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Rotator Cuff Injury 2.0
Part Three

by Gary F. Zeolla

  

This article is continued from Rotator Cuff Injury 2.0: Part Two.

 

Rough Week Before Surgery

 

      I had much I wanted to get done during the week before my surgery. But it ended up being a rough week, and I was left wanting on most of it.

      First, the rough week started by being treated very rudely by someone I thought was a friend and a Christian. I guess I was wrong on both counts. That kept me from doing one last social activity I really wanted to do before being cooped up with being unable to drive for weeks after the surgery.

      Second, I placed two large online orders with huge discounts. I thought I placed them in plenty of time to get them, bring in the boxes, and put everything away before the surgery, knowing it would be very difficult to do all of that after the surgery. But both orders got delayed and would not arrive before the surgery, so I had to cancel them. That meant I lost those discounts and will have to do without for some time.

      Third, I had another though minor health problem I hoped to get taken care of before surgery. But two doctor appointments did not solve the problem, so I will have to live with it until I am able to drive and schedule an appointment with yet another doctor.

      On the other hand, I did get most of the cleaning and washing done I wanted to, and I was able to go grocery shopping. That was good. It was also good that I got most of the computer work done I wanted, as just as I feared, one-handed, left-handed typing is proving to be slow and difficult as I type this update.

7/14/22

 

Rotator Cuff Surgery 2.0

 

      I was scheduled for surgery on my right shoulder to fix a “severe” rotator cuff tear and to clear debris off of a tendon on Friday, July 1, 2022. I was told to be there at 10:15 am, with my surgery scheduled for 12:15 pm. But then I got a call from the hospital at 9:30 am.

      I initially missed the call when I walked away from my phone for just a minute, the only time all morning I didn’t have my phone on me. When I saw I got a call from the hospital, I panicked. I was afraid they were calling to cancel the surgery. But the message said they wanted me in early, as the surgeon was running ahead of schedule.

      I tried calling back, but I kept getting a busy signal. Now I feared that since I missed the call, they’d schedule someone else ahead of me. but we (my dad and I) were ready to go, so we left then anyway. I finally got through halfway to the hospital and told them we were on the way.

      We got there, got signed in quickly and down to the basement where surgeries are performed by 10:00 am. They prepped me for the surgery right away. Then I waited, and waited, and waited.

      Sure enough, I could see on a large screen I was the last surgery scheduled. I’m not sure whether that was due to missing that call or not. But I was scheduled for 11:.30 am. But then some old lady fell somewhere and broke her hip and needed emergency surgery.

      I said a prayer for her, but it meant my surgery was delayed by over two hours. I was finally taken back at 1:45 pm. It was about 4:30 pm when I awoke post-op. By the time we got back to the car, it was 5:00 pm. Mind you, I had not eaten or drunk anything since midnight. But I planned ahead and had a large water bottle and a protein bar in the car, so I consumed that.

      However, the protein bar was chocolate and made me sick in the stomach. Not surprisingly, with not drinking anything all day, I hadn’t peed all day. And even with chugging that large amount of water, I still didn’t pee until bedtime. But then I was up several times that night peeing. That was just one reason I barely slept that night. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

      To back up, I didn’t see the surgeon after the surgery. He probably left right afterwards, with me being the last surgery of the day. But my dad caught him on his way out. Apparently, I was correct in my original reading of the MRI report in that there were two rotator cuff tears, not just one. My dad also said the surgeon said my “shoulder was full of arthritis.”

      That all sounds worse than what the MRI showed. I’m not sure if that is because the surgeon found more damage when he went in or if things got worse during the six-week delay, just as I feared might happen. I will find out more at my first post-op appointment this Friday (7/22).

      But I do know, when my dad helped me change the bandages Sunday evening, he counted 6-7 incisions. There were only three with my left shoulder surgery. That is something else I will need to talk about with the surgeon on Friday. But it all sounds like this surgery ended up being at least as serious as the first one.

