Wednesday, December 17, 2014


January 2013

A turn of events was soon to happen at the end of the month and I would be heading back to the wonderful state of Colorado for medical reasons (hopefully one day it will be for going on vacation). I was still in the shoulder brace from surgery on November 9, 2012 and physical therapy was soon to start. My doctor and physical therapist in Colorado extended the time they wanted me in the brace; usually you'd wear the brace for 6 weeks but I had to wear the brace full time for 10-11 weeks and then I was allowed to slowly wean from there. Since my prior history with shoulder surgeries doesn't have a good track record my medical team really wanted to make sure my tissue had time to heal. At this point in time I was still labeled as "collagen deficient" because the possibility of having a connective tissue disorder was supposedly ruled out in 2007. Dr. M suspected there was something more going on though so he implemented more precautions for after surgery. Normally with all the prior shoulder surgeries I couldn't wait to get out of the brace; however, this time was different. I physically couldn't get myself out of the brace.

When physical therapy started it was excruciatingly slow and painful. Red flags were going off in my head because I had never experienced this before. My Illinois physical therapist tried doing passive range of motion and he could barely move my arm without me having this insanely sharp/stabbing pain over the front of my shoulder; interestingly enough it's the same exact pain that I still have to this day. We tried reclining me in various positions on the table to see if that helped and there was no luck. My shoulder was so weak and killed. The weight of my arm was too heavy so I stayed in the brace whenever I was out and about; at home I just propped with pillows. As much as I love my physical therapist I dreaded going to therapy because it never ended well for me. Every time I left I would get in the car and cry from the pain. When I would get home I would put more ice on and go lay down. As the weeks went on there were tiny improvements but nothing to jump up and down about. I could go a little longer without the brace on but my gut still kept saying there's a problem.

When I woke up on Thursday January 31, 2013 I thought it was going to be just like any other ordinary day. Little did I know that evening I would be on an airplane flying to Colorado. I went to physical therapy in the morning and things were going as well as can be. We tried working on flexion (moving arm in front of you) with my elbow bent. We did active assisted motion (me moving my arm with the help of my therapist). Whenever we work on any sort of motion my physical therapist always has at least one hand on my shoulder to help give it stability. There was sharp pain every time we moved my arm but at this point my mindset was it's going to hurt no matter what. When we tried to move my arm forward all of a sudden there was a loud, audible POP! I felt my arm slowly drop down by my side with pain, my physical therapist's eyes were wide, and I started to cry. I knew something bad had happened because I am not one to cry in the middle of physical therapy. My physical therapist walked away for a couple minutes so I could compose myself. When he came back I told him to continue. I needed to know if it was the type of pop that would provide relief or if it was the type of pop where something bad had happened. Unfortunately it was the the type of pop that something bad had happened. I was concerned. It killed to move my arm and it felt like an anchor had popped. It was the same exact sensation that I had in the past when I've had anchors pop on me.

Fast forward a few hours and the next thing you know I'm on an airplane heading to Colorado. We had called Dr. M's office after my physical therapy appointment and there was concern something may have happened to the graft so they ordered an MRI and I would see Dr. M the following day. Shortly before we hopped in the car to head to the airport the staff in Colorado had called to tell us that Dr. M had something come up and wouldn't be able to see me. We already had bought our airline tickets so we were heading there no matter what. We decided I would be evaluated my his fellow instead. The following day was February 1st. My mom drove from Denver to Vail. As luck would have it, it decided to snow. Mountain driving is very, very different than driving in Illinois.

It's pretty with the snow
The yellow sign on the right says "Avalanche Area". It's a sign that
you will NEVER see in Illinois.
After my MRI I had my appointment with the fellow. My MRI didn't show anything too concerning. I told the fellow that it felt like an anchor had popped and I was told it would have shown on MRI. I disagreed because I've had an anchor pop twice in this shoulder and it never showed on MRI. The fellow tried to examine my shoulder and the same sharp pain kept reoccurring. He tried telling me he thinks I'm hurting because I'm guarding. I completely disagreed. As we were leaving my mom called my Illinois physical therapist and had the fellow speak with him. After talking to my Illinois physical therapist the fellow told me that he wasn't sure what was wrong with my shoulder and he was going to call Dr. M. I received a phone call and Dr. M was going to come back to the clinic to see me later that day.
Taking a break before heading to see Dr. M 
At the appointment with Dr. M he made a point of telling me that he came back just to see me. I was greatly appreciative and it was so nice of him. Dr. M gave me a shot of cortisone in the shoulder. At this point there was no definitive course of treatment. It was more wait and see what happens over the coming weeks. If I wasn't doing better in 3 weeks Dr. M said he might do an arthroscopy to look inside the shoulder joint to see what's going on.

