Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm the Patient

On Monday, I made my foray into the realm of the patient. I had surgery on my right shoulder as a result of an injury I received while serving (non-military) in Iraq. We took mortar and rocket fire off and on and responded to those wounded in the field, but my injury was nothing sexy. I wasn’t “hit” or anything. One of the embassy guards had collapsed and I was moving him into the building to render care. I have moved many patients in the past, but when I moved this guy I felt something give in my shoulder. The pain quickly numbed down and I thought it was a strain. I iced it and scored some naproxen from the clinic, but it kept on hurting worse and for days (now months) longer than it should. Our PT tried range, exercises and TENS to little avail, so I started getting the first round of two trigger point injections and continued PT at the clinic. With no improvement, the second injection and finally a third injection came. No good. I slept in a brace and continued to eat bowls of naproxen like cereal and still managed to finish out my rotation. Finally I came back to the states where I received an MRI, more injections, more PT and finally my surgery. I know it’s not EM, but I plan to blog along on my surgery experiences just for those of you who like to live vicariously.

I had my pre-op consult with orthopedic PA Steve Smith. Nice guy. He gave me an A-C joint injection back in November that helped briefly, but ultimately, when all was said and done, my shoulder was still only about 50-60% normal function. Steve and I talked briefly about the procedure, got my consents all signed and such, but mostly we chatted. Soon after, I was ready to go. The bad part approaching surgery is I had to stop taking naproxen. Despite the commercials folks, taking Tylenol for any real pain is a severe joke. The naproxen actually worked OK. I generally shun any type of opioid, but lacking napoxen for a week really put me in touch with my inner nociceptors. I didn’t appreciate how bad the shoulder was until I had to decrease it’s use to prevent the discomfort. With this fresh in mind, I dropped off the Percocet prescription Steve gave me for post-op pain on the way home.

I worked the Smithfield ED on Saturday and Sunday and managed to get out Sunday at midnight. Made the 30 minutes drive home and then off to bed for about three hours. I had to be at Rex hospital for my surgery at 0515. My dad came to stay with me for a few days and shuttle me around, but mostly he cooked for me. This was a major morale booster. Anyway, check-in at Rex was smooth, as was my pre-op prep. Last thing I remember was Bob Wyker, my surgeon, helping get me positioned on the table, then I was in post-op with a completely dead numb right arm from the regional block. No pain, until that wore off…then I was in Percocet city for a couple of days, with a cooling unit attached to me like one of those astronaut life support systems from the 1960’s. The Polar Care 300 it is called…isn’t that just cute. Gradually, over the next couple of days the pain got better and I am getting a bit more use of the arm as time goes by. Today I am still using the Mercury-era cooling unit off and on and taking Aleve, so if anyone wants Percocet, I have extra for $ 10 a pop (just kidding).

I have my first post-op visit on the 25th, but so far so good. I worked at Rex Hospital in the ED for three years, but this was my first experience as a patient and Kudos all around. Also, as far as Dr. Bob Wyker, PA Steve Smith, and the rest of the crew at Raleigh Orthopedics, and PT Greg Hogan at Raleigh Ortho Rehab…all those guys (and gals) are the greatest in my humble opinion.

Oh, bye the way, I'm a patient and have no other association with Rex Hospital, the Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic, or Raleigh Orthopedic Rehabilitation. They're just terrific folks.

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