Yes, I made it through my first major operation…and it turns out to not be nearly as bad as others have had it.
My surgery was the second to be performed August 29th, at 0830 MT (as I was wheeled into surgery prep, another was being wheeled into surgery). I dressed down. An ID bracelet was attached to my other arm’s wrist, my left shoulder and chest were shaved, tubes stuck into me, lots of stuff told to me, lots of stuff verified (and, yes, they actually do mark which body part is to be operated on with a marker, verifying it multiple times with “the patient”!). Met with the anesthesiologist, an ultra-serious fast talker who barely looked up at me as he reviewed the paperwork before him. A bunch of nurses, and, finally, my surgeon—one who Fellowshipped at the world-famous Steadman Clinic, in Vail, Colorado, where the also world-renown Dr. Marc J. Philippon is the managing partner. All ready to roll, I was wheeled into surgery. My wife, Laura, was taking pictures all along this little journey of mine.
The most curious thing I noticed when wheeled into the actual surgery room was a huge picture window! I could actually see the Front Range, which I found curiously humorous in this ultra-sterile environment! I commented on this, chuckling. I said one or three more words…and the next thing I knew…I was awake, upright, and très groggy…back to where I’d started.
Things went on around me.
I tried to be more awake.
I was fitted into, what I call, my RoboSling, which is actually a brand new and innovative new version of the arm sling (it came out in March of this year). It is quite comfortable, but not everyone can wear it, because of body types. As all this was done, I said to all “I feel like I’ve been abducted…,” to which the tech who was in charge of fitting me into the sling added “—by aliens!”
Even groggy I still think weird. Ly.
For the next three to four days I was on heavy everything, including pain medications…but I felt absolutely ZERO (zilch, nada) pain. So, I simply stopped taking the main pain drugs without telling Laura, because, well, she was really worried about me “getting behind” the pain medication (I don’t like the term “meds” for some reason). That means not taking the medication until you feel the pain, which can be far worse than imagined: it takes more medication to kill the pain than to keep up the initial nerve block and pain dosages as you go and not interrupt the medication(s). Anyway, I stopped and tried Tylenol. Nothing…still felt no pain. So, I stopped the Tylenol. Still nothing! And yet, over two weeks out from my surgery, I continue to feel no pain. I ask the docs and physical therapists (PTs)and they all say that most (I think 75% was the used statistic) who have this surgery experience excruciating pain even two weeks later. They say that means I have a high pain tolerance…but I can tell you that in other areas of life I do feel pain! Perhaps the interior of my body may have a high-pain tolerance, but the rest of me don’t! Anyway, I do feel tightness in the area, but, hey, what do you expect? I had a lot of work done in there!
My second PT in-office visit said I was “definitely above” what is expected at this stage of the game. I like hearing things like that—who wouldn’t? But it is good to see that things are going well, as I continue following their instructions…and add my own good intentions and visualizations to the mix. I had been doing prehabilitation exercise since December for my rotator cuff muscles, strengthening them in preparation for this surgery, and I’m sure it has everything to do with my progress. I’ve also been taking my bodybuilding protein supplement twice a day, and actively visualizing—since last year—a positive outcome and rehab.
I went to my second surgeon follow-up visit, and had the Steri-Strips removed from my incisions.
I can now take normal showers!
All healing looks great, the doctor said. On my left bicep the incision there was bunched up slightly (one of my left biceps tendons was so chewed up that there was no saving it; they snipped off the damaged portion and reattached it a little lower on the bone…there are no negative side effects to this…no loss of strength, and no weird-lookingness to the arm). Wonderful, I thought, now I’m gonna have this weird lump on my arm forever…but the doctor told me that was a plastic surgery technique in which when such incisions on the biceps are made, if they are immediately flattened out like most other cuts to our flesh, the healed scar would spread out and grow really large…so in this way, as the wound heals, it will flatted out and look more normal and better fade like other scars—which my others scars are doing even now. They look just like any other cut in your skin that heals…but belie “what lies beneath”….
The doc also said to massage each entry scar to break up the scar tissues just beneath the skin. Helps the healing.
As I continue my many PT rehab visits, I was cleared to return to the gym for lower-body workouts at (of course) high reps, low weight. I am looking forward to returning! I have returned twice already to ride the stationary bike, and boy, did it feel good to get back in to the gym! Yeah, I’m a Gym Rat. I admit it (it’s the first step…). I am to continue wearing the sling for two more weeks (end of September). Though I am ahead of healing schedule with range of motion and no pain, tendons still need to heal. My strength training may be accelerated, I’m told, but not my range of motion, which is already almost at 100%. Again, way ahead of schedule.
So…onward I go! I’ll continue to talk my (carefully stepped) walk/hikes into Garden of the Gods, avoiding the more trickier aspects of my usual forays, and return to my other home, the gym. I can keyboard and am also doing at-home exercises, so I can remove the sling now and then, but I still need to remain in the sling all other times.
And one more thing: through all of this, it all felt—and still does!—utterly surreal! I can’t believe I did this to myself, but I also cannot believe I’ve actually had the surgery! Even with the sling on, I forget I’ve had the surgery! When I have it off and wear a shirt that covers my scars, I look totally normal (in so far as that goes). I just cannot believe I’ve gone through all this.
It’s very weird.
Post Surgery Walk/Hike Into Garden of the Gods, Colorado, September 2018 (© Frank and Laura Dorchak, 2018)