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So you ask why I am writing this. I feel that I would like to get my story out there, to share my experience so that others are not caught off guard like I was.
Just so you understand where I’m coming from.
I am 35 yrs. old and have never been sick like this ever in my life. I always considered myself super healthy because I never through my years and years of playing sports any injuries that sidelined me. Well now I’ve payed for playing through the pain. I would consider myself an advanced indoor volleyball player. I played thru high school, on traveling teams who went to nationals and then continued my career thru college. I still (prior to this injury) play indoor volleyball as much as possible and even help out coaching an area high school team. Volleyball is my life and the thought of never playing again breaks my heart. The only real injury I’ve had was while I was playing in college. I being a young naive player who really only wanted to play, started having problems with my hitting. It was horrible pain just making contact with the volleyball, let alone trying to hit it at the opposing team. Now that I’m older I see my mistake. I should have gone to my coach and said something but I didn’t. Granted...as a coach you must be observant of your players and if they start acting "not normal" you need to pull them aside and talk to them. My coach did not do that. I in no way blame him, it was more my fault not telling anyone but I was raised to play thru the pain and never to quit. That may seem like a great idea but it wasn’t. So I basically played thru my injury and finished my volleyball career playing every game but not at 100%. I got real good at hiding my problem.
That is until I had to go out into the real world and work. I am a Cat Scan technologist at an area hospital. Most people think all we do is push buttons all day, with no real heavy work.... I’m here to tell you on an average day I lift a minimum 15 patients who weigh from 160lbs-450lbs. most of that is cart to cart moving but it also counts the people I have to hold onto that are fall risks (which means they have some medical issue that has made them very prone to falling so I have to hold onto them so they don’t fall). A lot of the moving is dead weight which means getting no help from the patient. Let’s not forget the people who grab at the tech when trying to get up or just freaking out. Please don’t do that ever! You will hurt me and I’m not ok with that. I’m there trying to help you the best I can. Granted some of those people are truly sick and I totally have no problem moving them, but the others are just people who think just because they are in the emergency room that means they don’t have to help or move on their own. I’m here to tell you, if you are able to move, it is in your best interest to move yourself because if I move you you’re going to be uncomfortable and on a hard plastic board for the 15 minutes if everything goes as planned and just so you know its hard board with no cushion. The board is there to help me make it easier to get you from the cart to the CT table and back, I call it my second person. I work evenings and I’m alone. No help anywhere. If I need help it takes up to 5-10 minutes to find someone. So if I don’t have you on the board I can’t physically move you back to the cart without hurting you more. I don’t want to hurt you or myself. The CT table is not a flat table like most people think, the table is kind of molded with a curve to it, I describe it kind of like a ditch. So with no board under you and I was to pull you over... expect a very big bump and it’s probably not going to feel very good especially if you are already hurting. Oh and by the way I will not pull you over on my own. That’s why I’m in my current situation. I care too much for my patients that is my weakness. I don’t think about my well-being and I’ve screwed myself over by doing that.
So after 13 years of doing CT, last year I started having RT shoulder pain. It started off gradual then was getting worse and worse the more I used it at work. I was having so issues with something moving out of place which made it impossible for me to use my shoulder. The last time it happened it took me 5 painful hours to get it to pop back in. So after that I finally broke down and went to an orthopedic doctor to whom I knew at my hospital. We started off with physical therapy and steroid injections. We did also finally get the insurance company to approve an MR Arthrogram (they inject contrast dye into the shoulder joint then do an MRI looking for tears or abnormal anatomy). The MRI said I had bursitis and some mild fraying of my labrum. So I ended up doing PT for 4 months with no improvements. It hurt just as much as it did when I started if not a little worse. I think within that time frame I did 3-4 steroid injections which never helped one bit with my pain. It did help the tendonitis and bursitis that I kept getting but never helped my anterior shoulder pain. This pain felt like someone was stabbing me in the shoulder with a knife. It’s really uncomfortable. So I finished my first round of PT with no relief. Unfortunately I knew where this was taking me. I went back to the ortho doctor for an appt and yes amazingly surgery was the next step. So surgery was scheduled. Would I do it again....NO, I’d wait til I couldn’t use my arm at all then do it but unfortunately I went ahead and had surgery. It was supposed to be an easy fix and it kind of was at first.
