“As I lay (recline) healing” – musings of the unwillingly idle

“What the Faulkner is he complaining about, being idle” you might be wondering.  Two things are indisputably true:

1) I function best when I feel/am useful
2) the healing process from these surgeries has kicked my ass and then laughed at me – even if I wanted to do anything more than physical therapy or class, I simply could not.

So, musings:

State of the Shoulder

First and foremost, how does my shoulder feel 37 days after the surgeries?  The answer depends on the day, but 10 days ago the pain had gotten manageable and was no longer tiring me out to a serious degree!

Then, I started physical therapy.

Everything is awful, thought I!  The pain has returned and thus being exhausted at all hours; the scar tissue collection my shoulder had begun was being destroyed.

Everything is blessedly alright, acknowledged I after the pain subsided and I thought about it.  Not only have the wounds completely closed and are free from complication (thus ending the live option of serious infection, thank God); the fact of the matter is, against all expectations, that I have started PT with a MUCH bigger range of motion than people do.  That is not to say I can do much of anything with the arm – I am still only capable of passive motion (eg leaning over and letting the right arm dangle to and fro; or using a cane in my left hand to move my right arm in different directions).  But I am nevertheless able to reach far above my head in two different directions as of 12 days into PT… which means I will likely get back to normal more quickly AND I don’t have as much to worry about in terms of complications.

Ike keeps a scaly eye on my healing process

Ike keeps a scaly eye on my healing process

That said, I have at least 5 more weeks in the sling, according to the last appointment with the surgeon.  I am to slowly leave the arm out of the sling each day, to get the elbow more comfortable with being unbent (though I assure you, it is massively uncomfortable to do so, yeesh), all the while continuing with my twice-daily exercises at home to maintain the gains from PT sessions (which are three times per week).

The road ahead (and the return to eventually using my own car)

The fact that I am least in pain when reclining, so I have every reason to research interesting plans and projects for the months ahead, once I am the two-armed man again.  Besides looking into gargoyle geckos and the design and construction of a 100% self-sustaining vivarium for them (stay tuned approx 14 months from now, once I am settled somewhere and have the money to build it, God-willing), I have been doing a great deal of systematic reading about my car, and ways to finally iron out the rest of the intermittent power loss issue (uphill on the highway, the engine sometimes goes into ‘limp mode’ and slows me down to 50mph… not especially fun).

now stored away as I mend

now stored away as I mend

But I have also read about performance and efficiency enhancements, to say nothing of adding utility AND good lucks to that wondrous diesel machine of mine.  A short list, for the interested:

-new camshaft, upgrades for the engine computer, bigger fuel injection nozzles – interestingly enough, well-designed diesel engines like this 1Z Volkswagen TDI become MORE efficient when you give them more fuel and performance engine components.  I am told I might be able to kiss 60 miles per gallon if I drive super careful on the highway… but 55mpg will be normal.   So worth it/LOL PRIUSUX
-need to try and fix the three spots of cosmetic rust, so the car can last to the 1 million miles I have planned for it
-very understated accent paint on things like the edge of the front grille, the canoe tiedown points, brake calipers
-painting the majority of my rooftop cargo carrier to match the car’s Storm Grey; doing the rim of the lid with the same aforementioned accent color (specifics still unclear)
-possiblt turn the interior into an altar to the stars and outer space (beyond just being the MFALCON, more on this later)
-slowly figure out a utility trailer, buy and renovate it as needed, to enable me to move out of New Haven without renting anything + to help me build my own house one day by transporting materials with my own gear!
Mind you, I can afford none of this now, and won’t soon have any money.  But I thrive on planning and tweaking things to improve them…

Post-Yale plans

So then, to close I offer a short update on where I hope to go, and what I want to do once I depart this place.

1) I am unwilling to pay rent any longer. I am going to carefully look into the “where” and strive to purchase land if at all possible; the “what” I do ought to be secondary to joining a community where I can flourish

2) I am at my best when I help others, but the lifestyle encouraged by academia (namely living beyond my means on loans while talking about sustainability) just doesn’t do it for me any more.  I want a goddamned salary to start paying down debt; as much as I feel drawn to a place like DC to dive into helping others, it would be arch-hypocrisy to live beyond my means while trying to encourage others to be sustainable.  So the “what I do” is wider open than before, which is both exciting and nervewracking.

3) I have had my fill of urban spaces.  I need to be where folks are friendly and where I would have lots of open, quiet space within which to meditate and purge my system of years of built-up annoyance and bitterness at all manner of things. Maybe not QUITE “My side of the mountain,” but close seems to be my ideal.  Any suggested locales to research would be appreciated.

4) Finally, there is an opportunity in front of me which would fulfill a lot of these hopes. I cannot say much still, but prayers and kind thoughts would be much appreciated.

This post brought to you by one-handed typing. ow.

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By the sign of the Trident – right shoulder surgery, x2

Preparing for the one-armed days ahead

The surgeries, I was told by my friends and the surgeon and Internet research, that I should expect to spend many moons after surgery being unable to sleep or indeed sit comfortably without a recliner… and I put figured that reading books would be difficult with one arm alone.

