Some of you have asked me to explain what was done to me in my surgery on March 15th.
And, others have asked what has been wrong with me since the accident.
The medical records on my arm could fill a gigantic book … or two!
Except for the medical/orthopedic folks reading this, most people wouldn’t even understand the majority of it.
So, I will try to give you a brief, very simplified, summary.
The car accident was on July 30, 2006 – nearly ten years ago.
The inside of my upper arm and shoulder basically exploded on impact when a car ran a stop and collided into my car – and me.
I, naively, listened to my general practitioner and tried “physical therapy first before surgery.”
Doing so delayed EVERYTHING, and my first surgery wasn’t until January of 2007.
When it was determined I needed surgery, I picked an orthopedic surgeon who works close by and was on my insurance plan.
To this day, I believe he’s a decent doctor who (unfortunately, for me) didn’t understand some of the weird/unusual stuff that had happened inside my arm.
He didn’t think my injuries were anything other than the rotator cuff tear the MRI indicated.
(But, I now know a lot more was messed up inside my arm than the MRI showed.)
That doctor performed surgery and repaired my rotator cuff tear.
But, the repair did not take.
It took two more surgeries before this was discovered and my rotator cuff was actually repaired.
In the meantime, all sorts of complications arose because I’d been walking around, trying to function with a torn rotator cuff along with other injuries, for a couple years.
Trying to function with a lot of pain and a torn rotator cuff, a now “frozen” shoulder, and a lot of other yet to be discovered arm injuries was excruciating.
I think of this time in my life as The Dark Period.
And no, I’m not joking.
No human being should ever have to experience pain like that.
In March of 2008, I went to a new doctor “for a second opinion.”
I was curled in a ball, in horrible pain, as he examined me.
He wouldn’t even let me leave his office until he booked Surgery #4 – which he performed just two days later.
It was a “big” surgery and he did so many things to my arm, no one but someone specializing in orthopedics could probably understand it.
Almost nothing in my upper arm and/or shoulder was left untouched.
He followed this up with a manipulation (Surgery #5) a month later – an attempt to prevent my body from scarring down after so much trauma.
At the same time, I was getting injections into my shoulder joint every other day …
And, going to physical therapy six days a week.
(In hindsight, probably both of those things only aggravated my arm MORE.)
That same doctor also told me I had virtually no chance of ever regaining use of my arm if I didn’t have a breast reduction …
His opinion was that my (yes, large!) breasts were hampering my chances to regain use of my arm.
Surgery #6 (in June of 2009) was a breast reduction … I was desperate, after all, to regain use of my arm.
The breast reduction did absolutely nothing for my arm or shoulder, but I do have very perky boobs.
So, there’s THAT.
By 2010, four years after my accident, everyone had given up on me.
I consulted with an acupuncturist who told me I’d been “too anatomically altered” for acupuncture to work.
He wouldn’t accept me as a patient.
My physical therapist, a long-time close friend, had quit on me with no notice.
It devastated me.
When he gave up on me, I think I gave up on me too.
Even my doctor didn’t seem to feel there was an explanation for my continuing pain.
I began hearing not-so-vague insinuations that “maybe” the pain was just a figment of my imagination.
I never doubted my pain was REAL, but not having gone to medical school, I could offer no explanation as to what was causing it.
And, if TWO “good” orthopedic surgeons couldn’t help me, then I mustn’t have anything “fixable” left wrong with me.
I was referred to a Pain Management Specialist (Dr. Painless).
That’s where they send people they don’t know how to help.
Thank God, Dr. Painless never doubted for a millisecond that my pain was very real.
From the first day I saw him, a dose of sanity was restored to my life.
In 2010, four years after my accident, my pain management doctor performed Surgeries #7 and #8 to install a neurostimulator.
A neurostimulator is a built in pain reducer …
I had a generator in my abdomen and twenty four electrodes in my arm and shoulder …. with wires running up my back.
It helped somewhat – along with a combination of techniques my pain doctor used.
My pain was becoming more manageable …
I had an arsenal of tools to help me keep it within certain boundaries, most of the time.
Unfortunately, a “recall” was issued for my neurostimulator.
It was burning people from the inside out.
Surgery #9 removed it from my body.
I was offered a replacement neurostimulator, but I declined it.
I vowed I would never have another arm surgery.
After a lot of experimentation with various physical therapists,
I finally found David Bradley (nickname: Paul Newman) at Newport Physical Therapy.
From the beginning, I informed him I was “unfixable” and I just needed him to keep me from regressing and help me with pain management.
“But, WHY do you have pain?” he asked, insistently.
“It doesn’t matter,” I answered. “They can’t fix me.”
Paul Newman gets the credit, really, for determining something was very wrong with my subluxing bicep tendon.
I also need to thank him publicly for sticking with me and being a faithful, ongoing support, and friend.
Trust me, I’d told several doctors about the pain my bicep tendon caused.
But, no one ever did much of anything about it or even seemed to HEAR me.
Meanwhile, Paul Newman never stopped gently (?) pressuring me to have “just one more” surgery to address my bicep tendon.
In November 2015, nine and a half years after my accident, an unleashed neighborhood dog jumped Fred from behind.
The yanking of the leash sent my arm into a tailspin of breathtaking pain.
My orthopedic surgeon told me “nothing new” was wrong with my arm.
But, I knew better.
I’d also learned (finally) to trust myself more than doctors.
I consulted with several top surgeons and they ALL thought quite a bit was wrong with my arm.
For one, I have a moderate sized tear in one of the tendons in my elbow.
(It can’t be fixed until I’m a little further in my recovery from THIS surgery. It will probably be addressed in May.)
“THIS” surgery is Surgery #10 … which was performed by Dr. John Itamura with Kerlan Jobe on March 15, 2016.
Healthy bicep tendons are supposed to be white.
Here’s a photo of three inches of damaged/torn/unhealthy bicep tendon Dr. Itamura removed from my arm:
Even in the above, not-so-great, photo you can see the bicep tendon was RED, not white and healthy.
Here are a couple close ups of my bicep tendon.
Everything RED is bad – inflamed, torn, damaged ….
Red, torn, bicep tendon.
Red “bad” bicep tendon.
Dr. Itamura removed most of the tendon, and reconnected my bicep well below my shoulder.
I have four incisions, but only one of them is big.
(He fixed some other things when he was inside my arm, too. Because, hello very f*cked up arm!)
The moment I woke up from surgery I knew “that” pain …
The pain I’ve lived with for nearly ten years was gone.
Dr. Itamura explained to me not only was the tendon damaged, but it was also getting pinched (impinged) every time I tried to move my arm.
The immediate post-surgical pain was LESS than the pain I’ve lived with for ten years.
Well, I don’t think anyone expects my arm will ever be “normal.”
I’ve had so many surgeries and each one has altered me in some way.
But, my goal has been to lose the pain … and, although, I’ve got months of recovery ahead of me,
I already DO know I’ll go forward with a lot less pain than I’ve had these last (almost) ten years.
My function should increase also, but I have no idea how much.
I expect, sometime in May, Dr. Itamura will give me the go-ahead to get the torn tendon in my elbow fixed.
One of his colleagues at Kerlan Jobe will be addressing the tear in my elbow.
None of this is fun, by any means, but I feel like I’m being given a new beginning and I’m very grateful.
I don’t know how long the recovery/recoveries will take.
I don’t know where I’ll be when it’s all said and done.
My goal is to live the most “normal” life I can, and to continue shooting for years to come.
I do know, I’m already living with much less pain than I have for the last ten years.
Is the very best news I could hope for!