Saturday, April 13, 2013

After the Surprise Surgery 2013

While my mom and I were in Colorado, I received a phone call from our local news station back in Illinois; NBC5 Chicago. I submitted an essay about my mom to their Mother's Day Make Over Contest. My mom is a top 5 finalist!! Who would have thought?!? I knew she deserved something special but a lot of people feel that way towards their mom.

Please click on the link below and vote for my mom Karen King. You can vote multiple times per day as long as it is from a DIFFERENT computer. Voting ends May 5th. The top 3 win a make over at a spa, a gift certificate to a hotel and make a TV appearance. She is beyond deserving of having a special day!! She has been there every step of the way with all of this surgery. Thank you for your votes in advance!!

I want to say thank you to everyone for all of the well wishes after I found out I was having this surprise surgery on April 10th. Talk about being thrown for a loop! I figured I would end up with another surgery, but I didn't think it would be the next day after seeing my doctor. It has been a roller coaster of emotions since finding out I was having this surgery. So many various things have happened. It has really tested my patience and ability to just go with the flow.

Before being rolled back for surgery 23

After my shoulder surgery, I was told one of the anchors popped, as well as a suture. Not to mention all of the scar tissue that I had. I had a subacromial decompression as well as a subcoracoid decompression. The "cherry on top" was finding out I have stage 4 arthritis...just wonderful...not. The loud, audible pop that I felt back in January was the anchor popping. It had been poking me for the past 9 weeks of physical therapy that I was doing. No wonder pt hurt so much. This is another perfect example of why it is so important to listen to your body. My MRI showed once again there was zero wrong. Seems to be an ongoing theme with my MRIs.

Pictures of some of the junk that was found in my shoulder

Physical therapy started the day after surgery. I went for a week and a half, two times per day while I was in Colorado. Since nothing was actually repaired, just more cleaned out, recovery was not bad at all. It actually didn't really feel like I had a surgery. I didn't have a large open incision, and it was absolutely nothing in comparison to all of the previous surgeries I have had. There was an immediate difference in physical therapy with the way my shoulder felt. I don't have this sharp, catching, knife-like feeling with every little, basic shoulder motion. Ex: attempting to get my arm up to write on the table.

Motion out to side before surgery 

Motion moving my arm forward

The following week, my motion was back to where it was pre-pop on March 28th. This is a very good thing because it means I haven't lost any motion from this surgery. At the same time, it makes me concerned because I still have this sharp pain over where the top screw is in my shoulder at the same point I did before surgery. Hopefully through continuing to work really hard at physical therapy, we will be able to get my motion past this point. I know my shoulder is always going to hurt to some extent because of the arthritis.

Between all of the physical therapy, my mom and I would go for a walks in the village. While we were in Colorado, we received a snowstorm. The one day we got 16 inches of snow and then a couple days later we were hit with more snow. Since we didn't have to drive in it we didn't really care. The snow made everything look very pretty with the mountains in the background. We would cook food in the condo and watch the snow fall outside. It was relaxing.

My mom 

 View of the creek 

 Just me. The view was so pretty.

Two days before we were supposed to fly home to the flat state of Illinois on April 18th, my mom received a phone-call from our family that our dog Katie had died. It was very unexpected. My sister brought her to the vet because she was throwing-up and was not her usual self. The vet kept her for a few hours to give her fluids because she seemed to have the flu. They called my sister at lunchtime to tell her Kate is responding well to the fluids and can be picked up in a few hours. Soon after that, things went south really fast. They let Kate out to go to the bathroom before she got picked up. She ran after the birds and barked like loon like she usually does at the squirrels. It was her favorite thing to do. When they brought her back inside the building, she took two steps and collapsed. The vet did an ultrasound of her heart and found a cancerous tumor called a hematosarcoma that filled up 90% of her right atrium. The vet said she had never seen one that large and never met a dog that lived with so much life. Kate had such a happy life and a will to live is what we were told. She went out on her own terms doing the thing she loved most. Barking at the squirrels.

