, and soulmate, flew in to help us and when she left I cried. My family kept the love and support coming, and in a situation like this, your true friends shine like the stars that they are.
As he walked away from us in the hospital on the day of surgery, my amazing surgeon smiled back over his shoulder and said: “You are going to love your new shoulder.”
Two months later, I have to say that I do love my new shoulder. I actually think I love it enough to go for a matching set.