From Where I Sit – Shoulder Saga II

With just one week to go ’til surgery, I spent yesterday at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton. I was there for the pre-admission clinic, an appointment with a physical therapist, more x-rays and, of course, all the waiting, waiting, and waiting that’s inherent with all things medical.

Upon arrival, I was given a sheaf of papers to read. A full-colour brochure (hospital property, not to be removed) pictured shoulder anatomy and conditions requiring repair. Other sheets talked about rotator cuffs, surgery, pain, movement and physical therapy. The Home Program sheets illustrated the post-surgery and self-assisted exercises. A physical therapist discussed and demonstrated these exercises and the sling I’ll be wearing for six weeks.

Other sheets covered home care instructions for open rotator cuff repair patients. Like all the other information, this material referred to the significant pain most people experience. I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t reverse psychology, talk so much about the awful pain, create a worst-case scenario only to discover reality is so much better than what was expected. The issue of swelling/bruising, dressings, pressure stockings (worn during surgery to prevent blood clots), showering, potential problems and driving restrictions are covered.

Eventually a nurse comes to ask and answer questions and cover the material in another booklet. While my personality dictates that I ask all the questions, even the gory ones, I’m really most interested in the practicalities of what happens and how I’ll cope. No one I talked to yesterday minimized or trivialized the difficulties of sleeping, dressing, pain management, toileting, grooming and eating. “Think about how you’ll eat … you can’t open jars, you can’t cut anything, and you can’t use a can opener. You need containers you can open with one hand, foods you pop in the microwave.” As someone who normally eats way too fast, this should definitely slow me down. Think I may need a bib too! Oh, drink lots of water and eat fibrous foods to help with the constipation likely from the painkillers.

It appears wearing a bra at least for the first couple of weeks will be impossible, what with the dressings and contortions required to get into it. I’m advised to wear button or zip front tops, elastic band pants, and a jacket large enough to go over the arm in a sling. Trying to pull pants and panties on and off with one hand will be some picnic too. We never talked about socks.

The surgery typically last 1 1/2 hours with an equitable amount of time spent in the recovery room. Patients are advised not to sign any legal documents, make money decisions, drive, operate heavy machinery or power tools, or drink alcohol while judgment may be impaired by medication. Guess I won’t be rewriting my will over a drink while driving a caterpillar anytime soon.

I’m going into this with as much preparation as possible, with realistic expectations about recovery and outcome, with prayers of family and friends, and the profound belief that I will be fine in the hands of arguably Alberta’s best shoulder surgeon. There’s nothing more I can do, from where I sit.

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