On the left is Katie and on the right is Daisy. We were
told Katie had this tumor in her heart for at least 3 years.
Daisy moved into our home around the same time. Daisy
helped keep Katie around all these years. She reminded
Kate what it was like to have fun.

The following day, I still had physical therapy in the morning and in the afternoon. I'm sure I looked tired but my CO therapist doesn't know that my dog died. I went to my appointments focused and worked hard. During those appointments we woke up muscles that I forgot I had. I was so sore the next couple days but it was a good sore. Not the "Oh no something is wrong" sore. The following day my mom and I flew back home to Illinois. I will do physical therapy here for a few weeks while we make arrangements to stay out in Colorado for a couple months. The next few months will be difficult but I am confident that I will get better than I was before this surgery. Again, thank you for all the support.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Surprise Surgery 2013

If you haven't caught on yet, there is never a dull moment in my life. Life changes on the drop of a dime. One minute you think you have control and everything planned out. The next minute you quickly realize you really don't have control. This is the story of my life.

As I've said before, my right shoulder has been misbehaving and giving me a lot of trouble. I've done 9 weeks of physical therapy since the initial pop with minimal improvements in range of motion. I've continued to have 2 funky depressions in the front of my shoulder with a lot of sharp pain when I move my arm and it has just been a hard 9 weeks. In March I made arrangements to come out to Colorado to do physical therapy for a week and then be reevaluated by Dr. M the following week. March 28th I had something pop in the front of my right shoulder again. Just when I thought it wasn't possible to lose more motion, I found out it is still possible.

On April 6, 2013 I flew out to Colorado with my mom. We drove up to the hospital the following day  to begin therapy on Monday. On April 8th I had my first Colorado physical therapy session. It's not what any of us would consider a successful visit. My therapist is encouraged I have some strength (to the average person it looks like I have no strength. I don't even consider it strength). It's a good thing I have a little strength because it shows me my body is capable of getting stronger; however, neither one of us are happy with the motion I have 5 months out from surgery. After the first pt session, my therapist called my doctor to get me in sooner.

At the second pt appointment in the afternoon my therapist saw the "animal" shoulder I have been dealing with. During the appointment which was cut short to about 30 minutes, my shoulder shifted forward twice. My arm was locked away from my side and I couldn't straighten or bend my elbow. My therapist had to manually manipulate my shoulder back into place. It hurt so bad. That evening I found out my appointment with Dr. M was moved up to the following morning.

April 9, 2013: I had an MRI at 7:00 am and then met with Dr. M at 8:30 am. This is where life changed once again. After Dr. M attempted to examine my right shoulder, it was determined I would have surgery. My MRI is showing there is no problem but there is something obviously wrong. When I asked Dr. M when he was thinking I would have surgery he said, "Tomorrow." Talk about being thrown for a loop. I was not prepared for surgery at all. All of my post-surgery clothes are back home in Illinois.

April 10, 2013: Right now as I am writing this blog my stomach is growling, my heart is racing and my brain is racing in 8,000,000 directions. I have worked on a puzzle and I still  have to shower before arriving at the hospital at 1:00. It is hard to mentally prepare for a surgery when you and your doctor do not know what is going to be done until they get in your shoulder. Is it just going to be an arthroscopic procedure or is it going to change into an open incision? What kind of recovery do I have ahead of me? They are all unknown questions.

One thing I have learned over the past 7.5 years is to go with the flow. I don't have control over certain things so I try not to fret. I try to remind myself life is an adventure. It may not change the circumstances but it can help with the way you look at the situation. As soon as I am able to, I will write something to let you all know what happened during surgery.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm-2009

To catch everyone back up to speed, 2008 was a very busy year. It entailed school, a wedding in Las Vegas, physical therapy, and traveling back and forth between Illinois and Kentucky to have surgery 5 times plus all of the check-ups. My parents and I welcomed in 2009 by visiting the emergency room because I was in so much pain from the open anterior capsular shift procedure I had on my right shoulder. What a way to start the New Year.

