All I remember after opening my eyes in the recovery room was my surgeon telling me “It went REALLY well, no anchors needed” and then I blinked, and I was back in my old bedroom at my parents house – with my arm in a very uncomfortable sling and my shoulder wrapped in a whole lot of gauze.
I had just had surgery to repair what we thought was a SLAP tear and torn rotator cuff. Fortunately, despite what had shown on my MRI, I only wound up having to have some tissue removed from the back side of my labrum, and a tendon cut and released.
I injured my shoulder during a rough skydiving landing. Unbeknownst to me, the popping noise that I heard when my arm made contact with the ground was the sound of my shoulder tearing. I had created a bunch of small tears throughout the back side of my labrum – and when I shook off the pain and went back up to jump again, I caused that torn tissue to balloon out inside of my joint. Continued use of that arm over the next year resulted in my labrum transforming into what resembled a big pile of mashed potatoes, and thereby resulting in an immense amount of pain with even slight tasks such as folding laundry. I made the decision to have it surgically repaired – as it would not ever heal without surgical intervention. After being quoted a 6 month recovery time, I chose to have the surgery in October – thereby giving my shoulder time to heal during the winter (otherwise known as the off-season to the midwest skydiving community).
I was quite disappointed in the prospect of being grounded for 6 whole months – so imagine my joy when I learned that the surgery was not as intensive as expected, and about a month was shaved off of my projected recovery time. And no anchors means less pain, right?
Wrong. When the nerve block wore off -and that nerve block was demon all on it’s own – I was up all night long with a terrible itch on my completely numb forearm. Scratching brought no relief, because I couldn’t feel my arm. Yet it itched like hell. Figure that one out!- I was in PAIN. And not the type of pain where I’m writhing around on the bathroom floor with a bad migraine, begging someone to shoot me in the head. It was worse than that. I felt like someone had bludgeoned me repeatedly with one of those spiked battle clubs from medieval times. And being my right arm and therefore dominant hand – I kept wanting to use my hand to move my hair, or pick up my phone – which resulted in excruciating pain as I was reminded that my arm was in a sling because I had just been sliced open and tissue extracted from my joint. Oh, and that whole “we cut your tendon in half and it’s gone now” thing. I’d been told that shoulder surgery sucks. But this went beyond that into a whole new realm of sucks.
Somehow I made it through the first week. And by the end of that week, my pain had begun to slightly fade away. With no anchors to risk damaging, I was allowed to move my arm sooner than the average SLAP patient (if I could handle the pain, that is). I began taking my arm out of the sling, and letting it rest by my side while i watched TV. From there, I graduated to slowly inching it up the shower wall, while I stood with hot water flowing over my incisions to ease the pain – and using my other arm to support and propel it upwards. And when I went to have my stitches removed at my 2 week mark, I was out of my sling entirely, and already showed some range of motion! I was healing – fast.
And so begins the long road down physical therapy alley, as I patiently await my return to the sky. I think it’ll be sooner rather than later! 🙂