Saturday, September 5, 2009

Surgery Accomplished

Day one after shoulder far so good.

Yesterday’s surgery went extremely well and I am nearly pain free today; that’s the short of it. Here’s the rest:

We were scheduled to arrive at Kernan by 9:30 to do a physical examination, an EKG, and some blood work before my 12:30 surgery time. Carita and I left the house at 7:15. When we got to Skipton, Route 50 was closed in both directions due to an accident near the Wye Mills Route 662. We detoured past Fike’s Orchard with only a 15 minute delay in the overall plan.

When we had just turned onto Route 2 Ritchie Hwy, my phone rang. It was Angelica (mission control) from Kernan. She said the patient scheduled before me drank coffee this morning and they had to give him my time slot; could I come in early for my operation. I told her we’d be there in half an hour, but was she aware that I still needed my pre-op exams? She said fine, she’d handle it.

We rolled into Kernan at 9:08, Carita gave me my last pre-op remedy, and we marched into the hospital like brave soldiers. Theodosia checked us in, asking Carita more questions than me because our health insurance is in her name. We never waited more than 30 seconds for anything all day long. I was immediately admitted by Nurse Gabriel from Trinidad. She passed me off to sweet Lois who prepped me and gave me my first IV. Unfortunately, the first IV didn’t take and another nurse, whose husband had recently fished out of Tilghman Island, got me connected and fired up with the IV.
Then Brian Duggan, the chief resident, whom I met last week came to give me my physical. He looked hurried, and he was. My exam consisted of a stethoscope on my back in two places, two breaths, stethoscope on my chest, one breath; he asked me if I smoked or drank (I told him i have 2 beers on Wednesday nights), and that was IT! I asked, "no EKG? No blood work?" and he threw a hand at me and said, "awe, you're healthy enough". So, i'm really glad i didn't go throw all the convulsions of trying to get my pre-testing done here in Easton beforehand.

Next came my anesthesiologist, Dr. Banks who was a young woman that knew all about what my anesthesiologist/friend, Ona, had told me to ask about. Ona is on my swim team, along with another anesthesiologist, John Mulfur. I asked Dr. Banks if she was the best, and she said she was. She gave me a light dose id of sediative that felt like a couple of drinks. I remember saying, “there’s one vodka tonic…” then a few moments later I slurred, “There’sssssh two vodka tonicssssshsss”. I remember a few moments after that, then the next thing I knew, nurse Gena was waking me up after my surgery.
Me showing the Iceman blanket. The tubes hook up to hoses and tank of ice water for cooling the shoulder. It's very COOL!

Dr. Murthi came in to tell me my rotator cuff looked fine and that i did not need any repair there. He did the decompression and some clean up of some arthiritus on my AC joint. I was a little groggy, so I don't remember much more. He was rushing off to do another surgery and told me he'd see me on Tuesday. Carita was soon sent in to me, they got me dressed, gave her some instructions, and sent us on our way. My left arm felt like a piece of rubber. I had absolutely no feeling in it at all. They had given me a nerve block. My left hand felt hot to touch, but the only sensation I had in the arm itself was that it was cold.

At home we settled in with the Iceman cool water circulation system for my shoulder. It is like an in-floor-heating/cooling unit for the shoulder (see photo above). The girls arrived home from their first hockey game (victorious) and my parents gave us a visit as well. Green fish curry (yumm) was my first meal followed by fresh apple pie that the girls made from the apples in our yard. Life is good.

I am home, up, and about this morning; been to Farmer’s Market St. Michaels, and now am going to the museum for the boat auction. We'll see what report I can bring after Tuesday's visit with the doctor. ~

Thanks to all the well wishes and prayers. They worked….

It is now Sunday at noon-thirty. Before and after surgery Carita had prepared homeopathic remedies for me to take: Arnica for pain, Hypericum for nerve pain and healing, and Calengula for general healing. I have been taking these since Thursday. I only took 4 prescribed pain pills since the operation, the last being taken 31 hours ago. There is something to homeopathy, and though i dont' have a complete understanding of it, i am a believer. I don't expect to take any more narcotics during my recovery. I am taking an anti-imflamatory twice a day, however. The doctors and nurses said i would need the pain pills for ten days; i took them for 12 hours.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surgery on September 4th

Life doesn't always agree with the plans we make for ourselves, like in this photo of our capsize in the Chester River in July. Our foresheet tender, Carl (in blue), Boardman Bucky, and I are making the best of the circumstances given to us that day. Here, we have removed the sails, masts, boards, spreets, and debris from the capsized log canoe, Island Lark. We are about ready to start bailing. Photo by Tim Schreitmueller

Yesterday marked five months since I injured my left shoulder while swimming which resulted in Suprascapular Nerve Palsy. For five months I have not had the ability to rotate my left arm out from my center while keeping the elbow at my side. More than that, the weakness in the arm makes it hard to do simple things like comb my hair or raise a cup to drink. There is no strength in outward rotations. To most, the compromise is not noticeable. Upon closer look there are two "dents" on my left shoulder blade marking where severe athrophy has occurred to the infra and suprastinatus muscles. Despite this condition certain movements involved in activities like swimming, throwing the front board on Lark, and skippering Seabiscuit, can be accomplished without much notice of disfunction.
Treatment for this rare condition is to first wait and see if the nerve comes back on its own. We've waited....for five months. Next is to have a look surgically. If a muscle is not signaled within a year, it is unlikely that it will ever return to function. I am scheduled for surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center/Orthopedics at Kernan in Baltimore on this Friday, the day after tomorrow. I’ve only known of the surgery date for a little over 48 hours. The plan is to go into my left shoulder orthoscopically, have a look, decompress the Suprascapular nerve, and possibly repair a rotator cuff tear and remove some arthritis. The recovery time increases with each additional challenge the surgeon encounters in my shoulder. Let’s hope that only the decompression is needed. If successful, I should immediately notice improvement of function. Over an additional period of time, the muscle strength should come back, as well,...I pray.

In the short term, I am most concerned with how life will be post surgery: will I have improved movement and control? Will I be in pain? How long until I will be able to return to the activities that I love? How will this impact my family? My life?

I am not going the route of over-thinking what “might” happen. I’ve made the decision. Dr. Murthi has a great reputation as one of the best in his field. It will surely be different to be restricted as to what I can do in the days, maybe weeks, following this surgery.

I sailed/raced tonight. I biked yesterday with Jon Rice. I ran on trails with friends on Sunday (got poison ivy). I swam yesterday, too. When will I be able to return to these activities? The door will open up to different choices in the near future. Bring it on. In the meantime, everyone, continue to love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate life. I plan on doing a lot of appreciating in the upcoming weeks.