Compared to the previous years, 2009 was a pretty "boring" year for my family. There was still a lot of medical stuff going on but there was not nearly as much surgery. It was actually very weird not having a lot of surgery. When you are having surgery all the time, you get in a new rhythm of life and you try to think ahead to figure out what things you can and cannot plan. For me, I was always thinking what classes I should or should not take. Luckily, I did not have any surgery in Spring 2009; all I had was the bulky brace. So I took chemistry, nutrition, medical terminology, and intermediate algebra. Even though there was no surgery, I still had a bunch of post-op appointments. We planned all these appointments around school to make sure I didn't miss a lot of class; classes were Monday-Friday. My parents would pick me up from school Thursday afternoons when I would get out of chemistry and from there we would start the drive to Kentucky. I would get all of my medical terminology homework ahead of time and do it all in the car. This semester of school I ended up with all A's.

January 29, 2009 my parents picked me up from school. We brought my niece Lizzy with us too. All of us were looking forward to getting away from the Chicago snow and getting into a warmer climate. Well, surprise, surprise! We didn't get away from the snow and we didn't experience any warm weather. It seems like we actually brought the Chicago weather with us to Kentucky because they had a fierce SNOW/ICE STORM!! Kentucky is NOT supposed to get snow! They aren't even equipped to handle snow, nonetheless ice. The whole town was shut down. Everyone knew we weren't from Kentucky because we were the only ones brave enough to drive in those conditions. At one of the restaurants, our waitress said, "Ya'll must not be from around here because you drove in the snow." There was only a couple inches of snow. It didn't seem a lot seeing as we had a foot of snow in front of our house.

 Me, my niece Lizzy & mom

 You can see the icicles hanging off the rocks

 It was a VERY pretty ride

In 2009 we actually got a surgery break...HOORAY!! Instead of our lives revolving around surgical dates, we swapped it for our lives revolving around physical therapy dates. In June, Dr. B wanted me to see a specialist in Chicago because I was having muscle communication issues with both of my shoulder blades. I continued to have scapular winging and it was as if my muscles were turned off at the bottom of both my shoulder blades (diagnosis in 2010: blog to come in the future). I also continued to have instability issues in my right shoulder. This new doctor recommended I go see a different physical therapist in downtown Chicago 2-3 times per week.

Just another drive down to Chicago. You never know
what you are going to find. We thought it was funny. 

For the next 6 months my mom or dad would drive me to Chicago to see the physical therapist. The new routine was wake up at 5:30am. Leave the house at 6:00am to beat some of the downtown traffic. We would then park the car and walk down to the coolest Rock-n-Roll McDonalds to kill some time (this was the fun part). Physical therapy appointments were at 9:00 and would last until 10-10:30ish. After the appointments my parents would drive me to school. (My parents are really not mean. In order to stay on their insurance, I had to be a full time student.)  It was not easy in the least. I hurt really bad. There was no rest because I had homework to get done for the following day. My grades are very important to me; I ended up with 3 A's and 1 B.

This physical therapy was very different than any other physical therapy I've ever done. It was crazy, weird, non-traditional, and extremely aggravating at times. There is no easy way to explain what stuff we did. I was always very tense and my therapist was always telling me to relax in his lovely baritone voice. Honestly, I couldn't relax because I did not trust him. He seems like a very nice person and all, but I got the impression he didn't believe me and thought I was being overdramatic when it came to the pain. It is hard to have trust in a medical professional when they don't seem to trust you. We never exactly saw eye-to-eye because I didn't feel this was the right course of treatment.

