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On the Mend: Return to Work



This entry is part 9 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 10 | Part 11


I visited my doctor Tuesday, May 6th, 2014, for my surgical follow-up. The first thing he asked me was how I felt. I told him, "Pretty good." He asked how my arm was doing, and I told him about the range of motion I've been able to achieve on my own. (I can raise it up to my side at about a 30 or 40 degree angle from my body.)

He told me that my rotator cuff was badly damaged. He didn't "fix it" so much as "repair some of the damage." I'll never, he says, have 100% usage of the joint, again. He estimated from 66% to 75%, but no more. I was a little crestfallen to hear that, because I really use my right hand a lot. I'm severely right-handed, as I've explained before.

He also said that because I had quite a bit of arthritic damage to the bones of the joint, he ground off quite a bit of bone, so I should actually have less pain than I originally had.

Now . . . I wasn't aware of any arthritis pain. Honestly. Sure, when I would try to put my arms behind my head, there'd be a small twinge in my shoulders and elbows, but . . . I just chalked that down to being vastly out of shape and having zero flexibility. I guess maybe that was the arthritis?

I never thought of myself as having a high threshold of any kind of pain. I'm one of those people who can't walk barefoot through the grass in my yard because there are sharp stalks that poke my tender soles. When I was a kid, mind you, I could run on sun-baked, gravel-paved streets and not even notice the sharp rocks or the searing heat.

Ah, youth.

Maybe I had been having more pain than I realized? Is that possible? To be in pain, but just not notice it? Like you don't notice the smell of onions cooking after a while because you get used to it, and then someone else walks in and it's all they can smell.

The doctor did tell my housemate right after surgery that I would not be throwing anything overhand, anymore. Well, damn. There goes my hope to get into Wimbledon or the Atlanta Braves. Still, it's one thing to hear 'repair the rotator cuff' and quite another to hear 'too much damage to fix entirely.'

At any rate, he then gave me several exercises to work at over the next month, a couple of times per day, each, to extend my flexibility, but not my strength. He said not to work on strength, yet. I showed him an exercise I've been doing that the physical therapists last October gave me, and which seemed to do me some good. He said I could keep that up, so 8 to 10 times per day, I do those. Twice or so per day, I'm to do a pendulum thing, where I bend over and let my arm hang loose from the shoulder, and just swing the arm back and forth, letting gravity do the work for me. I'm also supposed to "climb" my hand up a wall twice or so per day, trying to raise the arm at greater angles. And finally, I'm supposed to get a pulley I can put over a door and use my good arm to raise my bad arm as high as I can, while putting no resistance with the bad arm. I'm not to use it to raise my good arm.

I intend to look for a pulley and rope at Home Depot or Lowe's or something. Maybe one of them will have something that won't cost me an arm and a leg <rimshot>.

Now, I know what you're thinking, because not only was I thinking it, as well, but so has everyone I've told all this to, and so did my Workers Comp representative (Some Woman) when I spoke with her yesterday morning. You're thinking, "Where's the physical therapy?"

This particular doctor doesn't think it's necessary, as long as I follow his instructions and do the exercises. They are, after all, the same ones the PTs will give me, and the only difference is, when I do them myself, I won't have the added cost of visiting a PT, and I won't get the massage, moist heat, or ice pack afterward. Those felt pretty good, actually, even when my joint wasn't going to get better because of the rotator cuff being bunched up behind the joint in a pile instead of spread out like it should be.

If I can't keep up the exercises, he'll send me to PT. It's almost like a threat. Some Woman thought he's nuts, but on the other hand, it means they don't have to approve of and then pay for more "medically unnecessary" physical therapy, right? (Did you hear the scorn in my voice, there? I wasn't trying to hide it.)

As of yesterday (Wednesday, May 7, 2014), I'm back at work. I sit at a computer and type all day, so it's not like it's a big difference from what I was doing at home, which was to sit at a computer and type all day. Now, I just have less air conditioning and a less comfortable chair. The only issue was whether I could drive or not, and he gave me the green flag for that, as well. The only thing that hurts while driving is when I have to reach out to put the car into drive (or park, or reverse, or whatever; it's an automatic), or when I have to reach forward to press the button to open or close the garage door. The rest I can either do with my left hand or it'll just have to not get done.

I don't see the doctor again until June 3rd, so unless there are more infuriating things that happen between now and then, this will probably be the last you'll hear on this topic for a bit. Probably. Unless.


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Comments

( 4 hisses — Hiss at me! )
(Deleted comment)
kaasirpent
May. 9th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
Someone else brought up the prospect of "loss of use." I'll pursue that avenue. As much as I hate to admit it, it's my word against Some Woman's as to the sequence of things, and who delayed what. So a lawsuit isn't going to do anyone any good other than the lawyers. IMHO.
trilobits
May. 9th, 2014 11:31 am (UTC)
"extra PT"
Feel yer pain bro. Currently dealing with insurance over PT, for an LCL issue, nothing but a referral slip...not good enough. Guess we are supposed to become dropout cancer laden addicts who turn our lives around so we can get a reality show where people say we're so heroic. God forbid we prevent disease, or actually get stronger or more healthy. Lets just react to bad things and pay for that until it doesn't look like it can cause any further cost to the system? Sorry you have to struggle with this man. Heal up good.
kaasirpent
May. 9th, 2014 03:26 pm (UTC)
Re: "extra PT"
If I ever injure myself at work again, I'm going to leave and claim it happened at home. I don't need this.
( 4 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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