 

Nerve Block

 

      For my first surgery, I was given a nerve block before general anesthesia, but I did not like it at all. Yes, it kept me from feeling any pain for about 12 hours. But the feeling of not being able to use or even feel my arm was just too plain weird. Also, as with my second cortisone shot, I feared a second nerve block shot would cause my other health problems to flare up.

      Consequently, I told the attending nurses, the surgeon, and the anesthesiologist I did not want a nerve block this time. But the anesthesiologist insisted on it and strangely said if I didn’t get the nerve block, I’d have to have a breathing tube put down my throat. I did not understand the connection between numbing my arm and a breathing tube, but I knew I definitely did not want the latter, so I consented. Big mistake.

      Along with being unnerving, having a numb arm I couldn’t move was another reason I didn’t sleep that night. I just could not get comfortable. Then about 1:30 am, the block seemed to wear off all at once, and now I was in significant pain.

      They had given me a prescription for oxycodone, but I didn’t bother filling it. I am just too leery about taking an opioid with all of the talk about addiction. In any case, I took some ibuprofen, and that helped some.

      Meanwhile, just as I feared, my organic tics flared up, just as happened after my second cortisone shot. They continued through at least Sunday night. If I ever have surgery again (though here’s praying I don’t), I will have to insist even harder about no nerve block.

     

Rough Weekend After Surgery

 

      When I awoke after the surgery, just as last time, I had on a sling with a pillow in it. I describe how uncomfortable it was in my first Rotator Cuff Story, so I won’t repeat all of that here. But below are pictures of me wearing the sling and a close up of the contraption. Click for a larger image.

 

 

 

      I was supposed to wear this pillow sling for three weeks. But I just cannot stand it. Thus, just like last time, I switched to a regular sling but with a folded-up towel inside. The towel will give some of the effect of the pillow of keeping my arm a bit away from my body, opening up the shoulder area.

      Also as with last time, I could not shower when I got home from the hospital as I always do wherever I go anywhere. As a result, I remained in an allergic reaction all weekend. That’s another reason I did not sleep. But even with showering Sunday evening, I still did not sleep Sunday night due to the pain, tics, and uncomfortableness.

      I spent the weekend on the couch watching TV, feeling too terrible to do much of anything. Today, Monday (7/18/22), I still don’t feel well, but I have too much to do to just lay around anymore. After I finish posting this article, I have to get back to work. Then later this afternoon, I will start rehab, though I won’t do much this week until I get further guidance from the surgeon on Friday.

      Until then, that’s all for now.
7/18/22

Complaint Letter to Hospital

Dear ___________ Hospital,

 I had rotator cuff surgery at your hospital on my left shoulder last year, August 20, 2021. I had the same surgery this year on my right shoulder this past Friday, July 15, 2022.

For my first surgery, I was given a nerve block before general anesthesia, but I did not like it at all. Yes, it kept me from feeling any pain for about 12 hours. But the feeling of not being able to use or even feel my arm was just too plain weird. Also, as with a second cortisone shot I had earlier this year, I feared a second nerve block shot would cause my other health problems to flare up.

Consequently, I told the attending nurses, the surgeon, and the anesthesiologist I did not want a nerve block this time. But the anesthesiologist insisted on it and strangely said if I didn’t get the nerve block, I’d have to have a breathing tube put down my throat. I did not understand the connection between numbing my arm and a breathing tube, but I knew I definitely did not want the latter, so I consented. Big mistake.

Along with being unnerving, having a numb arm I couldn’t move was one reason I didn’t sleep that night. I just could not get comfortable. Then about 1:30 am, the block seemed to wear off all at once, and I was in significant pain.

Meanwhile, just as I feared, my organic tics flared up, just as happened after my second cortisone shot that added to my inability to sleep. The tics continued through Monday night, resulting in me barely getting any sleep for four nights.

