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.
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.
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.
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...