Surgery Looms – Alison Fujito

Well, I spent another 45 minutes in an MRI. This time round, I knew what to expect, so it wasn’t quite so daunting.

 

The
orthopedist discussed the results with me a few days ago. I showed up
for the appointment full of hope—after all, I’ve been religious about
doing my physical therapy exercises, and I’ve regained nearly all my
range of motion. Strength, however, has been extremely slow to come
back.


Anyway, there’s good news and not such good news.

The torn cartilage and one of the torn tendons seem to have mended on their own—that’s the good news. The
bad news is that the orthopedist thought that the other torn tendon
looked even worse now. That’s what is keeping me from regaining
strength. Worse, that tendon is therefore
vulnerable to further tearing, which down the road could mean a much
more difficult surgery to fix it than I would face with surgery now.

Dang—I was really hoping that I could avoid surgery altogether.

My
only hope lay in the fact that the orthopedist had not received the
final report from the radiologist who had read the MRI. What if there
was some mistake?


My
husband called a friend of his who is a radiologist, who very kindly
offered to read both the old and new MRI for us. Never ones to lose
hope easily, we rushed off to meet him. He was very kind, and even
brought a young colleague with him, who turned out to be an orthopedic
radiology resident. Together, they bent closer to the films, while my
husband and I held our breaths.

 

“Well,” said the resident. “There is definitely a tear here in the supraspinatus tendon, but I do see some fibers still attached to the bone.”

 

Some fibers?” I choked. “You see some fibers attached to the bone? Where are the other fibers?”

 

For
some reason, I felt unreasonably angry at whatever fibers that were
supposed to be attached to my bone (but weren’t). What on earth were
they thinking? How could they possibly lie down on the job and not be attached where they were supposed to? This wasn’t supposed to happen!


 

I
dragged my thoughts back to my husband’s friend, who very kindly said,
“That’s where the tear is. The tendon is very fibrous at that
particular place, and it gets very little blood flow, so healing is
very unlikely. In order to heal, it needs blood flow. It doesn’t
regenerate fibers to attach onto the bone. You really do need surgery
to fix it.”

 

My
husband and I were silent until we got back to the car. I’m not sure
what he was thinking. All I could think was, well, no wonder I couldn’t
regain any strength.

 

So
now, I’m trying to gather all my questions about the upcoming surgery
for my pre-surgery appointment with the orthopedist: how long will the
actual procedure take? When will I be able to start physical
therapy? If I’m fiercely allergic to metal, does that have any bearing
on what instruments or screws he will use? What kind of anesthesia will
be used, and who will administer it? What if things look worse through
the arthroscope than on the MRI? What are the risks? Will I regain the
full use of my arm? Will I be able to play my violin again? Will I be
able to pick up my youngest daughter again?

 

The only other question I have left is, why didn’t anyone tell me before
that the tendon was torn partway off the bone? It might not have
changed the final outcome, but it certainly would have been nice to
have that kind of knowledge, say, 3 or 4 months ago!


Oh,
well. At least, with the cartilage and the other tendon healed, it
should be a less complicated surgery. Now I need to gear myself up for
surgery—and recovery.

 

I’m
told that recovery from shoulder surgery is extremely painful. (I
imagine that’s true for any procedure where someone makes an incision
in your flesh and screws something into your bone!) I need to gear
myself up for that, too. Perhaps what may be most frustrating will be
starting over at the very beginning with the physical therapy
exercises.


And
it’s only been the last couple of weeks that my arm has felt like an
ARM again, and not a useless dangling flipper. But I remember the
recent tragedy on Route 8 here in the North Hills, and I keep reminding
myself that it’s only a shoulder.

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Jun 4