In addition, as with the nerve block, I told multiple people I did not want a prescription for oxycodone. I am leery about taking an opioid with all of the talk about addiction. Also, I took one oxycodone capsule last time, just before bedtime on the first night and did not sleep at all. I think I was sensitive to it and did not want to risk taking it again. I just took some ibuprofen, and that helped some.

But then I was a bit irked when I got home and checked MyChart and saw you had given me a prescription for oxycodone that I was supposed to pick up at your pharmacy. I had no plans to go back to pick it up.

But then, a couple of days later, I was shocked to find a bottle of oxycodone in a bag I had brought home from the hospital. I cannot believe you put a bottle of a dangerous drug into a bag without telling me. I am just glad there are not small kids in my home who might have gotten into it before I noticed it.

I felt like no one was listening to me. You just have your protocol and follow it regardless of the patient’s wishes.  

On a completely issue, I am a very hairy guy, so before both of my surgeries, the respective shoulder was shaved. But then after the surgeries, when a gauze pad was placed over the incisions, the tape was stuck beyond the shaved area. It was very difficult and painful pulling that tape off of the hairy sections. Even worse was the first time, tape was extended into my armpit. That was extremely painful to pull off.

Meanwhile, there was no reason for any of it. The gauze pad could have been affixed with only putting the tape onto shaved areas. It would just require the people affixing the tape to pay attention to what they are doing and not just slapping the tape on in a haphazard manner.

Finally, enclosed is my Medical Information sheets listing and describing my various health problems. Please include this information with my records in case I ever have to be treated at your hospital again.

Sincerely,

Gary Zeolla

7/19/22

 

Beginning Post-therapy Plans a Week Early/

Miserable Post-surgery Week

 

      I forgot to mention previously, but after my left adductor injury, I thought it best to not even try to put in any regular workouts with just nine days until my surgery. Instead, I took off through that weekend. Then the next week, the week of my surgery, I did what I planned on doing after the surgery.

      Namely, I did bodyweight squats and deadlifts and related lower body bodyweight exercises, the therapy exercises I planned on doing for my shoulder after the surgery, and I went for walks. I started with just 15 reps for all the exercises and went for a very short walk. But I planned on slowly increasing from there.

      Then after the surgery, I took that weekend off, then starting Monday, I picked up where I left off on the lower body exercises and walks. But for my shoulder, I couldn’t do much of anything. But as it heals, I should be able to slowly do the planned therapy exercises.

      Meanwhile, the pain, tics, and uncomfortableness continued all week, so I barely slept the week after surgery. As for my adductor, I only notice it when I walk up steps. It has not bothered me very much on the bodyweight exercises and walks. Strangely, my right adductor has been bothering me more than the left.

      Consequently, I have been icing both adductors, both shoulders, and even my side (oblique) that I injured last fall after my first surgery. I should just take an ice bath, but I don’t think I could stand that.

      I have also been taking ibuprofen regularly, along with the fish oil and turmeric and just started taking the glucosamine and chondroitin the surgeon recommended. But it doesn’t seem like any of that is doing much of anything, at least not yet.

      In a word, I have been miserable all week. Add in the slow and tedious nature of one-handed, left-handed typing, and I have barely gotten any work done.

7/21/22

 

First Post-Surgery Appointment

 

      I had my first appointment with the surgeon since my surgery on Friday, July 22, 2022. My dad had to drive me to the appointment, as I will not be able to drive for at least three weeks post-op, probably longer.

      That was one of the questions I asked the surgeon. He confirmed I should wait until at least three weeks to try to drive. But it would be up to me and my comfortableness with doing as to when to do so after that.

      That said, the appointment began with him showing me before and after pictures of the inside of my shoulder. The damage in the before photos was quite extensive. I asked him if it was worse than he had thought from the MRI. He said you cannot always tell exactly what the situation is from an MRI, so he was not surprised by the amount of damage.

      I asked him to confirm that there was in fact two tears, not just one, and he said that was the case. But that is as he expected.

