WOSTER: In praise of modern medicine after shoulder surgeryI don’t usually like hearing stories about medical procedures, but when they’re my stories, they become fascinating, kind of like the way the only home movies anyone cares to see are their own.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
So, now it can be told. I had a total shoulder replacement earlier this month.
The date of surgery was March 12, a Monday. I didn’t say anything about it right away for a couple of reasons. First, at my age, I wanted to make sure I came out of it before I started yakking about the procedure. Second? Well, duh. I’ve had my right arm in a sling for a couple of weeks. I wasn’t supposed to be working a keyboard.
Since I’m out of the sling and back at the job full time, I figure it’s safe to talk a little about this miracle of medicine. I don’t usually like hearing stories about medical procedures, but when they’re my stories, they become fascinating, kind of like the way the only home movies anyone cares to see are their own.
One of the beauties of being a column writer is that you can impose on people with stories of your medical moments. In that respect, it isn’t so different from the old home movies. When my siblings and I were still pretty young, our dad purchased a movie camera, projector and pop-up screen and began to document every move any member of the family made. He took miles and miles of film of our family vacations, and he offered to show the results to anyone who came to the house.
If I hadn’t already read somewhere that “the whole nine yards” (as in, “he gave them the whole nine yards”) referred to the length of an ammunition belt that fed a machine gun on some sort of war plane back in World War II, I’d have thought the phrase originated with our dad and his home movies. Besides the camera, the projector, the screen and an unimaginable number of reels of raw film, our dad bought a device and accessories that allowed him to splice one reel onto another. That way he could take a whole mess of small reels of processed film and turn them into one gigantic reel that would run for hours and hours (unless the glue weakened and the slice gave way). The splicing device made it possible for our dad to put together a more-than-feature-length reel that covered every moment of a week in the Black Hills or all but a few moments of a two-week driving trip from Reliance to Niagara Falls and back through Canada to Winnipeg and down to South Dakota.
What? Well, no, of course no one but the family had any interest in that massive, high-budget production. We imposed it on a few people, mostly our best friends. When I think back on it, we should have been treating our friends better and trying to show our vacation movies to our worst enemies.
Our dad and his abilities with a movie camera and a film splicer isn’t a far stray from the topic of shoulder surgery, really. I mean, the way the procedure was described to me, it sounds a lot like the sort of thing our dad used to do back in the machine shop on the farm. The basic tools were saws, hammers, screws and glue. That’s about what Dad used to fix the old combine every time it broke down. That’s about what my surgeon used to cut away the worn-out bone, tap a new piece into my arm and fix a new cup onto my shoulder so the new ball would have a place to swivel around.
That light-hearted approach to the incredible skills of the surgeon and operating-room staff, the medical advances that allowed the procedure to work and the care of the postoperative nursing staff isn’t meant as disrespect. They were all marvelous.
I’m early in rehabbing the new stuff, but already I’ve raised my right arm higher than it’s been for two years. I’ve had less pain on my worst day since surgery than I routinely had in the past year or more.
Come to think of it, I’ve had less pain since surgery than I used to have halfway through one of our “whole nine yards” of home movies. Modern medicine is amazing.