Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So Why Colorado?

March 2013

Before going back to writing in order starting in 2009, I thought I would discuss what led up to the surgery this past November and how I ended up in Colorado when I live in Illinois. This way I'll be able to maybe change the blog format and discuss present day stuff along with the story of how I got to this point. In a couple weeks, I am going to be going to Colorado for 10 days. It is very hard to live your life when you do not know how your life is going to lay out. I know I will be doing physical therapy in Colorado for 2-3 months at some point and will probably do a little writing every day to deal with stress. I think this will be a good way to keep all family and friends informed.

March 21, 2012 I had what I thought was going to be my last shoulder surgery here in Illinois by my "Favorite Illinois Doctor" :) I drew Dr. K a tiger picture for putting up with me for the past 6 years that I eventually had framed; Dr. K fixed my right knee, both my hips, and did a number of my shoulder stabilization procedures. I made Dr. K take a picture with me before surgery.

Tiger that I drew with colored pencil for Dr. K

The symptoms that I had didn't really match up with the surgery that I needed to have done. It is a good thing we weren't betting money in Las Vegas because I would have bet money saying that I needed to have the front of my shoulder tightened up because I was subluxating anteriorly all the time. Even when Dr. K examined me before surgery, I subluxated out the front and had to call him back in because neither I, nor my dad, could pop it back in. Before Dr. K did surgery, it was discussed that he would do an open incision in the front and the back of my shoulder. When Dr. K performed the surgery and was able to look inside the joint with a tiny camera called an arthroscope, it showed the posterior (back) aspect of my shoulder was extremely patulous (loose) and the anterior (front) aspect of my shoulder was nice and secured. So I had a posterior stabilization done as well as debridement of the labral tearing that I had.

All excited playing cards because I thought this was going to
be my last shoulder surgery. It was a very happy day
considering the circumstances.  

My amazing niece nurse Emily taking care of me. Emily
loves doing whatever she can to help me after surgery.
She is the best :)

For the next 4 months I worked really hard and continued doing all my school work. For Spring semester 2012 I took Biomechanics & Kinesiology as well as Exercise Physiology; I received As in both those classes. Since things were going very well, I felt like I was in a position where I could finally start looking towards the future. I met with an advisor at the University of Illinois-Chicago to see when I could transfer out and apply for their Kinesiology-Movement Sciences program. My long term career goal was to go to medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulders. After meeting with the advisor, she informed me that I had to take calculus and another biology class. I decided to sign up for calculus in the summer...BAD IDEA! All I know is there should be a disclaimer for students signing up for summer calculus because it was awful. Math is not my strong suit and it was brutal. The pace was so fast since it is a 16 week course condensed into 8 weeks. I ended up withdrawing from the class and decided to take it Fall 2012 instead.

When the end of July came, things in my right shoulder unexpectedly made a major turn for the worse. The weather in the Chicago land area was very hot and very humid when everything went south. I remember I was working on the tiger that I was donating to a burn camp fundraiser for burn injured youths in the dining room. While sitting, I clasped my hands together and stretched my arms in front of me. When I moved like this, the front of my right shoulder shifted out the front then back in. A few choice swear words came to mind because my shoulder should not have been able to move like that. I didn't say anything to my parents right away. I wanted to wait until I saw my physical therapist and see what his impression was. When I had physical therapy later in the week, I showed him how my shoulder would shift in and out just by "swinging" it slightly by my side. We were both concerned; I told my parents later that night. Next stop was seeing Dr. K.

When Dr. K walked in, I looked at him and said, "Hi Dr. K! I feel like I haven't seen you in forever! It's been 2 full months!" He looked at me and replied, "That's a good thing. It means you are getting better." I sat there, chuckled, and looked at my mom. (Dr. K didn't know at this point that I was having issues.) I took a deep breath. Looked at Dr. K and said, "Sooo funny you should say that because I am subluxating anteriorly again on my right shoulder." He stared at me. I felt like a bug under a microscope. He got up and examined my shoulder. Sure enough I was popping out the front. Dr. K suggested I see Dr. B down in Kentucky for his opinion; Dr. B appointment was set for the beginning of October.

September 22, 2012 was a big turning point for the negative change in my right shoulder. While my mom and I were at my brothers house in the evening watching my nephew, my right shoulder shifted out of place when I went to rub my niece's hair. I sat in the chair in shock. It was such a basic motion. My shoulder should not have popped out of place by moving my arm across my body.  Long story short, my mom ended up taking me to the emergency room because neither one of us could get it back into place. My mom called my sister Kelly to come over to finish watching our nephew for us.

