Broken shoulder, crippled girl. Always in pain, always aware of every muscle and every bone, every bump in the road, every slight movement which jars her shoulder.
I know her. She is safe, familiar and predictable. She is not who I was, but she is who I have become over the past ten years. It started so innocently, shoulder pain I couldn’t manage. Then, two botched shoulder surgeries, rotator cuff torn twice, arthritis, the shoulder of an old woman. A fall off a porch which completely tears the rotator cuff off the bone. The doctor’s assistant says, “Your arm is f—–and she does nothing. Orders no tests, has no solution. She says, “Why bother, we know it’s destroyed.”
Broken shoulder, crippled girl spends thousands as she visits three more doctors in three different states and they politely tell her that they can’t help her. Two more doctors in Florida. (Four states total.)
One doctor she turns down, she doesn’t trust him and he is arrested a short time later for Medicaid fraud. Doing unnecessary operations. Good instincts.
The other doctor says he can help her, but she will never lift her right arm above her waist again. He shows her a device bigger than both her shoulder joints! She actually considers it and schedules the surgery because at this point, she would allow a doctor to cut her arm off.
Then her husband, God bless him, he says there has to be a better solution. He does research on the internet and he finds a doctor he thinks she should consider. He shows her the doctor’s web site and they watch the surgery together, the same surgery she would have on her right shoulder. She calls the doctor’s office and expects the usual run-around (fax us all your medical records and we will let you know if the doctor will see you) but she is given an appointment for the next week. When she meets the doctor, he says he not only can, but he will fix her shoulder and she will have complete use of her right arm again.
Hope, barely visible for so many years, hope rises like a mist in her soul. Surgery with the doctor who promises she’ll never lift her arm high enough to curl her hair again is cancelled.
Hope rises like the bright orange and peach rays of a sunrise over the Oklahoma prairie.
But wait. What will happen when her shoulder is fixed, no longer a crutch to lean on, an excuse to leave herself out of life, too hurt to move, too aching with the pain to even want to breathe, who will she be when that is gone?
She never asked to become the crippled girl, it just happened, but she did her part, learned to adjust, learned to live in constant, agonizing pain. Even a living Hell, if it is home, even Hell can become the place where you learn to live. When you are stuck there, you fix the place up, do the best you can and you own it. Where did she live before the pain, who was she before she became the broken shoulder, crippled girl? When did she become this handicapped woman?
It was a slow process from there to here. One bad surgery changed her life and then another to fix it made it even worse, the pain became unbearable, but she had not chosen the pain.
She didn’t want the pain, she searched for doctors to help her and she visited doctors in three states and not one doctor would touch the mess.
So, she lived with the unbearable, she adjusted, she compensated, but she changed.
She has never quite given up the hope, even when the hope was a ghost she could not touch, years of chasing a dream that if one doctor could cause the pain, maybe, just maybe, another doctor could find a way to take away the pain.
Now, here she is, miracle of miracles, on the edge of being fixed after so many have said no. Now, one young doctor has said yes, I can help you. Young enough to be her son. As the day draws near, she is excited but she is also afraid.
He tells her he will do a reverse shoulder replacement. He will return full use of her arm and now she is hoping, hoping with all her heart, with every breath, hope shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow and all the glimmers in her soul, hoping that it’s true, praying that he can do what he has promised.
Yet, pain has become a way of life and she knows from experience, he could actually make it worse. Plus, if you take away the pain, what will replace her obsession? Who will the broken-shoulder, crippled girl be when she is a girl without a mission? Her mission for the last ten years has been simple. Find a doctor who will fix her arm.
Her daily chores now are simple, manage to get showered and to get herself dressed, do a little laundry, clean a tiny corner of the house, survive, just survive, collapse after supper in tears from pushing her broken shoulder to its limit all day.
Sometimes she just barely manages to get out of bed and get herself showered, crawling back into sweats and a tee-shirt by 4:00 P.M.
Sometimes, that is the only chore she can complete in twenty-four hours.
She will need a new mission, a new attitude.
Is she so attached to the pain now after all these years or is she attached to the pain pills that she has needed to swallow in order to move her shoulder, to dress, to eat, to live? Pain pills that barely touch the bone scraping on bone agony, just enough relief to stop her from screaming aloud, to stop her from jumping off a bridge in total desperation.
If the operation is a success and she believes it will be, because Doctor Levy has looked directly at her and promised with words that touch her heart, then she knows the pain pills have to go away too.
Ten longs years of four pain pills a day. What has that done to her brain, to her motivation? Are you afraid broken shoulder, crippled girl? Are you afraid to be whole, free from excruciating pain?
Is pain addictive or are the pain pills you have counted on addictive? Are you still strong underneath the pain or has your spirit been damaged too? Are you strong enough to fight when the pain is stripped away?
You have been fighting so hard, for so very long, but you always knew the enemy. PAIN. Pain has ruled your life for a decade, so what will rule your life after your pain is gone? What ruled your life before the pain?
Writing. Will you write again, will the ideas pour out of your mind and once again stream into articles, will the keyboard return as your best friend and will it be an extension of your right arm again, an extension of who you are once more?
Yes, I think so. I remember that woman who would write day and night, night and day, write and write. Will she come back to me? Wait. I think I see her at my keyboard. Yes, that’s her, writing, inspired by a glimmer of hope, flirting with the very idea, the hope of becoming more than the broken shoulder, crippled girl. She will trust this doctor, take a chance.
Post Note: My shoulder operation was performed one week after I wrote this article in October, 2011. It was a total success. My surgeon was Dr. Jonathan Levy from the Holy Cross Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He used a prototype that allows full movement (his own invention) to replace my shoulder joint, in reverse. Besides a twinge now and then when I forget to exercise the arm or to take a break from the computer, my arm is healed. I’ve had 99% range of motion since just two months after the surgery. I have several types of arthritis, and I still have a severely damaged spine and a broken joint in my right foot, but the pain from each is bearable with one-third the amount of medication and this pain, while keeping me from wearing pretty shoes or walking any distance, this pain does not run my life.
Once more, I run my life. I finished a book that I started twenty-odd-years ago, the year after my surgery and now, once more, I write something every day. I started this blog after my surgery and then I met Michelle Marie and we started thinkingpinkx2.
The creative thoughts flow so fast that I cannot even keep up and yes, I am truly living once more, not just surviving.
Thank you, Doctor Levy. (First picture)
The two cuties in the second and third picture are my husband Jerry and my son Rick. Thank you guys, you are my heroes. Rick was in a serious car accident just two months before my surgery and when he flew from Oklahoma to Florida to help me out after my surgery, it was a miracle to see him walk in my door under his own steam. After what I saw him recover from, just having him with me gave me courage. But that’s another story…