WOSTER: Keeping a shoulder to the grindstone as age takes its tollIf the universe unfolded according to plan, I’m having a six-week, post-surgery check-up on my totally replaced right shoulder just about now.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
If the universe unfolded according to plan, I’m having a six-week, post-surgery check-up on my totally replaced right shoulder just about now.
I know. I talked about shoulder replacement some weeks ago. That should have been enough. However, several Daily Republic readers wrote or called (that’s pretty much a landslide in the newspaper business) to say I should have written more seriously about the shoulder problem and the surgical solution, particularly since it’s one of the health issues facing an aging population. So, here goes, a little more seriously.
It’s half embarrassing for a hard-working farm kid — even half a century off the farm — to admit the darned shoulder joint just wore out. I’m just a few months into my 69th year, turned 68 in January. That’s pretty much just getting into middle-aged these days, and I thought the parts I started life’s journey with came with lifetime warranties.
That’s being unfair to the Maker, perhaps. My parts have been slowly wearing out for quite a while, but the shoulder problems were greatly aided by rheumatoid arthritis over the past three years. I started noticing it shortly after I retired from the Argus Leader at the end of 2008.
While I’m on a couple of medications that are holding it mostly at a standstill, my shoulders seem to have taken a beating. The left one hurts like crazy sometimes, but it moves. The right one pretty much quit moving a while back.
A couple of weeks before Christmas in 2009, the folk choir in which I played guitar had a day of holiday-related activities. I played a lot that day. I can’t say if that played a part in what happened next, but that night, halfway between when I fell asleep and when I should have been waking up, the right shoulder started hurting quite a lot.
To ease the aching, I babied it for a while. Although I’m completely right-handed, I started using my left hand and arm more and more for reaching and carrying and lifting.
The more I babied it, the less it worked. Eventually, my right shoulder just gave it up, and it had refused to go more than about shoulder high, for about two years before the March 12 surgery by Dr. Peter Looby.
He cut the top of the arm bone away, pounded a metal shaft with a ball top into the remaining bone, cemented or bolted a plastic cup onto my shoulder bone, reattached a muscle and stapled things up.
I was in the hospital two days, in a sling for most of two weeks, and I’ll be doing physical therapy for quite a while. The PT isn’t that onerous, although the intensity has been increasing as I heal.
I haven’t had any pain to speak of, though, and I’m starting to use my right arm more than my left (which still hurts like crazy sometimes. If I live long enough, I suppose I’ll ask Dr. Looby to take a look at it.)
The doctor said my old right shoulder was in bad shape. I tried to coax him into saying it was Guinness Book of World Records material, but he wouldn’t.
He did say on a scale of one to 10, it was about a 9.5, with no cartilage at all between the bones and the surfaces of the bones on both sides of the joint pitted and wearing away. I was kind of proud of how bad that sounded, but it isn’t like Guinness.
I probably put off the surgery for a year or so too long. Frankly, I kept thinking, “Well, what if I get it done and only live another six months or year?’’
I suppose that’s my Lyman County roots. No sense buying a new tractor if you’re not going to live to wear it out.
Anyway, that’s the longer story. I was lucky to have insurance. I was lucky to have my own personal nurse who kept pushing me toward surgery when I didn’t want to go that direction.
And I’m lucky today — six weeks and counting.