As a patient, the feedback you receive from all of your medical caregivers is very important. Even though I didn't think this was the correct course of treatment I still went every single week and tried my best. If nothing else, this physical therapist brought many new/unusual/odd moments looking back.

Odd Moment #1:
I would lay on my back with my elbows facing the ceiling. He would take a tool which looked to be like a long wooden incense burner and would repeatedly drag it over my triceps where I was having sharp, stabbing pain (diagnosis came in 2011). This was torture. I tried to be a good sport, but boy did it kill!!

Odd Moment #2:
The insertion of his fingers into my ears. (I am laughing as I write this; however, I've heard of this being done since then. I guess it serves a purpose. Although, I STILL don't know what the purpose is.) It was very hard to relax because I didn't know if I would get a finger in my ear. Good thing it wasn't a wet-willie.

Odd Moment #3:
In June a renowned physical therapist from the Czech Republic had come to Chicago to teach. I was the "lucky" guinea pig selected for him to do a demonstration on in front of at least 50 people. I learned in that moment how hard it is to communicate the symptoms you are having when there is a language barrier. This man did not know that I had right shoulder instability. He raised my right arm past my limit and shifted me out of place in front of ALL of these people. Talk about feeling publicly humiliated. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. I do not like being the center of attention to begin with. I was so mad to have at least 100 hundred eyes watching me as I cried and tried to compose myself. To top it off my physical therapist was kneeling in the front row recording me. I have one of my lowest moments captured on film for others to view. Just great...not.

My MRI Arthrogram from April 2009.
All of that white around the head of the
humerus (ball) should not be there. It
demonstrates a patulous capsule. There
should only be a thin white line. 

Come the middle of August I decided it was time to have my shoulder reevaluated by Dr. K. There weren't great improvements in the multidirectional instability that I had. We knew based off of the MRI I had done in April, my capsule was very loose. Think about it. This is the shoulder that just had surgery December 31, 2008. Less than 4 months later, my capsule was all stretched out once again. What the heck is going on?? Our hope was through strengthening the muscles around my shoulder, it would help stabilize the joint. Since this didn't work out the way we had hoped, surgical intervention was needed. On September 2, I ended up having a right shoulder posterior stabilization procedure done even though my therapist didn't agree with surgical intervention. I do take in consideration all opinions from the doctors and therapists I'm working with. At the end of the day, I am the one living with the instability on a day-to-day basis. I look at how frequently I am subluxating in one day as well as how much the instability is affecting my life. At this point in my life, I still had hopes of wanting to be an orthopedic surgeon one day. I don't know about you, but I know I wouldn't want a surgeon taking a scalpel to me if they would subluxate/dislocate out of the joint without any warning sign and accidently cut something that wasn't supposed to get cut.

After surgery, I was first immobilized for 6-8 weeks and I then started physical therapy once again in Chicago. Things were improving at first; however, once I gained more motion (approx. 45 degrees of flexion) I was still getting hit with a sharp, stabbing pain down the back of my arm. I was not able to externally rotate my arm without feeling this pain too. The surgery worked from a stabilization standpoint but nothing was found showing the explanation of the triceps pain. Because of this, my physical therapist had a hard time believing my symptoms. The breaking point happened in December. I was at therapy laying on my back with my elbows pointing towards the ceiling. My therapist kept trying to increase my motion. I laid on the table quietly crying wishing more than anything he would just stop and leave me alone. I already knew he thought I was exaggerating the pain. My therapist sat in the swivel chair near my head. He rested his head on his hand and said, "I don't know what to do. I have never seen this before." Those are the last words I remember him saying. I never went back to Chicago for physical therapy.

I tell myself I went through all of this for a reason. By the end of December, I transferred to a therapist closer to home. I have been with this physical therapist over 3 years. It was the best move I have ever done. I trust him completely. Over the years he has become a friend. I give him a lot of credit for putting up with me and not giving up. That's a true physical therapist.

I just realized 2009 was the last time it was a "quiet" year...

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