Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Journey to My New Bionic Shoulder - Part 2: What I Learned

Remember how I said in Part 1 (you DID read Part 1, right?) that this was going to turn me into an old lady? 

Well, the deed has been done and it's been over three weeks now. Right after surgery, my first thought was how much the human body is able to endure (I would post a picture of my incision but I don't want to gross you out). But as for the old lady stuff, I did feel it creeping in. In addition to not being able to drive or put on my bra or set my own hair or open a bottle of wine (all old lady things), I also noticed that I was using words like pocketbook and icebox and calling people dearie, but I have come out the other side. I went from "What have I done?" to "'s done." Now let's get on with the rehab and my life and shake off that old lady.

But I am not going to sugar coat this.  This whole thing was not fun and not having been someone who was used to hospitals and medical care, it was a sort of a shock, and I definitely learned some things, some of it not so pleasant.

What I learned:


I learned that you are on your own at the hospital. 

Waiting rooms are no more, so no one can go in with you and wait for the outcome. That is sad, because it's comforting to know there is someone out there who cares about your interests, so it's a lonely feeling walking into a hospital all alone to face a procedure you have never had before. And in my case, once prepped for surgery, I laid on the gurney for about two hours because, wouldn't you know, it was "a late day," the day when the surgeons had a meeting.  Let me tell you, even though I was in a hospital gown and hooked up to god-knows-what, I thought about sprinting out of there.

So...explain this to me.  If the rule about no one being able to be in the waiting room during your procedure is due to COVID, why is it not okay for your loved ones to sit in a waiting room while you are being cut open but they can come in during visitors hours from 2-8 and wander down to the food court and buy ice cream?  Mmmm.  Ice cream. (see "Food" below).


Forget about it.  I learned that a hospital is a very noisy place.

Even though you are trying to recover from some devastating assault on your body, a hospital is not a place for sleeping. It's not a quiet place.

It's a noisy place where you are awakened every few hours to have your vitals checked and where the changing of the guard every shift is noisy.  I was right across from the nurses' station and, if my door wasn't shut, I heard all about everyone's weekend.  Likewise, I had a saline solution machine next to my bed, that even when not administering saline solution to me, sounded like a dripping faucet, which I am sure you know is a kind of torture.  Thankfully, a kindly nurse listened to me and turned that off and another put a sign up to remind people to shut my door. 

Word to the wise: speak up.  Be your own advocate because not everyone in the hospital is looking out for your personal issues.


Forget about it.  I learned that hospital food is a notch or two above airline food but who wants french toast at 7am after a sleepless night, not to mention having to eat with your left hand.  

Oh, didn't I tell you?  The shoulder replacement was on my dominant side (I am right-handed) which after surgery was completely numb. I wouldn't have minded some help opening the tea bag or even getting stuff into my mouth! I was kind of helpless.

My happiest time was an ice cream cone from the food kiosk (thanks, Hubby)!


I learned that the level of bedside manner in a hospital varies greatly. 

Surprisingly, one of the best caregivers was a student nurse!  But there were others who were friendly and comforting.  But then there were those who were brusque or cursory or basically didn't give a sh*t.  

My favorite bad memory was in the middle of the night.  

Had to go to the toilet so hit my buzzer (I wasn't supposed to get up on my own).  It always seemed like when I hit the buzzer in the middle of the night, the female nurses were on break and a male orderly had to come help me.  Not my favorite, considering I had only one hand to hold the back of my hospital gown closed.  One night, an older gentlemen came to help, and as he was putting these pulsing "leg warmers" back on me, contraptions that are supposed to help keep you from getting a blood clot, he said, "These are important so you don't get a blood clot.  Because if you get a blood clot, YOU DIE!!!" Just what somebody needs to hear at 3am, somebody who has just come out of surgery and is on pain meds that make her feel like she is on LSD.

But I also learned that we humans are resiliant. I learned that I can change my habits e.g. I can now do quite a few things with my left hand.  I also learned I have a great husband and wonderful friends and family members.

I wish I had a picture of Hubby setting my hair with the hot rollers.  Though he won't be opening a Hair by Mr. Charles Salon anytime soon, he overcame his anxiety and the burning of his fingers with the hot rollers to make my hair look presentable.  

And so many friends and family members stepped up with well wishes, flowers, gifts, visits and making sure I was able to get out and about (and you know who you are)!.  So thank you Hubby and thank you friends and thank you family! Your caring has helped with my recovery. I am stronger because of you.

So almost a month into recovery, I am reflecting on my decision to do this.

There is one thing to be said for taking advantage of a fix for a problem.  I had a sore arm due to osteoarthritis, and there was a fix for that, so why not take advantage of that fix?  However, my one caveat would be - make sure your arm REALLY hurts and the pain is upsetting your quality of life, because this surgery is not to be taken lightly.  It's painful and recovery will disrupt your life for a long time. I am into physical therapy twice a week for the next who knows how long? I am told it will be a year before I will have my strength back and get the full benefit of the procedure and because I had a reverse procedure, my range of motion will probably never be that great.  So there is a period of "What have I done?" before you get to "Glad I did it (not there yet)." 

Sometimes it's difficult to see the good in the final outcome when you have to sleep sitting up, you can't drive, you can't use your dominant arm (when I was able to use the computer, I had to type with one finger and learn to mouse with my left hand), you can't fix your hair, you can't put your contacts in, you are in pain and you can only wear clothes that button in front, which means there are all of those cute clothes of yours that have to be pulled on over your head that you can't wear.  And  forget wearing a bra (good thing I did those exercises with my Mark Eden Breast Developer back in the day, no one was the wiser - didn't all of us 60's girls have one of those)?


Seriously, here is the bottom line for me: I had a talk with my left shoulder.  "Lefty," I said, "Stay strong cuz we ain't doin this again."  

Now if my knee would just stop hurting!

Thanks for reading!

See you soon for Part 3 -

What Got Me Through - TV Series I Watched During Recovery 

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