So my sister arrived. Ready, set, go! My mom and I were off. It's 12:00 at night and the two of us are rolling down the highway for a 40 minute ride to the hospital. For amusement, we blasted Tom Petty; my mom was trying to distract me from the pain I was in. For 40 minutes we sat there singing very loudly to "American Girl" & "You Don't Know How it Feels". It may not have worked for the pain, but it did bring some humor to the situation. When we finally arrived at the hospital, we spent the next several hours trying to get my shoulder back into place. It was determined my shoulder was dislocated. No wonder it hurt! I refused the versedt (blocks memory) but accepted pain medication for the pulling and tugging that was required to set it back in place. (A blog will be written in the future about this eventful night).

These 2 depressions are what
appeared after I dislocated.
My arm is lifted about 5 inches
off of the ground.

The next 3 weeks was filled with much travel seeing doctors. Dr. K in Chicago, Dr. L in Chicago (2nd opinion), Dr. B in Kentucky, Dr. K in Chicago, Dr. M in Colorado. It felt like we were playing "Where's Waldo" only our game was titled "Where's the Shoulder Specialist".

I ended up going to Colorado because I needed to go where the specialist who deals with chronic shoulder instability is. Dr. K did zero wrong. He has always tried to do what is best for me. Both Dr. K and Dr. B want me to be done with all this surgery just as much as I do. The injuries to my shoulders are just crazy complex and complicated. When I got home from Kentucky, I came across a procedure that is done for people who have had multiple shoulder stabilization procedures and continued to have instability issues. I brought this information to Dr. K to see if he had heard of the procedure. Dr. K told me he knew of the procedure, and knows Dr. M very well. They have been friends for 16 years and lived across the hall from each other during residency!!! He advised me to go see Dr. M. Talk about a small world kind of moment!

When I saw Dr. M in October I was given 3 options. One: live with the instability and do nothing. Two: have the anterior capsulolabral reconstruction surgery. Three: have a reverse shoulder replacement surgery. I refused to accept living with the instability and I refused to take drastic measures and have a reverse shoulder replacement. I am only 23 and have a lot of life ahead of me to deal with this shoulder. Therefore, I picked to have the reconstruction surgery. Before I left the office, I was scheduled to have surgery on November 9, 2012.

Before surgery #22 pic. That red thing in my lap is my USB.
Dr. M said they could take pictures of my surgery for me
and it put it on. He made me a CD instead; they are amazingly gross :)
After surgery was a very different story I felt awful and was SO miserable!

Luckily, we had a beautiful view of the mountain and snow
falling outside of my window.
This picture cracks me up. I was getting aggravated at my dad
b/c he kept taking my picture. I don't remember this but I guess
I said, "I so want to flick you off right now." He said, "Go for it." So I did :)
Anyone that knows me, knows I've not done this to anyone in my life.
(I blame it on the "happy" meds)

This was flying home back to Illinois. The landing was the
worst part because of the pressure and force put on my body.
The staff on the airplane was very helpful and accomodating.
If you have been following my blog, you know I had something pop in January 2013. I went to Colorado to see Dr. M and then came back to try a new method of physical therapy. This has not been going well. Yes, there have been some improvements; however, the spot where I felt something pop is still giving me so much trouble and I am not gaining a lot of motion. So, in April I will be going to Colorado with my mom for 10 days. I will do twice daily physical therapy for a week and then be reevaluated by Dr. M the following week. Fingers crossed, hopefully we can figure out a plan together. At this point, it will either be continue physical therapy in CO or have additional surgery. Regardless of what the outcome is, it is going to be very difficult and I will be in it for the long haul. Wish me luck! Anybody have any ideas to keep me & my mom occupied since we will literally be stuck in the middle of the Rocky Mountains? I'll keep you posted. Thanks for sharing my blog and for all of the support/encouragement!!

Thank God, time does go by and there is a light at the end
of the tunnel. Life continued and before we knew it,
Christmas was right around the corner.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Scars DON'T Define Who You Are

Scars; they are the tattoos that you didn't willingly ask for. They are crazy expensive (if from surgery) and aren't very attractive. Scars tell stories of what you have been through and where you have been. You are stuck with them the rest of your life. Yes, there is scar revision surgery to make the scars less noticeable, but at the end of the day, they are still there. Some scars are easy to get used to while others take more time to accept.

Every single day when I put my socks on, the scar on my ankle is the daily reminder of where this whole medical journey started. It makes me wonder what my life would look like now if I hadn't jumped up for that stupid football back in 2005. Would I have played soccer in college? Would I have continued the path of wanting to be a nurse? Would I be living on my own? There are so many, "What if questions" from the past, so I try not to waste my time thinking about what could have been because it is never going to happen.

