By Rod Moser, PA, PhD
I can’t see it, but I know it’s there: that proverbial dark cloud has been hovering over me for over a year now.
I had rotator cuff surgery to repair a bad tear in November. Naively thinking I would be back to work in two weeks, I didn’t cancel my patients beyond that time. A month ago, about four months after my surgery, I was finally able to return full-time to my clinic. I was going stir crazy at home. If it wasn’t for my blogs and WebMD, I think my brain would have shriveled up and died. While I knew that I was not completely healed, I thought that on-the-job occupational therapy would be as good, if not better, than my grueling, weekly physical therapy appointments.
At the beginning of March, I was doing my favorite office surgeries, putting arm casts on skateboarders and dealing with the endless dance of sick and injured humans. I was happy again. Yesterday, an 8-year-old stabbed his 16-year-old sister in the arm with a sharpened wooden pencil. I had to do some extensive probing to remove three large pieces of graphite and wood. You don’t get to do those fun things while recuperating at home.
Throughout the month, my left shoulder was still problematic and painful, so I finally saw the surgeon again. He ordered another MRI (my favorite), and I heard the verdict today: I have two more major tears in the rotator cuff. The part he repaired was fine, but it tore lower in the tendon this time. I was informed that I would need another, more extensive surgery, adding some tissue “scaffolding” to the damaged area, either a pig or human skin mesh. Oink! I am not sure which one is ickier; a slab of someone else’s skin (from which part of the body?) or an uncooked pork rind.
So, I am heading back to the operating room again. I requested a different anesthesiologist since the last one cause corneal abrasions in both of my eyes from improper taping. This is going to be a very lengthy and technical arthroscopic procedure by the same surgeon. The recovery will be equally as long and probably more painful, assuming my black cloud lives up to its reputation.
I have been assured that this time will be the definitive repair. “We will see,” said the one-armed man.
Last time, it was six weeks sleeping (sort of) in a reclining chair, pain medications around the clock (with all of their side effects), and boredom. Toward the end of my last surgery, I started to write a novel about my youth growing up in a small Appalachian town. I completed the outline and did some research and made a strong effort to do the first (the most difficult) chapter. I cursed myself for zoning out in English class and for not taking creative writing in college. I read numerous first chapters from my favorite authors and felt discouraged that I would never be able to weave words like those true novelists. I guess that now I will have a second crack at the book. I also have two medical lectures to write before September, so I can finish those up as well.
For a year, my wife and I have been planning my first trip to Europe (France and Germany) with another couple. We had to cancel the trip three years ago, when one of our traveling companions came down with lymphoma. She is fine now. Our other trip was nearly cancelled when I developed kidney stones, so maybe God is sending me a message: Stay home!
I will keep you posted as I attempt to endure American medicine one more time…as a very reluctant and apprehensive patient.