Posted tagged ‘Rotator cuff surgery’

The Gift

December 24, 2010

You guys do remember that I’m taking all these recent pictures with just one hand, right?  So, sometimes the photos are not so hot, but I post them anyway because they’re the best I could do all by myself, like a big girl, and that’s what counts to me.  And paradoxically, at the same time that I’ve been cultivating this me do it attitude, I also get daily lessons in humility that remind me how dependent I am upon others right now.

For example, it’s not only in the movies that trees fall over when you’re in the middle of decorating them.  In this case Shel had put the tree in the stand and gone off to Seattle, after securing my assurance that there was no trouble I could possibly get into while decorating the tree one-handed. But, inevitably, gravity had its way with me and I found myself with a half-decorated tree that had fallen over, and powerless to do anything about it one-handed.

An emergency phone call produced Tom and Louise who sawed and tugged and set the tree back upright.  I was beyond thrilled that they had saved the day, and they, apparently were thrilled to be called upon to help.  People really do want to help, and even though I’m more of a helper than a helpee, I now have to let myself be helped every day with the most mundane of tasks.

But I was bound and determined that I could decorate the tree by myself.  We were in Europe for the past three Christmases, so I hadn’t seen my ornaments for four years. My tree is always the least chic, most eclectic jumble imaginable.  I have this little Santa and a host of other little people that I made from an elaborate  kit back when Jordan was a baby. A red feather given to me by Kathy.

A little bunny that I made one year when I was too poor to buy any ornaments, let alone a kit to make them. Christmas tree as time travel.

My multicultural sari-clad angel has recently risen to the top, following the demise of a large gilded Mexican bird that used to reside there.

These snuggle up comfortably with large red foil spiders left from my own childhood tree, an onion ornament left from the days before I was a cook, a ferry boat ornament left from before the days when we lived on an island, a slice of gold-sprayed dried orange turned ornament, left from Jordan’s kindergarten class 30 years ago, a bit of everything from my life to date, except that there’s nothing French hanging there.  When we go back to France in the spring I’ll be looking for things to adorn next year’s tree.

But the real gift has been having this opportunity to become a child again. Still sleeping in the recliner three weeks after my surgery, this is the view from my improvised bed.  A childhood dream, the tree looming over my pillow, presents heaped at my feet, Shel to tuck me into my nest every night and turn out the light.  Shel having learned to scrunch gel into my hair, choose my earrings and fit them into the little holes in my ears.  Shel who put a glass of fresh water by my bed every night, next to a little bowl of pills. Shel who chops the onions and does the laundry, Shel who lays the fire and plays the guitar when I feel like singing.

All this and much, much more Shel does for me every day that I may regain the full and painless use of my shoulder. He cares for me as you do for a child, but he treats me like an adult. The shoulder is my gift from Shel, and Shel is my gift from the universe. It’s ok, Santa, there’s no need to stop at our house, my gift’s already here.

Half In The World

December 10, 2010

Now that I’ve gotten about half of the post-operative narcotics out of my life, I can do about half of the things I want to do, given that I only have one half of my normal complement of hands to work with.  I can eat a ripe cheese straight from a dull knife, but I can’t spread it on anything nor use a sharper implement. I can go to the store but I can’t hand-write a grocery list nor drive there, I can’t hold a plastic produce bag and put shallots in it, it’s one or the other, and as a further indignity my cart-pushing skills are questionable.

I can put on my pants and shoes, but not my shirts and socks. That might be more of a visual than you really needed, but I’ll tell you that such modesty as I might ever have had has really gone out the window since I have to ask for help with these hitherto intimate tasks.  For heaven’s sake, I can’t even put on my own darn sling, now my frustratingly constant companion and source of many undesired sympathetic glances from utter strangers.

I can plan a menu, set and clear the table, but I can’t cook, except to stir the pot.  That actually has  a good side, as Shel is re-discovering that he enjoys cooking. I can feed Beppo and Zazou their cat crunchies by opening the bag with my teeth, but I can’t pop the top on their canned food. Since they are accustomed to grabbing their food directly with their teeth, they don’t look at me askance when I put the bag of Royal Canin in my mouth, but personally, I feel reduced to a weirdly primal level each time I do it. Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.

So, enough about me.  Here’s something interesting about you.  This current cookbook giveaway drew more names in the hat than any other book I’ve ever posted, which strikes me as unusual, given that a lot of French Letters readers are here for the food. It is a very nice book, though, with a foodie spin on weight loss, so if you weren’t the lucky winner, you might want to seek out the book elsewhere. And without further ado:

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for Great Cooking Every Day is Julie H..  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

A Lopsided Life

December 3, 2010

I don’t know what this spider’s excuse is for being so off-center, but I sure know mine. I’m now the proud possessor of four small holes in my right shoulder which really don’t look like anything at all. Along with assorted stitchery there are also two metal anchors in the bone of my shoulder that are invisible to the naked eye, and I sure hope that I don’t get into any arguments with the TSA over them, because they’d have to kill me before I’d let them touch my shoulder the way it feels right now. The lightest touch yesterday brought me to tears, but the doctor told me to take more drugs, and so I am, and that does help. I’m still not up to a pat-down, but I can let Shel put my new blue flannel pyjamas on me without biting his ear off in a pain-crazed fit, so that’s saying something.