By far, the scars on my shoulders and shoulder blades have been the hard ones to accept. If it was just one scar here, and one scar there, I wouldn't care as much; it would be like with my ankle. However, no matter which way my body is turned, a scar is visible on  my shoulders no matter what. Whether it be a small arthroscopic scar or a bigger one from an open incision. They are there.

When I was going through pictures, I came across a picture of my back from homecoming in 2005. I looked at that picture and the first thing I thought was, "Oh, look at that. There was once a time when my back looked "clean" and pretty." Probably the worst thing I did was compare it to a picture of my back now. It is a slap in the face. It is the reality of everything that has happened right in front of my eyes. Since the scars are on my back, oftentimes I don't think of them as being there because I can't see them.

Homecoming September 17, 2005
Life changed 4 days later.

Scar free and not a worry in the world.

It would be nuts for me to say, "No, my scars don't bother me and I am completely comfortable in my skin" because it's not true. However, most people are not 100% comfortable in their own skin. If you put a person in front of the mirror, they will be picking themselves apart. I have learned to accept my scars because it is what it is, but they do bother me at times. I notice they bother me the most when I put a swimsuit on, or, when I'm trying on shirts at the store and won't buy the shirt because I think the shirt "emphasizes" them. I am not trying to draw attention to my scars but I'm not trying to hide them either. It may be a hard concept to understand if you do not have this issue. It's funny how my own perception of my scars can change daily depending on where I am going and who I am going to be around. I usually wear my scars just fine. I call them my "battle-wounds."

Here I am over 7 years later in the same dress

My "battle-wounds"

My shoulders/ shoulder blades looks a bit different compared to 2005

In August of 2012, I went and visited a burn camp in Wisconsin for a couple days. It is a camp for children and teenagers who sufferred severe burns and have physical scarring; this camp is a place for them to be around other individuals their age who have gone through similar situations and have fun!! I wanted to be a counselor so bad at this camp and had to decline due to medical circumstances. The staff was kind enough to let me come up for a couple of days. Even though I couldn't be a counselor, I still wanted to participate in some way; I had to resort to plan B. I donated an original tiger drawing and a print of another tiger that I drew. They used them for fundraising. It just goes to show you, you might not be able to do what you want to do, but with a little creative thinking you can still be involved in some way.

Original tiger I donated

Print of tiger I donated

The moment that stands out to me the most at this camp was when I was eating lunch with some of the little girls who were around 9-10 years old. I wore a tank-top to the camp to put my scars to good use. I saw the little girl who was sitting across from me see the scars on my shoulders. She looked at me and bluntly asked, "Were you burned?" Honestly, this question caught be off guard because most people generally do not ask me what happened. I looked at her and said, "No I was not." She then said, "But you have scars." I told her, "Yes I do, but they are from needing surgery for an injury; not from being burned." This was a very short but honest conversation. As this little girl shared with me how she got burned and asked me more questions, it made me realize how much this little girl has been through. I think I saw a light bulb go off in her mind when she put together that scars come in many forms and that you can wear your scars proudly and go about your day. A lot of times the kids and teenagers are self-conscious of their scarring and might not participate in certain activities because of this. I strongly believe that scars DO NOT define who you are and should NOT get in the way of the things you want to do.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy New Year ER Doc!

October 2008

As I have been writing these blogs, I feel as though I have started to sound redundant. I am not trying to sound this way in the least. The problem is certain years had a lot of surgery while others did not. The last time I didn't have a lot of surgery in a year was in 2009 & 2012; there were only 2 surgeries in each of those years. However, in 2008, I had 5 procedures done; there was one in February, April, June, October and December. The cycle of my life (especially in 2008) is sign up for classes, get a diagnosis, get ready for surgery, have surgery, recover from surgery, go to physical therapy and get diagnosed again. In the meantime while all of that stuff is going on, I am trying to incorporate some sort of "normalcy" in my life while coping with the idea of having to need another procedure done. It's hard to find a balance between dealing with the medical aspect of life and being involved in typical day to day activities. It is hard to maintain good grades in school and it is hard to maintain friendships because it takes a lot of effort. Let's face it, most people do not live this way. Depending on circumstances and what is going on, the medical aspect of things is more important than a social life. It is a good thing for text messaging because without that, I know I wouldn't be in contact with my friends as often as I would like. Living this medical life has become my "new normal."  I do not know one person that lives relatively close to me, and is in my age group that lives this way.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to relate to people when you are living a very medical filled life? I feel like the people I relate to the most are people who have gone through a lot of hardships. Just a few examples: people that have had close family or friends that have had cancer, people that have had a lot of surgery, individuals that have physical scarring, and the same individuals that I have seen going to pt for a lot of years trying to get better. It isn't always easy for family/friends to understand this type of medical lifestyle. I think a lot of times, people do not know what to say half the time and there is an elephant in the room. I am very lucky to have a group of friends who are able to see beyond the medical stuff. They are able to see that I am more than just a person who seems to have surgery all of the time; it just takes time to get to know me. However, that's with anyone; you don't really know anybody unless you take the time to get to know the person. I am a completely different person now than I was 7 years ago when I was playing soccer. I have a different outlook on life, and my personality is different. Luckily my close friends are used to my "crazy" methods of getting things done, my medical blabber, making fun out of my situation and helping me if I need assistance. Those that know me best know that I am a crazy Chicago Blackhawks hockey fan, they know I yell/cheer like a loon if there is a bad call or when we score. They know I like to go out to eat, go to the show, go downtown, mini-golf with one arm (if I'm in a brace), and draw. I realize I can't do everything they want to do, but thank you to everyone who picks activities that they know I can participate in.

