Readers of this space will remember I was to have surgery in November to repair a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder. I showed up dutifully at the Grey Nuns Hospital on the morning of November ninth as physically and psychologically ready as I could be. I waited around in one of those lovely hospital gowns and a robe with my daughter to keep me company. Eventually I was told my surgery was being cancelled, not because of an operating room or staff shortage but because they’d had many emergencies during the night and there was no bed to put me into after surgery. I was disappointed with but resigned to this turn of events. This was what Bernie Siegel refers to as a “spiritual flat tire” — one of those inexplicable events that, like a flat on the way to the airport, makes you miss your flight but saves your life when the plane crashes. Luckily I was able to get it done the very next day.
By all accounts the surgery appears to have gone well. In addition to a full thickness tear there was significant fraying of the bicep tendon, a small spur, something called a type II SLAP lesion and other technicalities I’m still trying to decode. Part of the repair process included chiseling part of the bone to make extra room. It also helps explains the degree of pain common with this surgery. I had a prescription for 50 Tylenol 4s to be supplemented with ibuprofen every 2 hours. I dislike taking pills and weaned myself off the T4s soon after I got home. Didn’t much care for the constipation it causes either. (By the time the prune juice and stool softeners kicked in diarrhea was the result!).
I was so smug about not needing/wanting the T4s I began researching the street price of the 33 pills I had left — a girl’s gotta recoup some costs, dontcha know. When I finally began physiotherapy just before Christmas the therapist disabused me of any notion of not properly managing the pain. “You need to stay ahead of the pain and keep it a level that allows you to sleep and do your exercises. Pain management is part of the healing process.” He speaks the truth. I now take one T4 a day plus ibuprofen and make sure I do my exercises about two hours after the T4 when the pain-killing effect peaks.
For the first couple of weeks after surgery I found tears very close to the surface. I chalk it up to the pain, frustration and helplessness I felt with life in a sling. I began to view this experience as a spiritual lesson in patience. The process would not be rushed. And if I had any sense at all I would graciously accept that fact. This adventure was not without its moments. I asked the lovely Dr. Balyk when patients typically thank him. “Not usually til about the six month mark,” he laughed. Stay tuned for Part IV for the gruesome details of life in a sling. You’ll have a new appreciation for your limbs, from where I sit.