24 Hours Post-Op

The initial 24 hours following my rotator cuff surgery were event-filled all right, but mostly for the hidden gifts they brought me.  The first gift came when, on returning home just two hours after the surgeon had packed up his saws and chisels, I saw that my friend Sarah had alighted like a benevolent fairy on this house and left an entire meal, along with an array of wildflowers that looked like they were straight from the opening scene of The Sound of Music. She had even set the table with two goblets, a nice wine for David and some sparkling water for me.

I ate it all, if a tad tentatively, then spent that first night quaking with dread over the  real pain that was sure to ensue, while an electric ice machine with a Mr. Snuffleupagus-like snout nuzzled around inside my giant brace.

post surgery sling brace

I’m pretty sure that by morning David couldn’t get off to work fast enough, but THAT WAS OK, THAT WAS FINE because we both knew I had a heavenly host of caregivers – well, two caregivers – arriving at 9:00.

Aisha was the actual caregiver and Gayle was her supervisor. Gayle had come twice before, first to interview me the week before the operation and again several days later to lend me two chairs, one for the shower and one with rails to set over the toilet, this one being designed so that, having sat down, a person could hopefully, with a mighty one-armed effort, stand up again without pitching over into the wall and onto to the floor.

Aisha was from Uganda as she told me, and a more sensitive companion I could not have asked for. I vaguely remember her helping me down the stairs and settling me into the amusement park ride of a reclining lift chair we were told to procure. I recall the two of us speaking at first about Idi Amin and Lake Victoria and later about how meaningful she finds it, in her other job at the nursing home, to sit in the presence of the dying. Weeks after her visit I came upon the notes she had made about her time with me. She called me ‘a wonderful lady’  – this in spite of my exceedingly sparse knowledge of her home country – and added that I was “alert and oriented. “Ask her what she wants you to do for her and she will let you know. She has been a little shaky walking but is generally very strong. The shift is ending now at 3:30, and Terry is resting in her chair. She has had plenty to drink but has eaten very little.”

Eating very little doubtless because within an hour of her departure I threw up and lost not only the breakfast in bed that my mate had made for me but all of Sarah’s lovely food from the night before. “David! Dodson! A bowl!” I yipped to my husband and honorary son seconds before it was too late,  but didn’t they hurry into the living room, the dears, reassuring me that this was no big deal and quickly wiping away all the ‘evidence’.

This was just the first 24 hours of my 50-days-and-counting post-op period and if it will help any other candidates for this surgery I can tell about other days as well. I can’t write in my diary yet – too painful to hold a pen – so this serves as a record for me as well.

In the meantime here are Dodson and David way back in the old days when ONE of them, at age 18, was still just a little shy about open displays of affection. 🙂

Dodson and Dave '90

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One Bad Wing

All through May and half of June I knew I was about to have the famously painful rotator cuff surgery, and what I pictured was so bad it practically scared the hair coloring right off my head. Day and night I lived in the kingdom of panic.

HOW, for example, would I go about the so-called Activities of Daily Life with my dominant arm immobilized in the large contraption I would have to wear day and night for six or eight or even (gad!) ten weeks? What about bathroom tasks? Should I be fashioning hundreds of little ‘corsages’ out of toilet paper like the ones we made from Kleenex for our moms when we were kids? I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach over that big sling/brace to reach the ol’ Charmin roll, affixed to the wall on my dead side as it is. 

toilet paper carnations

And what about feeding myself? How would I one-handedly slide a baking-panful of heavy raw chicken into the oven, much less heave a pot of water onto the stove for pasta? How would I even SEE, since I wouldn’t be able to reach my eyes to put in my contacts?

“You can lift a coffee cup and a fork and that’s it,” the surgeon’s assistant had told me a month before Scalpel Time. “You cannot send your arm out to the side. You cannot  lift it to the front. And you, cannot, under any circumstances, reach it behind you. BUT HEY YOU’LL BE FINE!” he crowed gaily. “Just think of yourself as half a T-Rex with one tiny arm!”

As warnings go, these were dire but they were honest too. And once the knives and saws and drills came out on June 14th at two o’clock in the afternoon, I set aside all feelings of dread and got down to the business of getting through.

The surgeon did too. He and his team yanked the two ends of my severed tendon together and stitched it over with what I picture as the kind of indestructible packing tape you use when you’re mailing packages. He drilled and sawed and sewed for two-plus hours and sent me home three hours after that with the admonition that I was not to lie down for eight weeks but rather sleep sitting up, either propped with a million pillows in the bed or else in a reclining ‘lift’ chair.

That was almost seven weeks ago and during all this time I haven’t been able to write with a pen. Even keyboarding hurts like the devil. Oh but there have been  so many things I have wanted to say here, most of them not even about this procedure! I just wanted to get this grisly tale told first.

post rotator cuff 'graffiti'a week post-op

So yes, I’m severely limited still. Flossing too is about impossible, I can’t drive and I couldn’t chop an onion if I wanted to. But just thinking here about those toilet paper corsages has me smiling, and that’s something all by itself. 🙂