So now it is time to wrap up 2008; geeze did a lot happen that year!

After the surgery on my left shoulder in October, I was not in my typical "Yay it's almost Halloween mode." I didn't want to dress up in the least. That was the first sign that I felt terrible. Usually I am dressed up and painting my nieces faces. I love decorating for Halloween. I always have and probably always will. That year I put on an orange shirt and figured that was good enough.

 My mom, grandpa and me. We stick a "bloody" hand in the middle of our
front yard every year from the 1976 movie Carrie :) 

Finishing up the fall semester after that surgery was very hard. My left shoulder and shoulder blade felt swollen, bruised and had a lot of pain. My right side was subluxating and I was still having a lot of pain in my shoulder from when the "thing" popped in pt back in June (I was scheduled for surgery Dec. 30th in KY). The classes I took required a lot more concentration and effort than the previous semester did. Pain medication very much alters your ability to concentrate on tedious details. I did pass all my classes, but I set a high standard for myself and was not happy with my grades. I ended up with 2 A's and 2 C's. I would have gotten a B in my bio class but my teacher failed me on a lab because I wasn't there since I was in surgery that day. When I talked to him ahead of time, I was told it would be okay. Obviously it wasn't since he failed me because I wasn't allowed to make-up the lab; that C still annoys me haha.

December 2008

On December 30, 2008 I had surgery down in Kentucky with Dr. B; the New Year was right around the corner. For this surgery I had an open anterior capsular shift with capsular plication as well as a Bankart repair (labrum tear at the front/bottom of joint). I was diagnosed with multi-directional instability of my right shoulder joint at this time. Our New Year's celebration entailed watching the ball drop in New York City on T.V Of course the King family can't celebrate a holiday like a typical family does. As I watched T.V I was miserable all night long. My parent's offered to bring me to the ER but I was just being stubborn and was going to watch that damn ball fall. I mentioned in a previous blog, you don't always think straight when you are in pain; this is one instance. So there we were in the hotel room. My parents sat on the couch and I laid miserably on the bed. Not a good time for any of us. After a long miserable night of waiting for Dick Clark to do the countdown the ball finally fell. With that, I then looked at my parents and said, "There. Now we can go to the ER." It's funny how your mind just doesn't want to give up the traditional holiday.  So within the first few minutes of 2009, my parents and I sat in the emergency room. When the ER physician asked what I was given for pain control, he told me, "Know wonder you are here. This stuff isn't going to touch you with the work you had done." Good to know I wasn't being melodramatic. He gave me a nice shot of "happy" meds and some oral medicine. He then told my parents, "You have 10 minutes to get her tucked into bed before this medicine puts her to sleep." He was right...Happy New Year!!

 Only 13 staples this time

All buckled, strapped, propped, and iced for the car ride home

To this day I can still remember going to Dr. K for my post-op appointment down in Chicago to have my staples removed. I remember him sitting on the chair reading my operative report. As he read, he surprisingly said, "You had a Bankart lesion!" I looked at him and nodded my head yes and then said, "Is that what I felt pop in pt back in June?" Dr. K looked at me with wide eyes and moved his head up and down. He said, "Yes." That stupid Bankart lesion occurred because my physical therapist at the time didn't listen to me when I said there was a lot of pressure in the joint and to stop. I know everyone is different and some people need to be pushed; I just wish there was some sort of radar lie detector ability that pt people/doctors could have because I wasn't being dramatic. This error caused me a lot of suffering. Again, it just goes to show you, only you knows your body and its limits best.

So good-bye 2008. It sure was a blast "reliving" you :) Now it's time to move on to 2009...

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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Feel Bad?? Keep Living.

