Coffee heat rising

Just can’t believe it…

So up at the Mayo they told me it looks like I may have to have surgery for a torn rotator cuff, in the shoulder that got dislocated when I fell on Easter.

It takes six months to recover from this. At least. One site says it takes up to a year to recover. My arm will be in a sling for four to six weeks! Think of that. My life came to a screeching halt when I had to wear a sling for just a couple of weeks. According to the University of Washington’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine site, you have to have convalescent help for three months after the surgery, and if you have no one to help you (that would be me!), you may have to go into a nursing home.

At the very least I’ll have to hire someone to come into my home to clean and help me fix meals, and I’ll also have to hire a pool guy. And what’s going to happen to my house and my little dog if I have to go into a convalescent home?

If I can stay at home at all, I’ll have to use my emergency fund to hire help. I do have nursing home insurance, but you have to meet several requirements for it to kick in, and I don’t think not being able to use one arm will fill the bill. A year’s worth of cheapskate living expenses won’t go far to keep me in a convalescent home.

Meanwhile, I’ll lose my teaching gigs. Adjuncts have no sick leave, and no slack is cut: you’re there or you’re not. If you’re not, you don’t get paid. I won’t be able to drive for quite some time after the surgery, and of course, I can’t teach an online course if I can’t type. Funny will go dark, so even the tiny pittance I’m making from Adsense will go away.

They’re going to do an MRI on Friday to see how much damage has been done. There’s only one tiny sliver of hope: the P.A. said sometimes ongoing pain is caused by tendonitis, and if that’s the case, a steroid shot may bring down the inflammation. And that possibility is not out of the questions: the symptoms do resemble impingement syndrome, which is apparently a combination of tendonitis and bursitis, also brought on by an injury. This can respond to nonsurgical treatments, and if you do need surgery, the recovery period is shorter and not so drastic.

On the other hand, the symptoms resemble those of a torn rotator cuff, too.

If the rotator cuff tear is small, he said, some people choose to just learn to live with the pain. In that case, it will never go away—the pain will be permanent. But at least I wouldn’t lose what little remains of my livelihood.

Very nice. But I can barely take care of my house and yard with the arm hurting the way it does. If I choose not to have the surgery—if the injury is minor enough that I can get away with that—I’ll have to sell this place and move someplace that doesn’t require so much work to maintain. And presumably over time I’ll lose more and more function. You can already see the difference between the two arms in the muscle size and tone. If this continues for years, eventually the left arm won’t be good for much.

My God. I can’t believe this!

20 thoughts on “Just can’t believe it…”

  1. I’m very sorry that the possible prognosis for your injury is so alarming.

    I hope what I read here was worst-case journaling and that it was therapeutic; we all have different coping mechanisms when frightened and after following your blog for more than a year, I suspect FaM serves that purpose for you. But please, for the sake of your blood pressure and your sanity, take a deep breath while repeating your money happens mantra–you’ve made me a believer.

    I hope that your MRI reveals better than expected news. All the best,


  2. As above. And IF the worst is what happens, you really should avail yourself of whatever social services are around: meal delivery, for one thing.

    As for on-line teaching–I would bet you could create a rubric form for grading and then fill it out with a number or check in each category. Students don’t read comments anyway.

  3. @ Robin & Frugal: Thanks! I’m hoping this is all a dark moment before dawn. It’s worrisome; a friend had rotator cuff surgery and said it was the most painful thing she’d ever been through. So yeah, you bet I’m frightened, but I’m a great deal more frightened of having to deal with infirmity alone. SDXB said the “home care” you get through Medicare is pretty unimpressive — all he got was someone to come in and take his blood pressure and ask him if he’d taken his meds. Fortunately, he had New Girlfriend there to help out.

    I already grade by rubrics but don’t think I can get away with giving a student, say, a 2 out of 5 possible without entering SOME kind of explanation. However, BlackBoard 9 does have that audio component. I guess it would be possible to read comments into that. Something else to learn this summer!

    LOL! Of course, the very fact that no one is here to help me could explain why the pain still lurks: I’ve had to do all the work around here, pain or no pain, and so it’s probably irritated things in there. And of course, because I’m allergic to aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, I can’t take any anti-inflammatories.

  4. Oh no! That does not sound good. However, hopefully what you’ve described ends up being the worst-case scenario. You could probably use something like Dragon to speak your comments, or type one-handed. (Slow, but doable.)