So I went in for the surgery, arriving at 6am at the hospital. Got all undressed and ready. The anesthesiologist came in and started my IV and did a shoulder block which of all the things done to me that was the weirdest and best thing ever. I would recommend the shoulder block, it helped a lot with the pain and trust me the pain is horrible. They put me to sleep and when I woke up I was in the recovery room with my arm in an immobilizer. The words that came out of my mouth were not good ones. I had a warning that if I woke up with just a sling on, it was an easy fix but if I woke up in an immobilizer sling then it had gotten difficult. So as you can guess I said a few choice words and since I was still coming out of my anesthesia I believe I said them pretty darn loud. I didn’t care though and still don’t. I don’t remember much from the recovery room other than trying to throw up. (FYI....just do it, don’t fight it, it just makes it worse.) Getting dressed was a challenge. It took 2 people to dress me. My modesty was out the window, I could have cared less who saw me or what they saw. Which when it’s at your place of employment maybe I should have cared a little more but I didn’t and still don’t care who saw what. I just wanted to go home. They got me dressed. I had rigged up a loose tank top with Velcro at the top so all the nurses had to do is have me stand up and slip it up and Velcro it together. It worked out great, the nurses loved it and told me to sell them. I lived in tank tops for like 3 months following surgery. It was just easier that way. The only downside was I had my surgery in January so I was a little cold but I had a jacket that I would throw over my shoulders when I went outside. It worked. So they had me all dressed, gave my parents all the instructions and pain meds and sent me home. Here’s a good thing to know.....for the car ride home have a pillow and a mild soda in the car. The soda is there just to change the taste in your mouth from the anesthesia which is the reason you will keep wanting to vomit but don’t drink too much otherwise you will vomit. Turn the cold air on in the car and have it hit you in the face. That will help with the nausea and hopefully keep you from up chucking. I’d wait an hour or so after leaving and getting home before trying to put something in your stomach. And when you do make it bland....no flavor. I went with toast with a little butter. It did what I needed it to do and that was be in my stomach for my pain meds. You will live on your pain meds continuously for a good 3-4 days probably. I started to taper down I think on day 3 but that was so I could get off of them sooner so I could leave my parents’ house on my own. I love my parents but there is a reason I don’t live with them anymore.
So the first day after surgery you will get to take your dressings they put on you (to cover your incisions with sutures) off. It was a great feeling except when I had to take the tape off. I told them I was allergic to tape aka adhesive but that didn’t stop them from putting a lot of super sticky tape on me. Let’s just say I lost some skin that morning. I was not a happy camper. Once I got it off and covered my incisions with sensitive skin band-aids I was all good. Each day after that was ok, I made myself get out of the house at least twice a day mostly just to walk around Walmart or wherever. Usually didn’t last long maybe 30min but at least I was out and not stuck inside. Mostly I ended up sleeping because of the pain meds. Or attempting to watch TV but usually I fell asleep with that too. It wasn’t until I really worked myself off the meds did I finally feel like doing things. Even then though I’d eventually pop a pill because I’d overdo it. But that’s how it goes at the beginning.
So a week after my surgery was my first PT appointment. I had the same PT therapist I had the first time so he knew me and what was going on, so it made things a little better. For the longest time at the beginning PT is all passive motion which means you don’t do any work, the therapist does all the movement for you. And if you do try to do something they will know and they do yell at you to stop it...ha ha ha. It’s not your fault it’s just instinct. So just an FYI..they won’t let you get away with much. I will tell you the stretching sucks. It’s painful and especially when they massage your incision sites.....look out it really hurts but will get better as you move through your PT. I recommend getting ice for your shoulder after they are done picking on you, just ask for some they have plenty. They can wrap it around your shoulder so it will stay on its own. It will help the pain. Go straight home if possible and take a pain pill because you will be hurting. Now if you have a driver driving you to PT then I’d go ahead and take a pain pill before your appt but if you are like me and have no one I just ended up taking Advil before PT then the awesome magical pain pill after when I got myself home. FYI....I drove myself which they don’t recommend when you are in your immobilizer (and when it’s your dominant arm=kind of makes driving a little hard) because the cops will give you a ticket if you get into an accident or pulled over but I had no choice so I took the risk. I just took my time and tried to not be in a hurry. Easier said than done when you’re in pain but that’s why I recommend the ice it helps.