July 2008

Have you ever had one of those days where you told somebody to do something, they didn't listen, and something bad happened? Then because they didn't listen they created a whole lot of trouble for you down the line. Aren't those days the worst? For some reason, I seem to have this happen to me a lot from a medical standpoint. I understand that I didn't go to medical school or physical therapy school, but I do know my body really, really well and only you knows your body best. On July 25, 2008 I was in my second week of physical therapy trying to get stronger from the capsular plication and biceps tenodesis surgery. While I was at pt on the 25th, I was laying on my back and my physical therapist at the time was working on abduction (moving arm out to side). Things were going okay, but when she moved my arm a little more, I felt a lot of pressure in the back of my right shoulder. I told her this, and I also told her to not move my arm anymore. Well, she moved it a centimeter more and POP! My arm went weak, and I felt a ton of pain just spreading over the back of my shoulder joint. I was crying and told her to get me ice. I was so mad. I just told her not to move my arm farther and she didn't listen. I don't know why when I say to stop sometimes, it seems to fall on deaf ears. Last time I checked, they weren't the ones living inside of my body feeling what I'm feeling. You can't treat every patient according to textbook; every patient is different and some have "special" circumstances. I don't get why there is such a disconnect sometimes. Like doctors, you need to find the right physical therapist for you. I am blessed to have found a really, really good one that I have been with for 3 years now.

Four days after the pop in physical therapy, I had an MRI and saw Dr. K a few days later. My MRI showed a possible loose stitch but it wasn't definitive. When I saw Dr. K he wasn't overly concerned. My gut was telling me it was something to be concerned about, but because Dr. K wasn't, I just continued going to physical therapy and tried working as hard as I could with the limitations that I had. Luckily that time of the year was super busy so I was distracted by other stuff just about every day. My parent's 30th wedding anniversary was coming up, so my siblings and I were planning a surprise party for them. We invited our aunts, uncles, cousins and some of their friends. They had no clue. August 12, 2008 was such a great day.

First off, when my sister and I picked up this cake, it was
the ugliest thing ever. It was white frosting with brown
icing; nothing else. As we were heading to the check-out
line freaking out about what we were going to do with this ugly
cake, we passed flowers. We decided to put fresh flowers
on it to make it look pretty.  

 My mom and dad

Come the end of August I was balancing school and physical therapy for both shoulders/shoulder blades. Fall 2008 I took anthropology, intro to bio, health, and intercultural communications; I still wanted to go into nursing. What sucked the most, was in order to stay on my parent's health insurance, I had to be a full time student. I don't know where to begin to explain how hard this was physically. It didn't matter if I would need surgery or not, I still had to be full time student. In the meantime, therapy wasn't going well in the least. I saw Dr. B in September and I explained to him what was going on. In addition to my right side being problematic, I told him my left scapula continued to give me trouble, I had something catching in the joint and I had the same biceps tendon symptoms that I had on my right side. When I saw Dr. B, he ordered an MRI; it showed I had a torn labrum and that there was nothing wrong with my biceps tendon. Dr. B wasn't sure why I was having scapular issues but going off of my word, he agreed to make an incision over the top portion and look. He also said he would do a biceps tenodesis on my left side like he did on my right. Surgery was scheduled for October 21, 2008

We've crossed over this bridge too many times to count.
It takes you over the Ohio River into Louisville, KY.
We always look forward to crossing this bridge because
we are out of Indiana. Once you get into KY it's so pretty.
October 2008

Knowing that this surgery was going to be more invasive and a major pain, my parents and I decided to drive down to Kentucky 2 days before surgery so we could have one day to have a "pre-surgery fun day". We went to Natural Bridge State Park. They have big hills that have various trails that you can hike. My parents and I decided to hike the trail that was closest to where we parked the car. Word of advice: look at a trail map before you start hiking; being the geniuses that we are, we didn't do that. So 3.75 miles later, straight up hill, and some sore muscles, we made it to the top!! All we planned on doing was going for a nice short leisurely hike. It was a wonderful surprise to find that there was a ski lift that could take us back down!!

My mom Karen, me and my dad Joe
My mom and I
My dad and I
View from the top!
October 21,'s surgery day...again. To make sure Dr. B looked at the right spot on my shoulder blade, I grabbed a good ol' trusty black pen and had my mom help me draw a line on my skin. I also drew on the front of my shoulder where I was having the biceps tendon pain. After that was done, we went to the surgery center. I had to be there at 10:00am. When I arrived, I found out they accidentally gave me the wrong time of arrival; I needed to come back at 1:00. Since I wasn't allowed to eat, we couldn't go out to breakfast. We did the next best thing...we went to the local Kruger grocery store to stock up on food for after surgery. Looking back, I'm surprised I made it through that store without eating anything. 
So back to the surgery center at 1:00. I had another new pre-op nurse. The 4 previous nurses I had all stopped by my room to say hello to me. It did not feel like I was going to be having surgery soon at all; the atmosphere was way to happy. With all the nurses in my room, we were talking and catching up with each other; it seemed more like a party. Soon enough our "party" ended and it was time to be wheeled back for surgery. Dr. B made his incision over the exact line I had my mom draw on me. Sure enough there was damage; a part of my rhomboid muscle wasn't attached to the bone so there was a "palpable hole". In addition to reattaching my rhomboids, Dr. B also did an arthroscopy to fix my labrum. Finally, he made a larger incision over the front of my shoulder to do the biceps tenodesis. Once again, my biceps tendon was moving back and forth like a windshield wiper just like on my right side; good thing Dr. B trusted me to do an open incision on the front of my shoulder as well as over my shoulder blade.
The car ride home was soooo much fun...not. It sucked. It is the longest 9 hours ever!