      But importantly, he was able to fix both tears and to clear out debris in the shoulder. The difference between the before and after pictures is quite striking, so it looked like he did a good job in fixing everything. But then, I barely knew what I was looking at. But he seemed to thing it was all fixed. For that I am thankful.

      However, what he did not expect and could not fix was the amount of arthritis. It covers all of the joint at the end of the bone. But he said there was little that could done about it, other than take the three sups he had recommended previously. He said that I might have some pain due to the arthritis even after my shoulder is fully healed from the surgery. And maybe at some time in the future I might need a shoulder replacement. But he said that was a long way off, if ever. This again goes back to my bicycle accident 23 years ago, as of next Thursday, the accident having happened on July 28, 1999.

      I asked him about how to progress in terms of my rehab, and he basically confirmed what I had planned on doing. I told I did not want to go to rehab, that I could it myself. I would just follow the protocol from last time and had copied my charts I always record for my workouts and will just repeat what I did last time. He said that would be fine.

      He said to continue to wear a sling for at least three weeks and then after that as I felt the need.

      Lastly, he told me to make an appointment for a month from now, and that was about it.

      I will probably wait until after that late August appointment to post another update. I will also probably wait until then to  try driving. The surgeon's office is just a couple of miles from my home, so it will be a good first test drive. But it will probably still be awhile after that until I am comfortable driving further distances.

     Here’s praying things progress according to plan over the next month and beyond.

    Below is a picture of me with a regular sling but a towel folded up inside of it, as discussed previously.


7/23/22

 

Bruise, Rehab and Complaint Letter Updates

       Check out the bruise on my arm. It's been there since my surgery two weeks ago. I had the same kind of bruise on my left arm after that shoulder surgery. I have no idea why shoulder surgery would cause a bruise on my biceps. It doesn’t hurt, though it could be why I still cannot fully straighten my arm. My shoulder still hurts some, but not near as much as it did the first week post-op. My rehab is going slowly but as planned.

       On another matter, someone from the hospital called me about my complaint letter. He was very nice and explained the reason for a breathing tube or nerve block is I was not actually put under for the surgery. Though I slept through it, it was drugs not anesthesia per se. But without the nerve block, then I would have required anesthesia, which requires a breathing tube.

      He apologized about the oxycodone mix-up. He said I should not have been given a bottle of it if I didn’t want it and definitely without being told. He also apologized for the tape problem. He said that should not happen either.

      They actually had a meeting because of my letter to instruct those involved about proper procedures. I hope I did not get anyone in trouble, but I don’t want other patients to experience the same things either.

      Otherwise, I am still wearing the sling with a folded-up towel. I will lose the towel in another week, but I think it will be a few weeks before I stop using the sling. Even after that, I will probably still wear it when doing anything that might aggravate my shoulder.

      But with the sling, as I feared, it is really getting frustrating doing stuff one-handed, left-handed. Although, I am using my right had some within the sling, it still seems like everything takes twice as long. Simple things like getting dressed, eating, brushing my teeth, and laundry are all very difficult and take much longer than usual.

      As a result, I am not getting much done workwise, even though, I am using my right hand for some typing. I just cannot reach very far, like out to the Num pad. Add in that I am still having problems sleeping, and that further erodes worktime.

      Finally, I didn’t mention it before, but I kind of knew I’d be having surgery on my right shoulder last autumn not too long after my left shoulder surgery, when I heard stories of others who had surgery on one shoulder then the other shortly afterwards.

      That is why, when I was done with wearing a sling for my left shoulder, I kept the slings I had bought and stored them where I knew I would remember where they were. I just somehow knew I would need them again in the not-too-distant future. But here’s praying once I rehab this shoulder, I won’t need to wear a sling again, but I will probably keep the slings I bought, just in case.

7/29/22

Rotator Cuff Injury 2.0: Part Four

Rotator Cuff Injury 2.0: Part Three. Copyright 2022 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was first posted on this website July 18, 2022.
Updates were added as dated.

Dealing with Health Difficulties
Rotator Cuff Injury: Dealing with Health Difficulties

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