My Joint Replacement Story: Part Three

Congrats! You’ve made it through two incredibly long posts about surgery; boring for most, informative for some. I’ve written about my hip and knee surgeries and now I’m writing about my shoulder replacement. This was one surgery that I was not excited about having.

I had lost a lot of range of motion in my right shoulder and it got to a point that I could hardly fix my hair. Ladies, you know how big of a deal this is! I was barely able to lift my arm to get anything out of a cabinet. I finally scheduled an appointment with a new orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder reconstruction and after more x-rays and an MRI, he confirmed that I had a torn rotator cuff and needed to have my shoulder replaced. Lucky me!

I had to take a month off work because I drive a lot and I would be in a sling for at least 30 days (did you know it’s actually illegal to drive with your arm in a sling?). Luckily I rarely take time off and my employer has a generous time off policy where we earn 25 PTO days a year. I had just enough Paid Time Off saved to take the entire month of October off. I scheduled the surgery and did a bunch more research (I wanted to know everything about surgery before I had it).

I arrived at the hospital at 5:00am (yes am!) and after checking in, I went back to be prepped. They started an IV and as soon as it was my turn, had the spinal block (definitely better than a pain pump in my opinion). The surgery itself went smoothly. It was weird waking up in my hospital room and being able to get out of bed without assistance and go for a walk or use the bathroom alone. With my previous four surgeries, I needed someone’s help getting out of bed and it hurt to walk. With shoulder surgery, I was completely mobile (with an IV pole tagging along but still!). I figured that I would breeze through the surgery and recovery because I felt better than I had after any surgery.

However, once the spinal block starts to wear off, the pain is real! I thought not getting enough pain medication after knee surgery was bad. Boy, was I wrong! Luckily, the nurse was able to give me a shot of pain medication and though it made me incredibly tired and drugged, it helped with the pain. I was discharged the next afternoon and went home with in-home physical therapy. I was less than impressed with her punctuality but after two sessions in-home, was able to go to the office for PT as long as someone drove me.

Recovery for a shoulder replacement is slow, I’m talking turtle through peanut butter slow. I was given exercises to do at home with the help of my sister or mother but I was terrified about accidentally dislocating my shoulder. The sling supported my shoulder well but caused a lot of pain in my neck. Sleep was also very difficult because the sling had to stay on so I had to sleep sitting and not moving. Very uncomfortable as you can imagine.

I attended physical therapy twice a week for almost 5 months and still don’t have a lot of range of motion. I saw my surgeon on Monday and he was optimistic about my progress. He told me that they shoot for 140 degrees of motion and I was on target. Range of motion is slow to return and he said that I could still make improvements, even a year. However, I’m discouraged because 9 months after surgery, I’m still not able to put my hair in a ponytail.

I’m not happy with the slow progress that I’m making and I can’t say that the surgery was totally worth it for me right now. Yes, the pain is gone but my range of motion is not where I would like it to be. I’ve started doing more stretches, hoping that will at least get me to the ponytail stage.

That’s all my surgeries to date! I’m going to post Part Four which will be about my advice/things I’ve learned from surgery so watch out for that over the weekend. Leave your questions below in the comments.

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