Published in the Rains County Leader on October 2, 2018:
This past Wednesday was the six-week anniversary of my shoulder surgery. Thursday at 9:45 am I had an appointment with my surgeon for a post-op checkup. Since he had said I would have to wear my sling for six weeks, and since my physical therapist said I was doing really well, I was sure Thursday would mean freedom for me.
However, as the time drew closer, I began to worry. Five years ago I broke my ankle, and the same doctor took care of my injury. It wasn’t the kind of break that required surgery, but I had to wear one of those plastic boots that looks like something that should have a ski attached to the bottom. It was very heavy and uncomfortable, and I counted the days until my two-month checkup, sure I would be healed enough to wear a regular shoe again. After looking at my x-rays, he breezed into the examining room with a big smile.
“Everything looks good,” he said. “You can leave the boot off around the house if you like, but I want you to wear it when you go outside for the next six weeks.”
If I could have lifted the thing more than a few inches off the floor, I would have kicked him.
So a week or so before the recheck on my shoulder, I remembered that disappointment and wondered how I’d handle it if the same thing happened again. Then Facebook made matters worse. After you’ve been an active user of the app for a while, Facebook begins reminding you each morning of what you said on that date in some previous year. On the morning of my checkup, my memory was of that day in the doctor’s office, exactly five years before. I don’t believe in signs and omens, but I have to admit that my worry ratcheted up a notch or two.
It was all good, though. I left his office with my sling under my arm and permission to burn it in the parking lot if I wanted to. In fact, he told me not to put it back on under any circumstances. I couldn’t imagine why I would want to wear it again. By the end of the day, though, the weakened arm was feeling tired, heavy, and achy, and I briefly thought that a little support might be a welcome relief. I settled instead for cradling it for a few minutes with my other arm, and the moment passed.
My physical therapist was delighted the next day when I told him that, according to the doctor, I could do anything except lift over five pounds. He got that evil twinkle in his eye that I noticed the first day and began pulling weights off the racks. Actually, he strapped a one-pound weight around my wrist for a couple of exercises and had me hold a one-pound dumbbell when I did two others. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make his prediction come true when he said I wouldn’t like him much later in the day. It didn’t take much to make muscles that had been dormant for six weeks very sore.
After several days of repetition, I’m getting stronger. Being without the sling makes me feel vulnerable, though, and I appreciate the gentle hugs from my friends since I’m still pretty tender in spots. I also appreciate all the encouragement, especially from those who have been through it. One of the most common remarks goes something like this: I’ve been right where you are, but now I can do this. And then they throw both arms straight up in the air. I can get my arms into that position if I use a pulley and pull it up with the other hand or if I do a “finger crawl” up the wall. But I look forward to the freedom of being able to do it all on my own, and I’m just hoping that the Cowboys will give me plenty of reason to do it.