I do keep thinking about France, though.  How in France I’d be spending several days in the hospital, whereas here we arrived home just a couple of hours after my surgery. Of course, maybe in France I wouldn’t have had that pain pump catheter implanted in my shoulder at all, since the French don’t seem to be as pain-averse as Americans are.  But I can’t imagine a French hospital sending me home with a pump shooting numbing medicine directly into my inner shoulder every ten seconds, with instructions about how to remove said catheter myself after a couple of days when the medicine was all gone.  In the event, pulling the catheter out wasn’t nearly as bad as imagining the whole business in advance had been, and the minute it was out I wished it were back in again, with a great big refill, because I hadn’t really known what pain was until that little tube was out of there.  Basically it felt like a cement truck ran right over my shoulder. A fully loaded cement truck.

So now I have one arm that doesn’t work at all, tightly strapped to my chest except when I have to set it free to do my physical therapy exercises.  It’s probably laughable, to call moving your arm one puny little inch “exercise,” but my piteous mewlings, elicited by the least bit of movement, would wipe the smile off the face of anyone but an orthopedic surgeon, who’s heard it all before. And then I have one arm and hand that have heretofore lived the life of Riley, never being called upon for much.  It’s a hand that can’t outsmart a child-proof pill bottle, nor open a bottle of wine, thereby reducing me to feeling like a teenager all over again with my “hey baby, would you please feed me more drugs?” Or more like a toddler, with “would you please pull up my pants and put on my fuzzy striped socks?” I did manage to take a shower all by myself like a big grownup, if you don’t count the fact that I couldn’t dry my back, but hey, lots of people like to have someone dry their backs, so that part wasn’t too discouraging.

The surgeon says it all went perfectly, and all the doctors and physical therapists say that I just have to make it through the first couple of weeks and then I’ll start feeling better. They all tell me to take more drugs, lots of drugs, and so long as those pills don’t keep me from my pathetically slow and error-ridden left-handed typing, I’ll be swallowing them like clockwork.

I actually think I’m in better shape than that spider, because my home’s intact and warm, my freezer’s reasonably stocked with food I cooked in advance, my closet’s full of clothes that button up the front and a husband to button them for me, the wine rack is well-supplied, friends are calling and writing all the time with offers of help, and I have Shel to pull my pants up and down as many times a day as I want.  How lucky is that?

Brave New World

November 28, 2010

What’s the opposite of ambidexterity? Whatever it is, it’s got my name written all over it.  I’m the most single-mindedly right handed person I know, using my left hand only for things that take two hands, or to balance things I’m doing with my right hand. Oh, and I mouse left-handed, a habit I picked up when my right shoulder started to hurt.

And so, thanks to a tear in the rotator cuff of that shoulder, today will be the last day I’m allowed to use my right hand for the foreseeable future. Tomorrow I’m having rotator cuff surgery, after which, my whole world will change for quite some time.  With a surgery like this one, it’s good to take the long view.  Very long.  It apparently takes a year to get fully back to normal after this operation.  For me, that’s way too long a view, I can’t really fathom it.  I’ve heard that it will take six months before I can put my right hand on top of my head.  It’s a good thing my hair parts naturally, but that’s still a hard chunk of time to swallow.

It will be three months before I’m allowed to drive.  Now we’re talking  a timespan I can really imagine, and what I imagine is that I’m going to hate having to be driven everywhere like a little kid, even by a willing chauffeur like Shel. Worse, oh much worse, it will be three months before I can use my right hand to cook.  I won’t be able to hold a knife, since if I tried to do that with my left hand mayhem and bloodshed would surely ensue. No stirring the pot with one hand while sprinkling in salt with the other.  No whipping cream with a whisk and bowl. No cracking walnuts and picking out the meat.  No peeling garlic. No lifting heavy clay pots into and out of the oven, one of life’s most satisfying kitchen moments.

Not to mention sundry other indignities.  No pulling on a pullover sweater. No picking up cats as they stroll by the right hand side of my chair. No fastening my bra. No trailing my hand along the banister as I walk down the stairs.

And then there’s the six week time frame.  Right arm in a sling day and night, no using it, NO exceptions. Which means no typing with it.  Although a quick Google search reveals at least a page of instructional videos and tips for one-handed typing, so maybe I’ll acquire a new skill. No getting myself dressed, which means that even though I’ve invested in a mini-wardrobe of clothes that button and zip up the front, I’ll have to stand like a doll while Shel puts them on me.  That might sound romantic for about 30 seconds, but I imagine the thrill will wear off rather quickly. No cutting up my own food. No sleeping in our bed with Beppo curled up next to my pillow, I’ll be bedding down in a recliner only.  Stuff like that. Virtually no normal life.

Like any sensible person, I’ve been practicing doing things left handed. Want to play along? Just go into the bathroom tomorrow morning and do every single thing with only your non-dominant hand.  Some of the simplest-seeming things turn out to be extremely difficult. I won’t mention what they are, I’ll let you be surprised.

So today’s the last day for me to put up some holiday decorations, even though it’s so early.  The last day to cook up a huge pot of soup because I think that for the next week it’s going to be all pain and narcotics, and soup might be all I can manage.  The last day to go secret Christmas shopping, sew the button on my favorite green sweater, cook up some pork cheeks and lamb shanks to add to the collection of dinners banked in my freezer.  The last day to take pictures with the Nikon for I don’t know how long, although I think I might be able to manage the little Canon with just one hand. The last day to cut my toenails.  Jeepers.

And then, inevitably, tomorrow will be the first day of my new left-handed life. Possibly I’ll become a whole new person, as I use different parts of my brain for virtually every task.  Except mousing. At least that one thing will be comfortingly familiar. And I’ll be talking to you again soon. I just hope I won’t be talking out of the other side of my mouth.