Friday, September 05, 2008

Shouldering Some Surgery, See You in 3-4 Weeks

This is not me, I have much better muscle tone.

I'm serving notice to all you active young pups still south of 50: Beware Father Time. Especially if you're an athlete. Or a fitness freak. Or both. Trust me, that wonderful, endorphin-enhanced pounding high you're getting now will come back to bite you on the ass. Or, in my case, this time, the left shoulder.

Today I'm having major shoulder surgery. Two 3-centimeter full-thickness rotator cuff tears front and back, a nearly severed biceps tendon, bone spurs, a crack in my scapula (aka shoulder blade). My shoulder's so bad it partially dislocates (called subluxation) at the slightest movement. So the surgery will also include inserting pins for greater stability.

You'd think I was a Major League baseball pitcher. S'okay, I'm in good hands, my doctors treat our Philly teams.

By the time you read this --sometime Friday morning-- I'll be in the OR or in recovery. Drugged and needing it. Hoping to wake up and find the 5-hole arthoscopy did the trick, that they didn't have to open me up with a big nasty incision.

Of all the sports surgeries, they say shoulder is the hardest. Worse, they tell me, than having a hip replaced. (My hips are just fine, thank you). But at least I had fun getting here.

In my teens and 20's it was competitive swimming, volleyball, softball. Plus skiing and running. In my 30's switched full time to tennis, squash, racquetball. Nautilus. Free weights. Aerobics. All necessary not only for health, but stress relief, especially working in politics and journalism.

By the time I reached my 40's I was a full time mom with my own little wellness business on the side, contracted to run fitness centers in federal office buildings and at my local health club. My favorite task was conducting quarterly fitness testing for the FBI, the Secret Service, Customs agents. Damn, that was fun.

Running those guys up and down 10 flights of concrete stairs, making them hit the floor for 50 push ups, hold weights while running an obstacle course, calling them "Sissy maggots!" at the top of my voice. Oh, and did I mention I was doing everything they were doing too? Plus, in those days I was teaching 2-3 step and aerobics classes a day, 5 days a week.

Not. Any. More. Over the past 20 years I've had both knees "scoped" ... handled it pretty well. Also a wrist, an ACL, a small rotator cuff tear/frozen shoulder (the right one), my lower back twice. Less fun, yet manageable. My left hand last February. The worst so far. Hands freakin hurt.

Today they'll fix my left shoulder. I'll suck up the 3-week immobility cast and the pain as best I can. Then I'll start the 3-6 months of rehab. It's okay, I'm a PT fanatic. Physical therapy is my middle name. And my health club. I've been going there throughtout August 3 times a week in advance of this surgery to get in tip top shape for it.

My sister (a nurse, how convenient) will be staying with us to help me manage with only one arm. At least I'm right-handed. But still, fully immobilized left side -- I know from the hand surgery it isn't so easy having only one arm.

My respect for amputees and other disabled people soars when I'm in my 'temporary' situations. You can't cut your food. You can't push yourself into a sitting position in bed. You can't even pull your own pants up without a lot of circus-style contortions.

BUT: they promised me I'll be able to type in a few weeks. Maybe two, maybe three. You gotta know that's almost as high on my list as rehab and recovery. I can always dictate to my sister, but it's not the same. Although if something major breaks, my voice will get here somehow.

In the meantime, maybe this is a good thing. A break from the cerebral and the outrageous, some time for dumb TV shows, chick flicks, good quality heart-to-hearts with my sisters and friends. I'll get flowers and candy and maybe even (stay back, Freaky Troll!) cake.

And from now on, no more tennis and skiing. Instead it's the treadmill, the elliptical, yoga, Pilates, bands, lighter weights, more reps. I love it and it's good for me, health-wise. I have the blood pressure, cardio-vascular endurance, muscle strength, low cholesterol and body mass index of an active woman half my age.

And I have the joints of a worn-out, washed up pro football player.

So take my advice, be a little kinder to your joints while you still can.

I won't be doing any heavy lifting for a while, but I'll be thinking of you, and I wouldn't mind some kind thoughts and good karma from anybody willing to shoulder them on my behalf.

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Blogger Genevieve said...

Appointing myself your head cheerleader! Go girl -- and l'shana tovah.


4:46 PM  
Anonymous Cynthia Johnston said...

Go Sally! Don't know when you managed to post this, but it's great to have you back! Here's to a quick and complete recovery and I'll see you this weekend to help make sure you get everything you need without having to reach or scream. Love you lots...
Your pal,
Cindy Lou

9:44 AM  

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