Thursday, March 4, 2010

Frozen Shoulder in Winter

Following the philosophy that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, has caused me to be virtually mute. I’ve got an injury that is extremely painful and it’s making me cranky and cynical. Oh, that’s right. I already was cranky and cynical. Now I’ve just lost the governor. On my better days I spin it as observant, sensitive and maybe a little prescient. Now I’ve had so many months of pain and interrupted sleep I think we’ve crossed into grouchy territory. Fair warning here. Further reading may cause unpleasant side effects.

I’ve never been hurt before. I’ve had two C-sections, leg surgery, ear surgery and a tonsillectomy after which I hemorrhaged and nearly bled to death. In every instance I healed in less than half the time it’s taken me to get an affirmative diagnosis on this condition. Other than a bike accident in fourth grade, which caused a mild concussion, I have been injury free. No broken bones or tears or sprains or strains. Until now, I’ve been extremely lucky as well as cautious. Visiting an orthopedist and getting an MRI were both new experiences for me. After being mis-diagnosed with tendinitis and a muscle tear, I finally found the right doctor who told me I have Adhesive Capsulitis - also known as frozen shoulder.

You know the television commercial where the woman says that she nearly cried when they told her that her house had termites? When I went online and read about my condition I nearly cried and then I really cried. It’s got some strange manifestations. The worst of these are taking up to three YEARS to heal and being so painful at night that chronic loss of sleep can become a secondary condition. I’m here to tell you, folks, we’re there. The bright side is that it’s my left shoulder and I’m a rightie so tennis is fine. The scary part is that I cannot lift my left arm high enough to shave my armpit.

I tend to imagine worst-case scenarios for myself, but overall, I’ve really been quite healthy. During the rare times I’ve been out of commission as a wife or a mother it’s been met with skepticism. In labor with Allie, about five centimeters dilated, I took a bath to relax before leaving for the hospital. Lucy came in to pester me and then wanted to know why I was so grouchy. I can’t recall my exact thought at the time but I was probably wondering why I was having another child.

I was also accused of being dramatic when I came down with bacterial pneumonia and the kids wanted to know why wouldn’t I get off the couch and make them sandwiches. The doctor had me on three different antibiotics to cover all the bases but the kid’s jut wanted their snacks. The healthy, able-bodied - old enough to get their own food kids. They really didn’t understand that pneumonia could be deadly. Just think of poor Jim Henson. I forgive them now because they’ve been incredibly sweet and kind about my shoulder.

Husbands seem to be better at milking these situations without looking like they are. Somehow they are just more entitled. When the girls were about ten, six and two I encouraged their father to get a vasectomy. He rebutted my campaign with various well thought out arguments. One of the reasons he gave me for resisting is that if I were to die and he were to remarry he’d want the option to have more children with the new wife. WHAT? The wants and needs of the erstwhile widower and his possible future wife trumped my needs and me? He was saying this to a woman who’d given birth to three kids. After my shock subsided I continued to drip, like water on a stone, and he finally caved but boy did I pay for it.

The surgery was scheduled on a Friday morning shortly before Christmas. My stepmother, who can be a little high maintenance, was visiting. We gave her our bedroom and slept on the pull out in the living room. It just so happened to be the weekend we needed to get the tree and put it up. Supervision from the couch abounded but no help was forthcoming from that quarter. The doctor had advised the patient to remain immobile for forty-eight hours and the patient was not about to take any chances with his precious parts. Not only did he stay on the couch the entire weekend, we were also to run and fetch bags of ice for his you know what. Monday morning he was fine and went off to work, as usual.

With Eric it’s been a little different. Since he had a bad accident and follow up surgeries, he needed a tremendous amount of care. He was a good patient and I was happy to oblige. The hard part was hearing about the accident. Men, in particular, have a morbid fascination with the details of a motorcycle accident and for a while I would have to just remove myself when the conversation went that way. My nerves started to fray after the complications from the later abdominal surgery but I really became undone when the plantar fascia ruptured. More long conversations about the malady making me feel a bit left out since I was the healthy one.

Now I’m NOT the healthy one and there seems to be no protracted discussion of it. I’ll mention what’s wrong and people seem to quickly move to another topic. I have no experience with this. Am I doing it incorrectly? Maybe I need some props, although I’ve gone through the sling and ace bandage. It’s not so much that I want to talk about it. It’s that I feel so bad and want to get better.

It’s a bit like when Lucy was six weeks old. She’d been waking up every hour or so throughout the night since birth and I was just about to go crazy from lack of sleep. Now, every time I fall asleep I wake up a couple hours later because my shoulder hurts. I can’t get comfortable. I’ve tried multiple combinations of sleep aids and pain relievers. Ambien works best to keep me asleep but it’s not a great choice long term. Maybe I’ll just have to deal with the consequences when the pain gets better. Rehab in the wine country sounds appealing.

I love my doctor and am starting physical therapy. I love that my doctor recognizes that the PT paid for by my insurance company is woefully inadequate. When we discussed the options he asked me if I’m incredibly wealthy. Um, no. If I were, he’d have some great suggestions for me. He realizes I need help. I can’t just be given some exercises to do at home. It hurts too much to do them on my own. He’ll go to bat for me with the insurance company if they don’t give me what I need. That’s promising. Now, if it will just stop raining for more than one day at a time and Eric’s persistent, hacking cough will subside, we may be getting somewhere.