  5. Oh dear heavens, I really truly hope that it’s just you’ve been keeping it from truly settling down with doing all that work around the house and yard. And it’s really an awful lot of work – is there any way you can cut that back whether or not it turns out this is a worst-case scenario?

  6. What about help from family and friends? Freeze-ahead meals for the microwave? Have you an extra bedroom? Wouldn’t someone love to live in your part of the world for a month, in exchange for a bit of housework and cooking? Where do all your students go in the summer months?

    Just some ideas – not easy ones, I realise. Hope you have better news and that this is not worst case.

  7. @ Shelley: Truth to tell, I have no family and friends. My friends, who are few, have jobs and families; they can’t take off to babysit me. My son is likewise occupied. Because no one visits me, my spare bedroom is a storage room containing shelves of food and a freezer that makes more noise than one would want to sleep with. The TV room might be tricked out with a bed, but I’d have to buy one, buy a dresser, and move all my clothes out of the closet in there. I’m barely eking by this summer with no extra expenses…I can’t afford to buy furniture! To get by on my summer income of almost nothing, I don’t run the AC until I can’t stand the heat anymore, and so during the day the house gets much warmer than most people will tolerate.

    Besides, the prospect of having a stranger living in my house…gosh. Like I don’t have enough problems!

    Freeze-ahead food is a good idea, although how I would manage to make enough for three months, plus enough for the dog, is a question.

    From what I can tell, my arm would be pretty much useless for around three months. That really would require me to hire two people to help — inside the house and with that damn pool. Meanwhile, it also would cause me to lose an entire semester of work. Not that I’m paid much…but it’s just enough to allow me to get by without having to pull much down from savings.

    Social Security covers less than half my living expenses. If I have to start pulling down enough savings to live on, not enough will be left to cover me when I reach genuinely old age and cannot work at all. Before the crash, I actually had enough to live on, but when the economic depression hit, so much was lost from savings that I now need to avoid withdrawing anything for at least another five years. Even then, with no extra cash going to investments, it’s questionable whether I’ll have enough to see me through to the grave.

    In Arizona, Social Services are limited to people who really are destitute. I am not destitute. Because I have savings — nevvermind that their purpose is to provide for me for the next 20 or 25 years, not to be spent today — I am ineligible for any kind of assistance.

    LOL! Weirdly, the arm is actually feeling a little better right this instant. This is the first time in weeks that it hasn’t hurt when I woke up. But then, I’ve only been in bed about three hours. 😉

  8. Have you thought about having a “Donate” button included on your blog? That way, people who enjoy reading your blogs and would like to contribute something could do so. I’ve seen the “Donate” buttons on other blogs and I believe they utilize Paypal or credit card payments. Just a thought as I’m sure you have folks out here who might like to help out in little ways……

  9. Another thought – maybe you can take some time now to set up your house for easy care. I know it’s hot, but you may have to consider closing your pool just before surgery (sob!). While you have your incision healing it’s not a good idea to swim anyway. There are a slew of devices like jar openers and such that will allow you manage with one working hand, and if you do a google search you can find one-handed typing charts for either hand. The allergies to anti-inflammatory drugs just stink, and I wish I knew something that could help you.
    Above all, remember that your emergency fund is there for situations like this – emergencies don’t always come in urgent forms, sometimes they do give you warning. You currently have a chance to set up a living environment that will allow you to live (mostly) independently.
    Almost forgot – after pre-made frozen meals run out, you may want to look at AngelFood Ministries. They offer a once a month opportunity to buy food at discounted rates, and in the past I have pre-ordered enough food to see my family through the month and loaded the freezer. They offer “seniors” boxes that have heat and eat meals, produce boxes, meat packages… best of all, there are NO income requirements. If you eat, you qualify. It’s the fastest shopping trip ever, and our branch always has strapping young men ready to assist you in loading the car. (Unloading is harder. Help would be in order.)
    Don’t lose faith! Things will work out.

  10. @ Kelly– Yeah, he told me I won’t be able to swim for the rest of the summer. But in Arizona you don’t “close” pools. Certainly not in 110-degree heat. It’s against the law to let a pool go green, and the only way you can keep it from going green when the water is like bathwater is to keep it clean and the chemicals balanced. That is a daily job–it can’t be put off to be done once a week. You can’t drain a plaster-lined pool in the summer, because the plaster will crack in the heat and then you’ll have a $8,000 replastering job.