Sarcastic smile: yay the bandages are off, we are home & I feel great!
16 staples in the front

13 staples in the back.
Total= 29

In the movie "The Wizard of Oz" Dorothy says, "There's no place like home." This is very true. When you have surgery out of state, all of the little things that give you comfort are not there. Even though the peace and quiet is a wonderful thing, you don't have your own comfy bed, it's hard to take a shower because you don't have a "system" down, there are no neighborhoods to take a 5 min walk, and most of all, there are no pets allowed.

This is Daisy. She still lays by me to this day when I don't
feel good. Technically she is my sister's dog; however, Daisy
and I have a special bond. She is my "baby" and
my sister knows this :) 

Even when you don't feel good, not everybody knows this. The adults in my family know I don't feel good but my nieces didn't at the time. When the picture below was taken, they were 3 and 6. They didn't comprehend that it wasn't just a little "boo-boo" that you could kiss to make it feel better. When they would kiss my arm, I would tell them it made me feel better to make them feel like they have helped with something. In their eyes, I'm the same old person with just a big brace on. They want to spend time with me and have fun. I've learned we can still have fun by coloring, watching a movie, or making silly faces to have our picture taken. I've said it in just about every blog, but making fun really does help you get through the hard days. It sounds much easier to keep living and being involved in life when you don't feel good than it actually is. It takes a lot of effort and in a sense a lot of practice to get up and keep moving. In a weird sort of way you have to "train" your body to accept the way it is feeling and build up a tolerance to the pain and low energy. I don't want to feel like I have missed out on my nieces and other family member's lives because I didn't feel good.  
Have fun even though you don't feel good. My nieces
made me a princess crown so I would feel pretty.
Isn't this such a "pretty" picture :) 

It seems like I have said this before, little did I know, that pop I experienced in my right shoulder during pt back in June, did cause damage. It was only a matter of time before it was addressed...but in the meantime, my favorite holiday was coming up. Halloween!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Another Glimpse at the Present

March 2013

The past 4 weeks have been extremely difficult both physically and mentally. I was prepared for physical therapy to be very hard but I was not prepared for what I am dealing with now. It is so hard to wrap my head around the condition that my shoulders are in. As I've been writing these blogs, and "reliving" a lot of what has happened, I thought it would help me figure out how my shoulders even got in the condition that they are today; what I'm finding though, is that it makes absolutely no sense. There is zero reason as to why I'm in the shape that I am in today.

I am 4 months out from surgery on my right shoulder. From a stability standpoint, my shoulder is a million times better. However, ever since I had this surgery and whatever the thing was that popped, I've had stabbing pain in the front of my shoulder with motion, and my motion hits a "wall". I do not have enough motion to feed myself with my dominant hand (right) because I can't reach my mouth. When I brush my hair, I have to bend over to the side to reach the top of my head. If I want my hair in a ponytail, I have my sister Kelly do it. When I brush my teeth, I have to alternate between hands because my shoulders get tired. If I want something that is high on a shelf, I have to get a chair in order to reach; if I still can't reach I ask for help. I can't carry anything heavy; in my eyes a gallon of milk is heavy for my left side. I don't even attempt to lift it with my right. These are just a few things that I can't do. The thing that bothers me the most is I can no longer draw which has been my way of dealing with stress.

As you can see below, there once was a time that I never gave lifting my arm up over my head a second thought.

2004 I never thought I wouldn't be able to put my right arm over my head again.

2013 this is how high I can lift my arm with my elbow bent...pathetic

I know for a fact it would be easier to deal with my right side if my left side wasn't in bad shape. My right isn't capable of doing really anything; therefore, my left side gets stuck with all of the demands. When I saw Dr. M in Colorado in October, I was able to raise my left arm up to shoulder level and my shoulder blade sat in a good position. Since surgery, my left side has taken a turn for the worse. My shoulder subluxates out the back, and when I raise my arm, my shoulder blade "wings like a chicken".

