What Shoulder Surgery Taught Me About Life, Love and Limitations

It started two years ago. While working in a popular grooming salon, I was taking a large dog into the salon for grooming. It happened so fast. The dog who I had on a leash just bolted, while the leash was looped over my wrist. There was a sickening pop in my shoulder, and this wave of pain like I had never felt before. .the injury coupled with a lifetime of shoulder dislocations due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome had caused my shoulder to just give out.

Fast forward two long and frustrating years, and I am now four weeks postop from a rotator cuff repair and excision of an impressively sized rock of calcium that had taken up residence quite uninvited in my rotator cuff.

The last four weeks have been eye-opening for me to say the least.

I woke up from anesthesia with my right arm securely strapped into an immobilization sling, and was given strict instructions not to try to move my arm on my own. As a kicker, I was not permitted to have a proper shower for two weeks. Now, for those who haven’t had the misfortune…er…pleasure of being strapped in such a device, let me break it down for you. There is the normal sling part, with a belt that tightly straps the entire apparatus to the waist. There are some inherent design flaws with this type of device. Mainly the fact that my armpit was held tightly closed – and I wasn’t permitted to wear any type of personal hygiene product the day of surgery. Fast forward two days, and the smell was ungodly. Absolutely nothing says love like your husband pretending that he’s not gagging while cleaning an armpit that smells like a locker room full of rank teenage boys, coupled with the delicate aroma of surgical disinfectant and gym socks.

The most menial tasks were daunting. Being that I am right handed, the first challenge was using the washroom. The toilet paper holder in my washroom is inconveniently located on the right side of the room, and this was not an obstacle I had thought of. Thankfully, my husband did, and courteously thought to rearrange the washroom to accommodate my needs. This however, did not help with negotiating pants one handed. This is a tale that I won’t recount, because the language that I shouted at the top of my lungs is not appropriate for polite company.

Eating was a challenge all it’s own. Several years ago, I fell up the front stairs and damaged my median nerve, resulting in permanently impaired feeling and motor skills in the first three fingers of my left hand. (Yes, I did in fact mean to say fell up the stairs. Being me means spending a quarter of your life on the ground, wondering how you got there.) This made navigating basic utensils quite the challenge. The first two weeks were spent wondering if Koko, the gorilla, was actually neater than me when she ate. My husband, to his credit didn’t mention it, though it was likely in self-defense. I think the look in my eye clearly communicated that I was one dropped piece of food away from stabbing the first person who mentioned it with my fork. I abandoned the use of utensils, and ate finger foods.

Getting out of bed proved to be another obstacle. I found out quite quickly that getting up from a reclining position with one arm strapped to your waist is in reality much harder than it looks. My husband spent half the night waking up to help me sit up, and constantly making sure I was OK. He would then proceed to go and work his regular shift as a chef on half the normal amount of sleep.

Dressing…I didn’t have the hang of dressing until I realized that leggings are my best friend. They’re comfy and I can manage them mostly by myself. I am still not that great with shirts, but my husband is only too happy to help.

I was prepared for a painful, difficult recovery. What I was not prepared for was how frustrating it can be. I have learned some lessons in the past month. I’ve learned to think carefully before I claim that I can do something “with one hand tied behind my back,” because I probably can’t. I’ve learned that love comes in many forms, including cleaning your wife’s rank armpits. I’d further expound on lessons I’ve learned, but I can’t… after writing this, I’ve realized that I need to order my husband a trophy instead, because if there was ever a husband that needed a trophy, it’s him.

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