    I’ll look in to the food and see if someone will deliver cooked foods. I probably also can subsist on those icky frozen TV dinners, too. Trader Joe’s has a number of frozen prepared foods that don’t look too poisonous. They’re just so salty and they taste so awful…ech.

  11. Re: the anti-inflammatories: I am not supposed to take them due to taking high blood pressure medicine. But I can take oxaprozin (generic Daypro) for arthritis. Maybe that would work for your shoulder. You could ask your doc.

    If I lived in AZ I would come help you. 🙂 I think many of us who read you think of you as a friend, and friends Do help out. Ask any of your cast of characters…I am sure you’ll get a few volunteers. Even SDXB and NG would help 🙂

  12. Thanks, kerryann! Wouldn’t it be neat if virtual friends could morph into flesh-&-blood friends in the same room? Maybe one day we’ll be able to beam ourselves up!

    SDXB is back in the hospital. NG is in Colorado, so SDXB’s daughter is driving about 50 miles a day to tend to him around caring for her remaining child. I have had appointments and meetings every day since this started and so haven’t been able to drive to Sun City myself; if he’s still locked up today I may be able to get out there after my noon appointment. My son is mad at me and refuses to answer either telephone calls or e-mails. So I’m pretty much on my own.

  13. I know you’re feeling frightened and overwhelmned right now but you are an amazingly resourceful woman. All of us have, as a first reaction, a list of why we can not possibly cope with (X) situation. But when you finally find out exactly which scenario you must deal with……you will deal with it.

    Part of your current fear is you don’t know how far down the well you’re actually falling….a tiny bit or half way to the bottom. When you DO know, your smarts and your tenacity will kick in. You’ll figure out economic and physical ways to cope. It will even become a bit of a game to outsmart the naysayers.

    You have listed every reason why you can’t cope, but that will pass and you’ll soon be coming up with ideas of how you WILL cope. I know we’ll be reading about it here.

    Chin up, we’re all waiting to hear what clever ideas you come up with. (Yes, I mangled that sentence.) 🙂

  14. What about your church choir? Talk to the minister to see what help the church is able to offer. Maybe someone needs to be involved and won’t charge. There may be someone that is in need of extra income that could drive you, run errands, open jars. Most of those could be one afternoon a week.

    3 months seems to be a long time to be completely down. It is amazing how quickly we can adapt to a disability. This is a good time to streamline any issues you contemplate. Your largest issues will be pain control and lifting. Practice doing more with your good arm. You will have the bad arm’s hand for guiding purposes.

    Reduce your housecleaning expectations. Maybe have someone in a few hours once or twice a month. You will be able to do basics, not heavy lifting.

    Can you cover the pool with a tarp to keep out debris? Fold back a corner to add chemicals?

    I second the freezer meals. Bag individual portions that can be nuked or baked. There are freezer sites on Yahoo that can help with menus and guidelines. Even the dog food can be precooked, bagged individually and frozen. Stock up on everything you can. Grocery trips will be a pain after surgery.

    My sister had this surgery last summer. I stayed to cook and clean while she recuperated. After the first week she could have handled most things alone. No driving. No heavy lifting. Everything takes longer. Certainly doable.
    EMPTY your purse NOW! A year later she has realized how much pain her purse was causing.

    Is it time to cut your son loose? I know you bought his house jointly as an investment. Aren’t you really subsidizing his rent? His financial situation should have improved since you entered the arrangement. Maybe it is time to rent the place for its full value or for him to take over.

    Please remember you are lucky to have a huge pile of money. Don’t fret about using it now when it is needed. Saving for 20 years down the road is nice, but what if you get hit by a truck tomorrow? You will have worried and sacrificed for nothing. Get yourself over this crisis then worry about 2030. By then you may want to move and downsize.

