Health Living

My Life in a Sling! – Rotator Cuff Surgery

Update: See my note about personal journaling and how it’s been valuable to me. If you’re heading to surgery, think about how you’re going to capture your feelings afterwards!

Two weeks ago, I had surgery on the rotator cuff in my right shoulder. A few months ago, I took a nasty fall in the dark and managed to do some serious damage to a couple of tendons in my shoulder. Apparently, they were in rough shape to begin with and, according to the Doc, the fall just finished them off.

After learning more than I ever cared to about shoulder surgery (and surgeons), I finally went under the knife two weeks ago. It was an outpatient process – I showed up for the prep at 9:30 AM, the surgery began about noon, and I was waking up in recovery about 2:30 PM that afternoon – shortly to head home.

The worst pain of the whole experience was definitely in recovery – as I was learning to grapple with what hurt. After that, the pain abated – within a few days it was gone completely – replacing the dull ache pre-surgery. For the first 72 hours after the surgery, I used an ice machine while awake to help with the healing. It was a painless affair – not even feeling cold in the shoulder.

Scott in a sling

Learning to live my new life with my right arm in a sling is the rest of the story so far. I shed the sling 2-3 times each day to do the “elephant trunk” passive therapy exercise – designed to help ensure the joint remains flexible. I also am able to shower without the sling – but all of the rest of the day (and night!) are spent with my arm in the sling. No driving, rough sleeping – I’ve got a whole new appreciation for what arms are for!

Fortunately, I’m able to use my right hand to type even when the arm is in the sling – so my computer work has not been impacted at all.

My sling needs to stay on for another four weeks – it’s scheduled to end on Dec. 7. Between now and then, learning how to best sleep (Tylenol PM seems to help a lot!) remains most challenging. I used to prefer sleeping on my right shoulder – the one that had the surgery – so I’ve had to learn to sleep on the other side. Sleeping on my back, the only other option, is just not comfortable for me.

By the way, my surgeon was Dr. Colin Eakin at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. As I learned and appreciated (!), he’s extremely skilled at this kind of arthroscopic surgery!

One more thing. It’s fascinating how when something like this happens to you that you learn just how many other people have been through the same experience! Have you had rotator cuff surgery?