Shoulder Replacement Part 5

So much has happened since the last time we spoke here at the shoulder replacement blog, I scarcely know where to start. It has been quite a roller coaster ride, and my last entry almost ended up becoming my epitaph. I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

I should have known that there was going to be complications with my surgery because things began to go wrong before I even showed up at the hospital. Three days before the procedure, the hospital called and told me that my shoulder replacement was scheduled for 3pm, and I would have to report to the pre-op check in at 12 noon. The timing sounded a little late to me, but I chalked it up to a busy day in the OR and made my plans accordingly.

The day of surgery rolled around, and I was sleeping late at 10am, waiting to get up and prepare for the trip to the city. Suddenly, the phone rings, and I hear my mother pick up the handset. I couldn’t make out the conversation, but I did clearly hear her say “oh no, they told us 3pm!” A few minutes later, my Mom knocks on my door and tells me the doctor just called to ask where I was and did I plan on having surgery today. I said “What? Did you tell him they told us 3pm?” My mother said yes, she told them, but they said to come in as soon as possible. So, instead of leisurely preparing for a hospital trip, my Mother, my girlfriend, and I had to participate in a mad rush to pack and get ready for a five-day stay in the city in just fifteen minutes.

When we finally made it to the hospital, I sat down with the operation check-in secretary and went over the final information for the surgery. As he was going down the checklist, I heard him say “right shoulder replacement.” I immediately said “did you say right side?” He said yes, the computer said right side. I rolled my eyes and sighed while I proceeded to tell him that my left shoulder was being replaced, not my right. He looked confused and then asked me to hold on while he verified my left shoulder was being replaced. “Oh God,” I thought, “and this is one of the best hospitals in the country! What the heck goes on at the worst?” Eventually, the check-in secretary confirmed my left shoulder was being replaced, and sorted me out in the computer. I went back to the waiting room to sit and wait, but before I even got to put my butt in a chair, I was called into the pre-op ready room.

As I walked in to my pre-op holding area, I noticed the sign on the door with my name on it had a large “ASAP” scribbled over my name. It seemed like there was a serious snafu in the OR that day. Because I was not entirely sure that the correct shoulder would be operated on, I had my girlfriend write “NOT THIS SHOULDER” in black marker on my right side. I wasn’t taking any chances. All the nurses and doctors, and even my surgeon got a chuckle out of it — that is, until I told them the computer had the wrong shoulder listed for removal.

Originally, I entered the pre-op surgery area at 1pm and was told I’d be wheeled into the OR very shortly. In reality, it wasn’t until well after 3pm that I finally got up on the surgery table. Seems like the hospital may have inadvertently gotten the correct time for surgery after all. As I was lying on the table, the anesthesiologist gave me something to relax, and before I knew it I was asleep. I woke up a minute later, and I was magically transported to the recovery room with a new left shoulder.

After fifteen minutes or so, when the haze cleared, my Mother and girlfriend were let in to see me (one at a time, that is). Only then did I find out that a forty-five minute surgery had taken over two hours, and the surgeon had told then both that there was very little bone or muscle left to work with. Because of this, he could not use a reverse shoulder prosthesis, he had to use a normal one. The surgeon also had to reconstruct a muscle in my rotator cuff. What this all meant was that I’d end up with less range of motion than if I’d gotten the reverse shoulder joint. The lesson here is don’t wait too long to get a joint replaced, folks. Once it is time, do it as soon as you can.

When I finally was assigned a room upstairs in the hospital, I was told that the visiting hours were over, and my Mother and girlfriend would not be allowed to see me up to my room. My first thought was “what kind of crap is this?” Of course it fit with the rest of the day’s events. When they did finally wheel me upstairs, I was happy to learn that I’d at least get dinner before bed. It wasn’t particularly delicious, but as I hadn’t eaten since the day before, I was in no position to complain. I gobbled it up and went to sleep. Unfortunately, my pain medicine regimen was not correctly administered, so I spent most of the night arguing with nurses and on-call doctors until I finally got enough Dilaudid to provide me relief. That didn’t happen till 4am or so, though, so it wasn’t exactly a restful night.

The next day I slept late. When I eventually woke up, my family was already there to greet me. All in all, it was an uneventful day, and the view of the East River helped me to relax and begin my recovery. Dinner time rolled around again, and I actually got to eat a decent meal, as it was apparently pasta night. After dinner my family left and I turned on the TV to help pass the time before bed.

At about 1am, right before I went to sleep, I felt a pain in my esophagus. I thought it was simply an undigested pill that had gotten stuck in my throat, as had happened many times before. To help dislodge it, I chugged two glasses of water. Drinking the water only helped a small amount, though, and on top of the pain, I was beginning to sweat profusely. Just to be safe, I called the nurse in order to let him know what was happening. When he came in I told him my symptoms, and he immediately requested an EKG. “An EKG for indigestion? That sounds like a bit much,” I thought. “After all, it’s only a pill caught in my throat… isn’t it?”

Make sure to read read the conclusion in My Triumphant Return; you won’t want to miss it!

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