After my appointment with Dr. M I met with the physical therapist to see if we should modify any of my physical therapy program at home. This was the first time that I had worked with this physical therapist; the first time I met him was in my hospital room after surgery in November. At therapy I remember going through my surgical history with him. He looked at the incisions on the front and back of my shoulder joints and I had chimed in, "Don't forget the two over my shoulder blades". The tank-top I had on covered my shoulder blades so he moved my shirt over and said, "Wow!" I laughed and said it's too bad I don't have some awesome story of how I injured them. We then proceeded to talk about all sorts of various tattoo ideas I could get so the scars were less noticeable. I still chuckle every time I think about this first visit. My therapy program didn't change too much. He wanted me to focus on isometric exercises to strengthen the shoulder with my physical therapist providing added stability with his hands which is a lot of what we were doing already. At this point he thought the issues I was having was due to muscle weakness. I thought it was contributing factor but the not the main problem. Time would tell over the coming weeks. Before I left he taped my shoulder up to see if that would provide any relief due to the added support and stability.
The tape job that the physical therapist did for me. It did help some.
I really noticed it when I had the brace off. Unfortunately I couldn't
wear the tape too long because adhesive and my skin don't mix well.
After my appointment at physical therapy it was time to drive back to Denver. We learned a very important lesson that day. When you look to the east and you can't see the mountains because it's all foggy...don't drive! It was the scariest drive ever. My mom and I didn't talk at all. It was snowing really hard. When we were in the valley the driving was okay but as soon as we went up in elevation it was sheets of snow flying across the night sky. It looked like ghosts. After a few hours in the car we finally made it to Denver and could breathe. We when we got into our hotel room we heard on the news that they had shut down Vail Pass; which is the pass my mom just finished driving.

This picture is from this year but it's the same thing that we saw in 2013.
Vail Pass was closed this time too. 
As we sat on the airplane flying back to Illinois there was a lot of thoughts going through our minds. Like always, all we could do was take things one day at a time. When we got back to Illinois physical therapy started up again for the next few weeks and the next thing we know we were flying back to Colorado...again.


  1. The answer I was looking for was: why you had this shoulder problem in the first place. That would be very scary driving through that snow.

    1. Long story short I was on crutches for an extended period of time due to surgeries on my legs. The length of time on crutches plus a heavy high school backpack essentially sheared the muscles off both of my shoulder blades and lead to shoulder instability. I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder in January which explains why I have had ongoing issues. My body lacks the protein collagen which is the "glue" of the body. This makes my tissue weak/"stretchy" and prone to joint instability. There was no major traumatic event like a car accident.
      It was very scary driving through that snow. Never again :).

  2. First, those winter storms n Colorado can be very brutal. I am so glad that you made it safe. Remember that it is always better to miss a flight than to get even more injured trying to get to the airport.
    Secondly, I am thinking that my daughter, 20, may have some type of connective tissue disorder. I had never thought of taking her to a chiropractor.

    Derek Sparks @ Forgey Chiropractic

    1. Yes we know that now. It was the first time and we learned our lesson. If we were ever in that situation again we would definitely miss our flight. What makes you suspect a connective tissue disorder in your daughter? You can email me at if you prefer.

  3. You are a very strong woman for taking this seemingly impossible journey all in stride. It helps having loving friends and family helping you out along the way. Just remember never to push yourself too hard and to take one day at a time. As a side note: winter driving is one of the worst things in the world. I am glad that you are okay.

    Yevette Behnke @ U.S. HealthWorks Modesto II