  15. Here’s hoping it’s the non-surgical kind of owie. If it isn’t, keep in mind that the worst-case scenario is there for a reason: It forces you to think about how you will cope if recovery is difficult. When Abby was taken to the ICU and I flew down from Alaska, the first thing the neurologist asked was, “Could your home be modified for a wheelchair?” After that, he said “You need to realize that it could be two years before she walks normally.”
    Yowza. As it happens, she was out of the hospital in three months and walking “normally,” i.e. without crutches or chair, in about five months. But we needed to know what *might* happen.
    Perhaps you could try recuperating at home and see how it goes? My best friend, who was in her early 60s at the time, tripped and sustained a radial fracture that went all the way up into the rotator cuff. She was kept in a sling for more than a month because the orthopedist hoped the fracture would heal.
    It didn’t, so she had major surgery — pins, screws, plates and for all I know, slabs of sheet iron. She wasn’t healed completely for a solid year. However, she managed on her own with occasional help from friends.
    One of the hardest things was being unable to drive her stick-shift vehicle; eventually she decided to get a long-term rental car with automatic transmission, because she lives miles from anywhere and was going stir-crazy.
    Could the college office of student affairs refer you to students who need to make a few extra dollars and could be hired once a week to do a few chores and cook basic meals to leave in the fridge?
    So sorry to hear about the pain and uncertainty. I’ll send positive thoughts way south.

  16. geez louise! I so hope it is tendonitis. I know it would be far easier to deal with. Update us when you know. I know you love your independence. Can Mohijto take care of the pool for you?

    Hope it feels better soon no matter the cause. My thoughts are with you.

  17. I’ve been mulling over further…first, do call social services. You never know. You are living on socsec and part time work…They may not even ask about your financial situation. Remember–you are making the assumption that you are not eligible. You may be right. But you haven’t checked. (REMEMBER COSTCO GLASSES!!!!)

    Second, surgeons always suggest surgery. That’s what they do. I would be reluctant to have surgery if there were an alternative. Surgery doesn’t always solve the problem, for one thing. My husband and several colleagues have been avoiding recommended back surgery for years.

    Third, I second church choir. Churches have committees of people who do caring work.

    I would guess your son would step up to the plate no matter how angry he is at the moment. Does he read your blog????

    If you HAD to have the surgery–and I would seek out other therapies and opinions–could you delay it till the BEGINNING of next summer, when you would have time to plan more?

  18. @ everyone: GREAT ideas here! Thanks for offering so many sound suggestions. Love the idea of asking the college if someone could help out for a few sous. The church might have some ladies who dole out assistance. In fact, when the new pastor heard I’d lost my job, he called me on the phone (!) and said I should let them know if I was having any problems. I’d forgotten about that.

    It also occurred to me that that there’s no way I should let anyone perform surgery on just one doctor’s say-so. I definitely will seek a second opinion. Since the Mayo will have already done an MRI by then, it should be pretty easy to find someone who’ll look at the test results and opine.

    About the house and m’hijito: the job situation here is extremely bad. It was never good, even before the depression: this is a right-to-work state, and wages are so low as to cause real shock to people who move here from more enlightened regions. Because beggars can’t be choosers, few employees ever see substantial raises. My son does not earn enough to cover the entire mortgage payment. Besides, buying the house was all my idea, and the disastrous decision to get it when we did was also mine and my Realtor’s. He’s in a mess because I dreamed up a scheme to get him out of the dangerous and grim firetrap where he was living; he shouldn’t have to lose his home because of my stupidity. At least not now: eventually we probably will have to default, because neither of us can continue to pour money down a sinkhole forever.+

    One never knows: the shoulder thing may not be as drastic as the medico is suggesting. The pain comes and goes; yesterday, for example, it hardly hurt at all. Seems to me that if there were a serious tear inside there, it would hurt all the time, and I wouldn’t have the kind of mobility that I do. We’ll find out soon enough.

  19. I see BagelGirl was right – you’re already thinking in terms of solutions and more manageable outcomes. 🙂

    Re your son – can you send him something handwritten via antique mail? As others have said, he’s likely to step up if the situation becomes serious. Mad isn’t the same as “I don’t love you”.

    Re pain and healing – have you tried accupuncture? It’s proven effective for pain management, can help reduce the inflammation in the first place, and speed healing of torn tissue.
    And if it is a case of inflammation rather than a tear, there are lots of effective things you can do with diet and nutritive therapy to reduce pain and speed healing (speaking from personal experience here.) I realize insurance may not cover accupuncture and almost certainly won’t cover nutritional therapy (tho’ if you can find a good naturopath who takes your insurance, you may be able to get some of it covered that way), but investing in regaining your health would be a wise use of funds.

    Wishing you the best possible outcome.

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