This is a side view of how much motion I have moving both
of my arms forward. I wish I had more motion. 

My left shoulder blade is "jealous" so it is misbehaving.
I barely have my left arm raised in front of me and this
is what happens.  

It's so aggravating for me, and I'm sure for my physical therapist, when I do all of the exercises I am supposed to do and I don't get results that are worth jumping up for joy over. I go to pt twice a week and the other 5 days I do it on my own. I do my exercises (which consists of like 4 different things) in the morning and in the evening. They're such basic movements (I can't believe they are considered exercises) and they are ridiculously hard. Nothing could have prepared me for what I am dealing with now. When I said, "This year I have an uphill battle against me; it is going to test me and push me probably in ways I haven't yet experienced" in the blog titled "A Glimpse at the Present", all of that is true. I've never been in this situation before. All I know is I do not like it even a little bit.

All I have to do with this exercise is lift my arm up off of
the floor as high as I can. It looks like I'm not even lifting
it up in this picture; however, I am. 

So that's about it for now; it has been one very long month. It has been very hard having to accept help because I have always been a very independent person and I want to do for myself. I live with 7 people in my house (4 generations); even though 97.8% of the time it is loud and chaotic in my house, I've learned I am very lucky to have every single one of them because they all chip in to be my arms. I've been going on an exercise bike in the mornings to keep the rest of me in shape, and doing a lot of core exercises. Unfortunately though, there is still stress and most people need more than one outlet to deal with it. So my next plan of action is to teach myself to draw with my left hand. Wish me luck; this should be interesting!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Surgery is Weird

June 2008

After getting home from Vegas, it was time to prepare and get things ready for surgery in Kentucky once again; I was scheduled for June 10, 2008. Luckily I didn't have anything school related to worry about which was a huge relief. From having the past 3 shoulder surgeries down in KY, my parents and I have gotten really good at packing for out of state surgery. Packing doesn't take us long at all anymore. We know how many pillows to pack for the car ride home, and we always pack a blanket. The more pillows, the better, because I can prop my shoulder and the pillows help cushion the negative effects of a very bumpy world .

This surgery was more nerve-racking than the others. Dr. B was doing one of the procedures going strictly off of my word and symptoms because imaging detected nothing wrong. Unlike scapular muscle detachment injuries, bicep tendon injuries DO show up on MRI imaging. Since I was 18, I signed my own consent form. Do you know how hard it was to sign this form knowing that my surgeon trusted me enough to make an open incision to pinpoint where the problem was??? I mean, it's great that Dr. B trusts me and realizes that I know my body very well, but that's putting a lot of faith into your patient. After I signed the form, I started thinking, "What if he does this open incision and finds nothing wrong?" At that point (like with the scapular surgery) as weird as it sounds, you want something to be wrong to validate what you are saying. I knew something was not right and I didn't care that my MRI showed there was nothing wrong with my biceps tendon. I had to really trust what I was feeling and listen to my body. If I really didn't think there was a problem, I wouldn't have slept like this at night.

Sleeping sucked & was SO uncomfortable! I had to wear
the black sling at night to make sure I didn't roll on my left
side because of the scapular muscle reattachment repair. I had
to wear the green sling because I had something that would shift out
of place if I slept on it. I was looking forward to having surgery in June 08.

At this point I know the routine of having surgery, but I still think the whole concept of having surgery is weird; especially the first time because you do not really know what to expect. Yeah, you can read the pamphlets titled "What to Expect After Surgery" or "Getting Ready for Surgery"; but those only help so much. They are also not 100% accurate because I am yet to wake up from surgery smiling in recovery like they show in the cartoon picture...haha. A lot of times, as expected, people are nervous or scared to have an operation. Unfortunately, I am used to it so the only part I dread is waking up in recovery because I know there will be a lot of pain depending on the procedure being done. Sometimes if my shoulder is in really, really bad shape, I actually look forward to the surgery because I have high hopes my shoulder will be in much better shape a few months later.

When you have surgery, one of the first things you are told is you aren't allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight. If you are a breakfast eater like me, then this is a very hard thing to do. So, I eat a lot at dinner the night before; I eat a lot of food that is good for me. Not junk food.

Night before surgery! Fill up on those fruits & vegetables!
Waking up with your stomach growling and knowing you're not allowed to eat is hard; if you are waking up in a hotel, you walk out of your room and can smell pancakes, coffee, waffles, sausage, bacon and all sorts of wonderful food cooking. It just isn't fair. After you arrive at the hospital you wait in a waiting area. When the nurse calls your name to come back to the pre-op area, she has you change into a hospital gown and then she starts your IV. Breakfast is a bag of fluids that travels through your IV into your veins. You also get a sip of water to swallow a pill that helps prevent nausea. Once all the nurses prep work is done, you get to wait your turn for surgery and hope that your surgeon is running on time. The farther behind your surgeon is running, the longer it is before you get to eat. So for me, the earlier surgery is, the better. By now though we have a system to kill the time; bring a deck of playing cards and let the party begin.

