Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the Mend

After a year of recognizing I had a problem, alternately attempting to treat it through physical therapy and to ignore it, I finally underwent surgery on November 11th for adhesive capsulitis. About ten years ago, I had surgery on the other shoulder (right) for the same repair plus a small tear repair. I recalled a long and painful rehabilitation and did not want to go through that again. As driving to dog competitions became more miserable, dressing myself became more of a challenge and ultimately getting a restful sleep impossible, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

I had Dr. Timothy Mologne at Advanced Sports Medicine do the surgery. I remember wanting to finish reading my "People" Magazine as they prepared me for surgery and the nurses laughing. And I remembered to ask if I could keep my "parts" for the purpose of human remains detection dog training but there weren't any big chunks or anything easily saved, so that didn't happen. The doctor didn't even looked shocked at the request! Something new was added this time; a nerve block. A nerve block was inserted in my neck that numbed my entire left arm. Immediately following surgery, I was walked next door to physical therapy where the arm was manipulated. With capsulitis, every fiber of repair that the body can summon cries out that the arm has just been injured and to send all forces to repair it ASAP! The healing/capsulation begins immediately and so must the therapy. It was unnerving to lay on the exam table and look over to see my own arm being moved around and have no sense of belonging to it. Shocking, actually. The block did not wear off until evening. I wore my arm in a sling, I suppose to keep it from falling off and going unnoticed! If it slipped from the sling, it would swing free and I would have to recapture it and put it back, with the arm not feeling connected to me at all.

Since the surgery I have had physical therapy appointments at Peak Performance Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, located next door to the doctor's office. My therapist is Brad McMahon. Because it is a small office, I have the consistency of having the same therapist follow me throughout my sessions. Brad has been very good, patient and understanding. I bring my "Linus blanket" with me to each session and wrap it around me for comfort. And then I take my mind away to another place, visualizing other places and activities. If the pain twinges in my shoulder I say "it's not me, it's not me". I can't tell you where I got the idea from but it has helped tremendously. At first Brad would try to make conversation to distract me and I told him "don't talk to me-- you're not HERE."

I am at the point now where I don't need that quite as much and I can concentrate on forcing through the painful parts with my own will. I have oxycodone for pain and generally take two pills about a half an hour to an hour before a therapy session. They cautiously extended the prescription for me and I am not trying to string them out as much as possible, with extra strength tylenol and one oxy, or just tylenol unless it is preceeding therapy. Last night I just used tylenol and had resisted taking any more medication during the day as I visited the dog training club but by the time I returned to the house I was in pain. Perhaps that wasn't a bright idea. I believe they switch now to vicodin? At any rate, my greatest fear was that I would be in too much pain to make the improvements I need to make in therapy. The therapy this time has gone much better than last and I think I have made good improvements. Not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but better.

My dear parents drove down this week to bring me homemade chicken noodle soup and tart shells. To the uninitiated, tart shells are just mini pie shells that you can fill with pudding or fruit. Mom's homemade chicken noodle soup is made from scratch, from making the broth with chicken and the carcass to the noodles. It is so delicious and famous that it is what most of my family requests when we get to choose our birthday meal. My parents knew I was not feeling well enough to visit, but yet they made the five hour trip just to make that touching gesture. They stayed at a bed and breakfast in town so as not to burden us here, and took us out to dinner. I found that to be such an incredibly loving thing to do. Even more than that, my liberal Democrat parents gave me money to buy some flowers or "that Sarah Palin book that you wanted." Now, THAT is LOVE!!

The person this is most difficult on is not me. All I have to do is lay here in a chair, take drugs and contort my shoulder at regular intervals. My dear husband is the one who not only has to care for me, but also for all our other critters. A full kennel plus dogs in the house. A fairly new puppy of mine who can't hold her bladder as long as the adults and has to go out more often. Tom fills the polar cuff and adjusts it, guides my therapy sessions as my coach, even though I am sure it pains him to see me in such pain, and at times to be the cause of the pain. He prepares meals and brings me soda to drink. He even placed a whistle on the table next o me so that I could wake him in the night, when calling his name failed to rouse him. No, I don't have the hard part at all.