So.

Recliner was acquired for a song and only part of a dance (read: $45) from Craigslist and is close to brand new.  Installed it into the basement (not realizing it would eventually need to be moved to my bedroom, as the pain meds made 2 flights of stairs to the bathroom in my house).

That left the issue of reading.

So I decided a $200 consumer book stand meant for reading from any angle (standing, sitting, reclining, laying down, etc) was overpriced without even knowing it maxed out at 4 lbs (due to the adjustable elbow being plastic).  As someone who dislikes stupid designs, this assured that I would design and build my own book stand.

So I did.

$47 or so worth of galvanized steel, Velcro, plumbing fittings, and spare lumber later, here was the final project outcome:

bookstand and recliner in the basement

bookstand and recliner in the basement

Sadly, as mentioned, the recliner had to move upstairs to my room, where it (and by extension, I) exist to this very day.

recliner in place in my bedroom so it would be closer to the restroom

recliner in place in my bedroom so it would be closer to the restroom

On the vehicular front, my stick shift car is not viable for months; thankfully, my good friend from krav maga, Andrea, owns a house with a driveway the MFALCON can live for months… and a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Mike-useable automatic transmission.  Helped her wash it, even had my dad restore the headlights while he was here after the surgery happened, and Convalescent-Mike has got wheels.

Jeep borrowed from my friend Andrea and storing my car there

Jeep borrowed from my friend Andrea and storing my car there

Merely a flesh wound…

But what were these surgeries, and why were they needed?  A question many folks have asked me, so I wanted to offer a brief timeline and explanation here.

Causes

1) in late May, whilst throwing an elbow strike at krav maga, it suddenly felt like something tore; an x-ray and 2 MRIs later, it turns out I had a tear in the posterior labarum (in short, the bundles of fibers holding the muscles to the joint);
2) I also have a genetic abnormality in the capsule of the shoulder, meaning the ligaments holding the arm to the torso formed improperly from birth; this is related to
3) the fact that I have serious hypermobility in my shoulder (think double-jointed thumbs), making my shoulders (naturally the least stable joint in the human body) dangerously prone to injury of the potentially irreparable sort in the future

initial dressing, sling, and ice pack harness

initial dressing, sling, and ice pack harness

Surgical intentions:

1) orthoscopically (incision-free) fixing the labral tear
2) an incision in the front of the shoulder to determine just how much the capsule needed fixing by reattaching it to the bone (oy)
3) poking around to make sure there were no other problems hidden from 2 MRIs (OY)

The surgery itself went quite well, with neither complication nor infection.  This whole process was far les stressful because my wonderful parents insisted on traveling the many miles from Cleveland to be with me.

And boy golly did I need the help post-surgery, as I will elaborate below.

… “the Trident?”

An odd title for this post perhaps, yes.  But odder still was the eventual removal of the dressing, and finding a blue tattooed Trident.  The surgeon, apparently, moonlights as a Greek hoplite who travels overseas to fight.

the two wounds and the Trident

the two wounds and the Trident

My body is too big for the prescribed Vicodin to touch me, so they gave me heavier-duty narcotics for the pain. And sweet Jesus I am glad they did, because the first week after was *incredibly* painful.  Even through percocet and oxycontin, and staying 6 days at the Yale Health Infirmary (the tertiary blessing in this whole debacle) I still struggled with the pain of using my ab muscles to get out of bed for using the restroom; thus my father’s presence for the first week was huge, as he could help me get up and lay down, and make me laugh in the midst of grimacing.  My mom too was present, and was an angel of medicine and maintaining cleanliness (the fear of infection given the 4 inch incision was quite pronounced).

My mom remained for the second week, and helped me all the way through, which also turned out more necessary than I realized.

Prognosis at the end of the second week post-surgery?

In short, its good.

my bike turned into exercise equipment for the winter and my healing

my bike turned into exercise equipment for the winter and my healing

In long, its goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.

I am infection- and complication-free after the most vulnerable time for those; I am off the pain meds (which means clearer head and better sleep, at the cost of pain a lot).  My friends have all been wonderful about striving to help me; my professors have been understanding; and my wonderful parents, prior to returning home, made sure I was as prepped as I could be.

my friends Matt and Jess, bringing me get-well apple cobbler

my friends Matt and Jess, bringing me get-well apple cobbler

That said, one-armed-living ain’t always fun. Had to buy shoes with clasps and Velcro (Tevas, a la my friend Tom).  And a grabber tool.  And other such tools.  Not all foods can be eaten one-handed; even fewer can be prepared.  Nevertheless, I fight ever onwards, ever upwards.

Another 3-5 weeks in the sling; an indeterminate number of months of physical therapy to follow.

And now you know the rest of the story.

my mom and I enjoying lunch on the new chairs she bought me

my mom and I enjoying lunch on the new chairs she bought me

dinner with my folks before they depart after two weeks of caring for me

dinner with my folks before they depart after two weeks of caring for me

enjoying fresh air towards healing fully

enjoying fresh air towards healing fully