After a few weeks PT will start letting you do things but with caution. They will introduce some weight not much only like a 1 lb. weight but at first that’s heavy. Gradually you will work yourself up to 3-4 lb. weight, resistance bands of multiple strength, weighted balls and exercises but that’s usually towards the end of your PT experience. The key is slow and steady and if something hurts TELL your therapist. They can come up with a different exercise and they need to document pain in case something isn’t right....once again I’m speaking from experience. So I did PT post op for 5 months. At my 3rd month I started complaining about shoulder pain in the area of my bicipital groove. I told my PT guy and he worked around it and documented it. This pain would not go away. So I had a follow up appt with my Ortho Dr and brought this problem up. Now this is where I should have known I was screwed. My ortho would not take my pain seriously, he kept saying some pain is normal until 1 year post op so he wouldn’t take me seriously til that one year had passed since the surgery. I know some pain is normal, I get that however I’m in the medical field and totally get that a little pain should be normal but this pain wasn’t giving up and it was getting worse. Every appt I had after that I complained and all he would do is give me steroid injections. No imaging was done only injections. I completed PT after doing it for 5 months, had great Range of Motion with no problems but still had that anterior pain going down my bicep. Went for another ortho appt which turned out to be the one where he cleared me for work so I would have no restrictions. When he said he was going to clear me I questioned him because for my work I have to be able to lift a minimum 75lbs on my own and the heaviest I could do after all my PT was 35 lbs. The dr proceeded to tell me I would be fine to just be careful. Alert, Alert....that was warning sign number 2 that I should have seen as a red flag to go to another dr. But being a person who was going crazy not being able to work, I was like ok but I did hesitate. So now I’m back to work....two months later I was back in his office for another injection and complaining session. He ignored me like usual....red flag number three. A week after that last injection I was fed up with this ortho doc. I was hurting and work was getting impossible. So I went to one of my radiologists whom I’ve worked with for 13 years and asked if he knew another doctor to go to for a second opinion. He gave me a name and I went for it. I got all my paperwork together, anything I could get my hands onto and took it into his office for his review and for a week I patiently waited for a phone call for an approval or denial. To my great surprise and relief, his office called to schedule an appointment. I went to that appt hoping he could and would help me. I was just stuck with no help from my current doctor and I didn’t know what else to do. At my appt we sat down together and talked about what was going on. He was listening....it was great. I no longer was being treated like an older person who didn’t know anything about medicine. He agreed with me.....I shouldn’t be hurting like I was. So he ordered another MR Arthrogram to see what was going on in the shoulder. One week later I was at the imaging facility enjoying another MRI. It actually wasn’t too bad, a lot more painful than the first time but I just said that was because of the surgery scar tissue.....apparently I was wrong. According to the MR I have re-tore my labrum a lot worse than I had the first time. So now I just found out I get to have another awesome shoulder surgery. Won’t know the extent of damage fully til he gets in but I saw the MR images and the tear looks rather large. Granted I don’t do MRI but I do understand the images. Even my radiologist said he's not sure what’s going on other than yes I will have to have surgery again. Well that was reassuring…thanks doc.
So here I am just days before I see my new ortho to plan surgery. I just want to cry.....it sucked the first time and now I have to do it again. It’s so not fair!!!
Now I do want to let you guys know about something that happened while I was off the first time around. I feel that it’s really important to share this with you... I’ve been plagued with anxiety/depression over the last few years. I’ve dealt with it on my own and it’s been fine. It’s never been bad....Unfortunately after my shoulder surgery it got worse...way worse. I’m not proud about what I almost did, but I’m glad I noticed I was having a problem before I followed through with a very bad idea. I’ll just be truthful....I was sitting at a stoplight, first in line at a very busy intersection, I looked left and then right to see a lot of traffic when the very bad thought popped into my head. If I just go now, I won’t have to deal with things for a while. That thought scared the crap out of me. I’ve never had any ideas like that before let alone want to actually do it. That moment was when I knew I had to get help. I was crying my eyes out for no real reason. I was stressed... yes who wouldn’t be but I didn’t think it was that bad. Thank goodness my body didn’t listen to what my mind was saying. I could have easily seen my foot just tap the excelerator just enough to get me into traffic. It would have been bad but thankfully I was aware enough not to do it. Now I tell you my story to make you aware that when you get laid up, be aware and make your friends aware so they know to keep an eye out for odd behavior. Prior to my incident, I was showing signs of having issues but no one said anything. Please as a friend be there for each other because you could easily save their life. The next day I called my primary doctor up and scheduled an appt for possible depression/anxiety disorder. He put me on Zoloft and it was heaven. No anxiety, no worrying.....I couldn’t even think 5 minutes ahead and it was great. I was a notorious worrier, I’d be worrying about something a month away but now no more. It was awesome. Prior to surgery I researched constantly trying to get my head around what I was about to go through. Nowhere did I read anything about depression. I had no idea. I’m writing this so hopefully it will make people aware what they need to look out for.
What I hope you have taken away from my story.....
Don’t let a doctor tell you your fine when you feel there is something wrong. Be constant with your complaints and keep complaining until they either listen or you find a doctor who will listen. You know your body better than they do so don’t give up.
Be mindful of your mindset. Basically watch out for signs of depression. You may think it won’t happen to you but that’s usually when it comes and bites you in your butt. Don’t seclude yourself, get out and get around people. You don’t have to talk to them just be around them. That alone will help. Don’t be afraid of getting help. If you have the right doctor he/she will listen and give you choices on how to help the problems. To Family and friends... please keep an eye on your friends/family who undergo any kind of surgery. You may be the one who notices some behavior that isn’t right. Please watch out for their safety because they may not even notice it.
For coaches and parents.....pay attention to your athlete. You are around them almost or if not every day, you know what "normal" is for them. If they injure themselves they may not tell you and try to play it off which could make the injury worse. So please be diligent and if you think somethings not right, pull them aside quietly and ask them. If my coach had done that I might not be where I am today (aka surgery #2).
And to my fellow athletes and medical professionals.....don’t be afraid to say somethings wrong, I’m hurt. Don’t let people bully you into making you think you are fine. I know we all love our sport/job and just want to keep working/playing but if you hurt yourself and not say anything, you could end up regretting it down the road. I don’t want you to go through the pain if it can be avoided.
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