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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Journey To Rotator Cuff Repair Part 2

If you missed my introductory post on this subject, see my blog entry for July 4th.

Preparing for surgery is EXTREMELY stressful.  Some may not find it to be particularly so, but I do, because:

*  I am exceedingly independent.  I've done for myself for a very long time and I like it that way.  Not only was it hard for me to have to ask someone to take me to/from the hospital on the day of surgery, it is stressful thinking about how my life will be impacted as a one-armed bandit after surgery.

*  I like things orderly and lined up.  All my ducks in a row.  With surgery, there are only so many ducks you can line up--you don't know till the doc goes in what they're going to find and what modifications you might have to make afterward.

*  The people/situations at your workplace nor the people in your personal life quit making demands on you, even if you have a million and one things to prepare prior to surgery.

*  The state of healthcare in our great nation is a mess, and that means you have to follow behind everything each of your doctor's offices do to make sure all the necessary tasks get done, even if they tell you it's all taken care of (trust me, I've learned this the hard way this past week.  Somebody WILL drop the ball.).

*  You have to spend a lot of time thinking about ways to alter your life to handle daily life with the use of just one arm.  For example:

-  You can get the toothpaste open one-handed, but how are you going to get the toothbrush to hold still while you put the toothpaste on it?
-  You gotta think about what it will be like using the bathroom one-handed.
-  How will you get deodorant on?
-  If you're used to toting a lot of stuff around with you as I am, how are you going to reduce the weight you carry since one arm is going to have to function in place of two for a while.
-  You gotta practice getting your Burt's Bees open one-handed and putting the lid back on again.
-  How are you going to get back and forth to work and doctor and physical therapy appointments since you won't be able to drive for several weeks?
-  Where are you going to get (or who will make for you) modified shirts that you don't have to pull on over your head since you can't move your arm?
-  Who's going to take care of your big dog while you recuperate since you can't risk the dog ripping up the work they did in surgery?
-  How you gonna tie your shoes?

I don't have all the answers but let me share with you a few useful tips, websites, and resources:

1.   Tying Shoes One-Handed:
I didn't want to have to buy new athletic shoes, especially since I have problems with my knees.  An online acquaintance clued me into LockLaces, which are elastic shoe strings which, once installed on your tennis shoes, convert them to slip on--you never have to tie them again, therefore you can put your shoes on one-handed.  Here's the website:

2.   Modified shirts/upper body wear:
Ladies have to consider they won't be able to wear a regular bra for a while.  My solution has been a couple of camisole tops with built in shelf bras, and also a longer version of the ugly 70's style tube top to go under my shirts.

For both men and women undergoing rotator cuff surgery, Shoulder Shirts ( sells shirts that fasten with Velcro at the top of each shoulder so you can step into them and pull them up one handed and fasten the shirt closed.  I have ordered a couple tops from them and the material is good quality AND they ship quickly, which is important if you're up against a surgery deadline.

I have also read accounts for those handy with a needle or glue that they take oversized T-shirts, cut the affected sleeve, and apply their own tab of Velcro for a home made version of the Shoulder Shirt.  I'm not that skilled so I left that to the experts. 8-)

3.  Easy to get on pants:
This wasn't a problem for me.  I wear elastic waist scrub pants all the time anyway, so I didn't have to add to my wardrobe for this.  Likewise, all my athletic shorts are easy to pull on as well.

4.  Lay in a supply of paper plates, plastic utensils and cups
I have a roommate, but obviously I don't want to burden her since I won't be able to take my turn at doing dishes for quite a while.  The answer is clearing a spot in the kitchen to keep an easy-to-reach supply of paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils until I'm cleared to use my left arm again and bear weight.

5.  Lay in an advance supply of non-perishable food and other supply items
You won't be driving for a while.  Stock up on water, non-perishable snacks, and medications you might need while you're out of commission.  In addition to not driving, you also have to consider that it will be some time before you can lift ANY weight with your operative arm.

6.   Re-arrange your living space so you can easily move around w/a bum shoulder. 
That means getting obstacles and junk out of the floor (hopefully you can get messy fellow residents of your home on board with this), setting things up so you can access them with your good arm, and putting things within reach since reaching above you will NOT be a good thing for quite a while (a double consideration for me since both shoulders are affected).  The last thing you want to do is un-do all the work they did in surgery.

Hopefully these tips will help someone else on their rotator cuff adventure.  I just have two more days of stress to endure then I can relax on the O.R. table and let someone else do the work....


Patti Shene said...

Brenda, I am so sorry to hear of all you've been through with your shoulder. I'm praying for a speedy recovery.

I've only been "under the knife" once in my (almost) 62 years, and that was for a tubal ligation, which is hardly major surgery.

Proud of you for all you have done to improve yourself physically!

B.K. Jackson said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Patti. I'm going stir-crazy already with the severely modified weight training and no kickboxing, but giving it up for a year and a half or so will be worth it if it means getting to enjoy those things for a lifetime.

But one step at a time!