So, most people know what is going on with my shoulder, but I guess a lot don’t. So, I’m going to give the end all be all of diatribes here.
Last July I was hanging a shelf in my apartment. I had a boyfriend, whom we will refer to as the asshole ex-boyfriend, and the shelf was being hung above my head. I was standing on a chair holding up one end of the shelf, he was screwing in his side. Well, that’s what he was supposed to be doing, until he lost his grip on his side and all the weight hit me. I felt my shoulder “pop out”, I fell to the floor and felt it “pop in”. As I laid on the floor, grabbing my shoulder and crying, Asshole Ex-BF stood over me and told me “it’s not that bad, get up”. Boy, did I prove him wrong.
Two days later I still couldn’t move it. I went to the doctor, they ex-rayed it, stuck it in a sling and gave me drugs. I think I wore the sling for 2 weeks, and all was well. I thought it had healed.
Fast Forward to December, I dumped the asshole, Phil and I are back together and we went Christmas shopping (during the big snow). While we were out my left arm started to hurt a lot, for days it hurt and burned and I couldn’t move it. It only got worse when I joined the gym in January. By that time, if I rolled over badly in bed I screamed, some days I couldn’t get my own shirt on. I got into the regular doctor and she ordered and MRI. As we all know, I had a hard time with it and it took two times and a lot of anti-anxiety medication to get me in the giant magnet tube.
When the results of the MRI came back it showed I have a tear in my labrum (cartridge in my shoulder) and I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. First I have to see the PA. He was a jerk, but referred me to the actual surgeon. I met the surgeon, he seemed preoccupied and unconcerned. He took my shoulder and moved in ways I hadn’t moved it in months. At that appointment he ordered ANOTHER MRI, because I just figure they hate me. The difference between the MRI’s is that the second one is done with contrast. While I was in the doctor’s office the nurse explained to me that meant an IV. Yeah, fucking right. Turns out it has to be injected into the shoulder with big long needles and an x-ray for accuracy.
When the surgeon received the results of the 2nd MRI it confirmed the tear, and he asked me to see if I could “live with it”. This was around Mid-March. I decided that I would try physical therapy, and get the therapist’s opinion on the matter while I decided if I could “live with it”. I started physical therapy with Jessica, who was really nice, but also very honest. She’s the only person that has ever explained the actual injury to me. I have a posterior term of my labrum, it’s what the surgeon calls a “10 to 6” tear (imagine a clock face). She explained in my first meeting with her that the tear is 3 – 4” long.
That’s right, it’s a HUGE tear. When the surgeon asked me to “live with it” I assumed the tear was a tiny thing, and maybe the daily pain was just an over-reaction. I thought maybe if I went to PT and worked through it I might be able to get around the tear. But, it’s a huge portion of the cartridge that holds my shoulder in place.
I learned through PT that there was nothing she was going to be able to do, she urged me to see the surgeon again. Even on my good days my “range of motion is still crap” according to Jessica. At this point I can’t raise my arm above the plane of my shoulder. I can’t pick up anything with it. And half the time if I’m doing anything (sitting, driving, walking at the grocery store) my arm becomes dead weight because I can no longer hold it up with the muscles around the joint, which is pretty much the only thing holding my shoulder in place because the cartridge is torn.
So, a couple of weeks ago I went back to the surgeon and I learned that not only do I have a tear, I have a cyst that’s grown while my body has been trying to repair the cartilage The surgeon thinks that the cyst may be a cause of pain as well as the tear itself. He told me that he could do surgery, try to repair the tear and remove the cyst, but this may not solve the problem, I may have pain for the rest of my life. He assumes it’s just better to let him try though, since I am in so much pain.
My surgery is scheduled for June 16th, not exactly speedy. And while I’m waiting for the surgery I can’t get anyone at Group Health to help with pain management. I hate being on narcotics. I become a bitch, I itch, I become spacey (and not in a good way). My primary care doctor wants to stay away from me and my shoulder tear, and my orthopedic surgeon’s office has been terrible about responding or taking responsibility.
(If you want to read the email chain that’s currently going between us, it’s here: http://www.littlepinkfish.com/mapes.html
On top of all of this, I believe that occasionally I tear it just a little more. The other day, I rolled over in bed and it felt like it tore a little more as pain seared through my shoulder, down my arm for hours until I finally gave in and took narcotics. I couldn’t move it for hours, and the recliner has become my best friend.
So, now you all know, when I saw I’m having a bad arm day I usually mean there’s a pain radiating from my shoulder into my arm that makes me want to scream with rage and cry all at the same time. Every day is hit or miss. Some days I wake up great, but half way through the day it starts in. Other days it starts from the very beginning and doesn’t stop. I am never able to actually use it, on the “good” days I will sometimes forget that I can’t use that shoulder (29 years of habit) and then it’s screwed for DAYS.
I’m not looking forward to recovery. I’m really not looking forward to the possibility of a lifetime of this. I have to hope that the surgery will fix it. At this point, I feel like it’s amputated most of the time, I just try to forget it’s there. Unless, like now, it’s screaming in pain.
Here’s a graphic video that isn’t for the weak of heart showing how they will repair the tear with anchors. Mine should take more than one anchor, this is also an anterior tear rather than a posterior tear. DO NOT WATCH IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE THE INSIDE OF A SHOULDER, but for those of you with macabre interest : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oysXsFG0jc4
There’s two morals you can take away from my story, either A) Don’t date Assholes or B) Don’t hang shelves.