Thursday, February 21, 2013

Reinjury + Surgery + Tornado= Bad Combo

November/December 2007

Recovery from the left scapular muscle reattachment surgery was difficult. When you have your initial surgical consultation with the doctor, they try to prepare you for what you will experience. They say, "you will have discomfort." In my world that means awful, terrible, pain. They also say, "you have to lay low for a couple days." In my experience, this hasn't been quite accurate. Depending on the procedure that is done, it takes a lot longer than a couple days to bounce back. They tell you, "you will wear a brace for X amount of weeks." However, they don't explain to you how this looks in day to day life. Ex: getting dressed- it takes 2 people until you learn how to do it on your own. Ex: Showering- the first couple weeks after scapular surgery you need to have help showering; there is no, "I will try it on my own and see how it goes" mentality. My mom helped me with my showers. I am a very modest person, so we added the extra step of getting me in a bathing suit before throwing me in the water. To my mom's credit she has and still is very respectful and has/ continues to go along with this. With the scapular surgery your arm needs to stay in a neutral position. You can't bring your arm to your stomach and you can't move it out to the side either. You are positioned as though you are shaking hands with somebody and your elbow stays at your side. My friends and family would tease me and tell me to point to the car because it always looked like I was pointing at something (to those friends and family members that are reading this blog, you know who you are..haha). Also, when the doctor or nurse says, "shoulder brace", I was thinking a basic shoulder sling. I was shocked when I woke up from surgery to see this giant brace strapped to me. It was the biggest shoulder brace I had ever seen and I had to wear it 24/7 for about 6 weeks. This includes sleeping too. I am a stomach sleeper so this made for many restless nights.

Advice: If you ever need shoulder surgery, it is very helpful
to put a pillow or rolled up blanket under your brace
because it helps relieve some of the pressure that your
other shoulder feels because it takes some of the weight away.

Since my right scapula still needed surgery, it was feeling worse because the weight of the sling sat on top of my right shoulder. There really isn't any way around it, so it is just something I learned to deal with. It was also hard readjusting in bed or getting up from a seated position because I would have to push off with my right arm and those scapular muscles were still detached. I learned during this time, I needed to do ab exercises so I wouldn't have to use my arms to get myself up from a laying down or sitting position. It would make my life a whole lot easier for when I would have my right scapular surgery February 5, 2008. To this day, every time there is a surgery, I go into "surgical training mode" weeks before the surgery because I want to be in the best shape I possibly can for afterwards. It makes it a million times easier when you have a stronger core because your balance is better and you learn to maneuver around without the use of your arms.

Thanksgiving 2007. Just a side view of how
my right scapula sat. Kind of looks like I have
football pads on that shoulder because my scapula
sat higher up on my back causing my shoulder to roll forward.
By Christmas, I was out of the shoulder brace. I was so happy for 2007 to be done and over with. Between the time spent in the hospitals, having to use a wheelchair for 6 weeks, doctor consultations, the pain clinic and out of state surgery, I literally spent over 2 months living in hotels that year.

January 2008

At the beginning of January 2008, I went to a community college and signed up for classes. My plan was to go into nursing; that semester I took algebra, English, psychology and sociology. I was looking forward to classes which started January 19, 2008. That day, class started at 9:00; I had math and sociology. I got up in the morning and got ready. When I was upstairs, my dad yelled up he was going to go start the car to warm it up (I am not allowed to drive with the condition of my shoulders. I depend on others). I said, "Okay, I'll be down in a minute." Then something really, really bad happened. I was wearing socks and as I was going down the stairs, my left foot slipped on the carpeting. I grabbed the railing with my left arm (arm that had surgery 2 months prior). As I held the railing, my body kept going down the stairs, and my left arm was yanked above my head. I felt something rip where I had the surgery. The pain was intense. I stood up and tried walking to go sit on the couch, but it hurt to even straighten my back because of the pain over my shoulder blade. My shoulder was rolled way forward. I fell to my knees as I tried to get my shoulder blade to sit back where it was supposed to. My dad walked in the house and I stood up and looked at him crying. He looked at me with eyes wide. I told him what just happened. He told me to go sit on the couch and ice it. I said, "No, I'll put my brace on. Today is the first day of class. We have to leave or I'll be late."
In the car, I put make-up on my face so nobody would be able tell that I was crying or not feeling well. I went to my classes; not a single person knew what had happened. When my dad picked me up from school, I got in the car and started to cry. I knew I reinjured my left side and I was scheduled to have surgery on my right side 2 weeks later...crap.
I notified all of my teachers that I would miss 2 weeks of class so they could tell me what work would be covered during that time. On the 9 hour drive to Kentucky, I worked on homework so I wouldn't have as much to make up after surgery. Now that I have been to Kentucky a couple of times, it is funny how the car ride starts to look familiar. At least homework helps make the time go by faster.

February 2008
Feb. 5, 2008 I had right scapular muscle reattachment surgery as well as a capsular plication because I was subluxating anteriorly (shoulder moving out the front) and the capsular plication is supposed to tighten the capsule to prevent it from doing that. 3 sets of drill holes were made in my scapula to suture back my lower trapezius and rhomboid muscles that were detached. This surgery too, was an outpatient procedure, so my parents and I went back to the hotel. In comparison to the surgery in Nov. this one was more painful because they had to do additional work in the joint. Thank God for pain medication because it is definitely needed. I still woke up feeling like I was hit by a truck. It was still difficult to get comfortable, and I still couldn't push off on my other arm to get up. It is really, really hard to compensate for an injured limb when the other limb is injured also.