One of the main indicators that you're getting close to surgery time is when the anesthesiologist comes by you. They ask if you have any loose teeth, dentures, etc. and look in your mouth. Next thing you know, the nurses that will be taking care of you during surgery are in your room. They have you put on a blue cap and transfer you to the operating room. Yay! It's your turn for surgery!! (Some people don't remember this next part; a lot choose to have a shot of versedt which wipes your memory. I choose not to have this shot because I want the least amount of medication in my body possible and I don't like the feeling of having no control). You are wheeled back into a freezing, sterile operating room. Everyone is dressed in scrubs. Sometimes there is music playing and sometimes there is none. If you look around the room, you will see a clock on the wall. You might see a surgical tech in the corner by a table counting a lot of tools that may be used for your surgery. You might see your surgeon in a different corner looking at your MRI talking with his assistant. You might see a white board with the names of patients and what procedure they are having done next to it. Operating rooms always have a lot of things to look at, but you don't have a lot of time to look around because things happen so fast.

The nurses help you scoot onto a narrow table. Warm blankets are put on you and the nurses buckle you onto the table so you don't fall off. There are nurses moving around your head getting things set up, while others are hooking leads up to your chest. When the nurses are all done setting up, the anesthesiologist comes over and puts a mask on your face that covers your nose and mouth. At first you are inhaling just pure oxygen. A shot is then injected into your IV and they say, "You might feel a burning sensation." The next thing you know, they turn the gas on that puts you to sleep. It is a very different scent than pure oxygen. You know when they turn it on before they even tell you. You are told to take deep breaths and everyone is going to take good care of you. It takes like 5 seconds before you are asleep. You try as hard as you can to stay awake but it's no use. Your eyelids get heavier and heavier. Next thing you know, you are waking up in a recovery room and surgery is over. It is weird to me how surgeons can do all of this work to you and you don't feel any of it. Thank God.

Right before surgery. I brought in a disposable camera and
asked Dr. B if they could take pictures for me. When he gave
the camera to the nurse, the nurse said, "Let's take a picture
of you before surgery starts!!"

That bulge under my right hand by my armpit is showing
the instability that I had in the joint.

The medical staff applying the polar care ice pack.

Tiny glimpse of what it looks like after surgery all set up in the
hotel room. The blue thing on the side table is a machine that is
hooked up to a tube that runs ice water to the site
of surgery.
During this surgery, Dr. B did another capsular plication because I had anterior-inferior instability (shifting out the front and down) as well as slight posterior (shifting out the back) instability; he also did an open biceps tenodesis. Before I got to the hospital, I took a black pen and drew on my skin where I was having the popping sensation and pain. The reason my MRI showed there was no damage to my biceps tendon was because the site of injury was outside of the joint and not visible on imaging. The biceps tendon runs through the bicipital groove. At the top of the groove, my tendon was fine. However, as Dr. B moved down the groove and rotated my arm, my tendon was popping and catching. Dr. B described the tendon instability as a windshield wiper moving back and forth as he would move my arm. He put 2 anchors in to make the tendon stop moving around. Good thing Dr. B listened to my symptoms and had enough faith in me to do the open incision. If he had only done the surgery arthroscopically (tiny incisions where you use a camera to look in the joint) he would have never seen the injury.

As usual recovery and the car ride wasn't fun; in comparison to the scapular surgeries though it was much easier. Two weeks after surgery I turned 19; now what is a better way to celebrate your birthday than going to get your staples out by your favorite IL doctor in Chicago?? Unfortunately that is what we did on my birthday. Dr. K was nice enough to remove all 19 staples and tell me that I could go in our hot tub as long as I had some sort of support under my arm. My parents were nice enough to bring me out to lunch afterwards. Aren't they nice!

There are 6 more staples in the back of my shoulder.
For lunch I chose to go to Grand Lux Cafe. They have really good food and dessert!
Just my mom and I

Dessert was delicious! It was like an apple pie but a million
times better; it was topped with vanilla ice cream too.
Sure enough life is always a mixed bag. My mom firmly believes for every negative (staple removal) you have to offset it with a positive (getting lunch). As hard as life can be, it is still your life at the end of the day. You have to make the best out of whatever you are dealing with and try to bring some joy to your life.

Ended my 19th birthday by going in the hot tub with my nieces.
You can't see it, but I have a plastic pillow folded in half to keep
my shoulder supported and in the proper position.