The rest of that day was rather uneventful until the middle of the night...that's when things got CRAZY!!!

At night when my parents and I were sleeping, all of a sudden we were woken up out of a deep sleep by this insanely loud noise. We all flew up and looked at each other. It sounded as if a train or an airplane landed on the roof above our heads. I gotta say, flying up that fast killed like no other over my shoulder blade. I took some pain medication to alleviate some of the pain. About 5 minutes later we got a phone call from the front desk saying there has been a tornado and we need to leave our room immediately. Thank God for the concrete ceiling above our heads because we were on the 3rd floor; the highest floor in that section of the hotel and the roof was ripped off. So now my parents and I had to leave our hotel room and go downstairs; it sounds easier than it actually was.

When we opened our door, it was like entering another world. There were cables hanging from the ceiling as water poured onto the carpet.  The elevators were not operating. Some of the hallways were pitch-black. I was drugged to say the least since I was only 12 hours post-op. My parents had to guide me to the stairwell. We opened the door and met other people there. The stairwell was pitch-black, crowded, and just a few inches wider than I was with my brace on. My parents were trying to get me down the stairs without falling over or bumping into anyone. Thankfully we were all going in the same direction. We then headed to the center of the hotel where all of the other hotel guests were located. Unfortunately, it was located directly under a giant glass skylight. Doesn't sound like the safest place to be standing in the event that another tornado was to come through. My parents were not too comfortable with it so they took me out to a more deserted area of the hotel. We were lucky enough to find a chair for me to sit in. I was in so much pain from all of the jostling around. I could sense all of the stares looking at me since I know I looked pathetically miserable. I just kept my head down and hunched over to try to "hide" from them. After some time passed, we were told it was safe to go back to our hotel room. Shortly after my parents got me settled back in bed, the phone rings and the front desk tells us how the section of the hotel that we were in sustained the worst amount of damage so we needed to evacuate our room and they were going to transfer us to a different location immediately. Talk about a long night!!!  Looking back on it now we laugh. At that time, it was so ridiculously difficult and one of those, you've got to be kidding me moments.

This is what was right outside of our "old" hotel room.
These pictures were taken the next morning, so there
was no water coming in at this point.

 The ceiling right outside of our "old" room
Insulation from the attic was over EVERYTHING 

 This tree should not be leaning that way.

Big trees that were broken in half

At my post-op appointment a few days later, the first thing Dr. B asked us was if we were staying at the hotel next door because the roof of the hotel was ripped off by the tornado. We told him yes that is where we were staying. He then just shook his head back and forth and chuckled. Dr. B changed my bandages and said I could take them off when I got home. He also said to have my staples removed in 10-14 days. 
A week after surgery we drove back home. The car ride was miserable; you feel every single bump and there is just no good way to get comfortable. They need to make Lazy Boy Recliners that fit in cars; that would make for a much smoother car ride.   

The bandaging

My new "normal" looking back. That tubing is a pain
 pump that is put in to help with the pain.
My mom removes it when we get home.

The pain pump was successfully removed. 

The following week, I returned back to school. It was SO very difficult. My energy level was low between the surgery, recovering, and hurting. The hallways at school are crowded with students that aren't always paying attention, and you're trying to maneuver around all of them without getting bumped. I had to hold my books in my left arm because I had this big bulky brace on my right side. I couldn't use one of those backpacks that you pull that's on wheels because I couldn't rotate my left arm that way and I didn't have the scapular strength. Classes were about 90 minutes long each and I had to sit in an uncomfortable, hard, straight back chair. I not only had to complete missed assignments, but I also had to complete new assignments too on time. People aren't as nice as you would think; they would see me struggling to get a door open or holding all these books and rather than offer to help, they would just look at me and walk away. I learned to overcome hurdles like these and do everything for myself which is probably one of the reasons why I am so darn stubborn today. School was also difficult because I am right handed and wasn't allowed to use my right hand. To learn how to write lefty, I used my niece's learning to write books for practice. I had to learn to do numbers too because of my algebra class. My teacher even noticed the difference as the weeks went on. His comment that stands out to me was, "Wow! You are getting better at writing lefty. Your writing is legible now." My grades are very important to me so I made sure to get good grades on all assignments. It took me about a week to get completely caught up with all of my classes.

Besides learning to write left handed, I had to learn all of the various tasks you do in a day such as eating, brushing your teeth, showering, folding clothes, getting the button on jeans snapped etc. A few days after we got home, my parents brought me to Dr. K so he could remove my staples. Even though it doesn't take very long to remove staples, you still have to wait your turn in the waiting room. We have become very creative in our sense of fun and trying to occupy ourselves like children as we wait our turn. Some of things we do to amuse ourselves are playing "I Spy with my little eye", playing cards, or just pulling out the camera and making fools of ourselves.

Doesn't take much to amuse us!

When I followed up with Dr. B several weeks later he examined my left shoulder/scapula because it wasn't feeling any better from when I slipped down the stairs. After some testing, it was determined that I would need another surgery. So no sooner did I finally catch up on schoolwork I found out that I would have to travel back to Kentucky in several weeks to have surgery on my left shoulder...again. This upcoming surgery will bring me to a total of 8 surgeries in 2 years and 2 months.  

A fundraising page was created to help with medical expenses. If you would like to donate follow the link below. Thank you!!

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