Shoulder Surgery – one week later

Well, I made it to the one week mark and I get to celebrate by taking time out of my sling during the day!  Unfortunately, I’m still not allowed to do anything useful with that injured arm, and so it just hangs there like a sausage link while I struggle to do everything with my left hand.  Baby steps.  

When I was preparing for surgery, I scoured the internet for information on what the recovery was going to be like.  Even with all the research, I was pretty unprepared for the tougher aspects — the ones that I dreaded beforehand are as bad as expected.  I feel like I did everything possible to prepare for them, but it has still been more draining than I anticipated and in some cases preparation just doesn’t help all that much.  I hope that by writing it all down I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come in the ensuing weeks and months.

I hate not working.  My job is very physical and spending 22+ hours a day in an orthopedic chair is its own particular kind of hell.  

Here I am on a past job…just lounging on the Ross Ice Shelf while my sexy helicopter pilot fiance approaches for a landing:


Also working:


Here’s me now:


I have a barf bag on my head (I was on a LOT of meds).  Sitting here like a milk-fed veal, with nothing to do but wait, I find myself reviewing the events leading up the boat accidents again and again.  It seems inevitable now that something bad was destined to happen on our shoot, given the circumstances and the willful negligence of the people in charge of the logistics of the production.  There are so many stories about production companies cutting corners on safety in order to pocket those line items.  The glut of reality shows means networks push for more and more danger in their series and it means incompetent production companies line up to make the shows, thinking that because they have a concept (usually involving a bunch of tough guys doing dangerous jobs), they can be the next Thom Beers.*  I can’t believe how close I came to dying because of someone else’s stupidity.  It makes me very, very angry and determined to right some of the wrongs in our industry.

I have learned a valuable lesson from my injuries.  I will never again work for a production company that does not have experience with dangerous, overseas productions.  Nor will I ever work on a show where the star of the show is given total logistical and financial control over the production.  When I see promos for “Bamazon,” I want to kick in my TV.  It seems incomprehensible that I will still be sitting here recovering while the series airs in early December.  By the time it runs, I will only be at the halfway mark, with another eight weeks to go before I can think about resuming my normal life or getting back out in the field.  That’s a long time to sit here thinking.

I am tethered to an ice machine, which circulates freezing water around the surgery site.  I have to ice my shoulder for 15 minutes every 15 minutes.  This means that my life revolves around the “off” times, when I can unplug from the machine, hit the button on the reclining chair to elevate me to my feet, and struggle out of the chair to the kitchen, bathroom or front porch.  Unfortunately, the ice machine connector requires one to push a button and pull the plug at the same time, which can’t be managed with one hand, and so I have to call PCA on walkie to unplug me.  He carries his walkie everywhere, and even brought it to the supermarket during one of his rare forays away from my side.  Soon enough, my 15 minutes of break time are up, and it’s time to repeat the process.  PCA plugs me in, I slowly lower the orthopedic chair, take a pain pill and resume my life as a slug.  

Things I can’t do one-handed: open bottles of medication, tie my shoes, put up my hair, put on socks, turn the pages of a book, carry a laundry basket, crack an egg, zip up a sweatshirt, pull on skinny jeans.

I wonder whether my recovery is typical.  It’s incredibly painful.  Far more so than I ever expected, and much, much worse than either my back surgery or my knee surgery.  My surgeon says that he expected it to be tougher for me because I am “emotionally invested” in my shoulder and he’s right.  I blame someone else for my injuries and for the pain.  I have a lot of flashbacks about the boat accidents.  It makes it hard to move on.  I have yet to sleep through the night, or for more than two hours at a time, and the lack of sleep is messing with my ability to stay positive.  I dread going to sleep sitting up, and no matter how many pills I take I’m unable to get the pain lower than a 4 or 5 at night.  I can make it through most of the day without the pills but the nights are miserable.  

Yesterday we went to the library for my first field trip out of the house since the surgery.  It was so refreshing to be in Santa Monica among the living, although it was hard not to yell mean things at the happy, two-armed people strolling in the sunshine, swinging their shopping bags, doing pushups down by the beach, or walking arm in arm, blissfully unaware of my mono-limb jealousy.  I felt like a troll who had emerged from under a bridge with my greasy hair in a side ponytail, giant sling, smeared lipgloss (impossibly to put on left-handed) and my ugly sweatpants.  Still, it was a successful mission.

I’m looking forward to the week ahead.  One down, eleven to go.

* My boss on “Deadliest Catch,” and the creator of “Ice Road Truckers,” “Bering Sea Gold,” “Ax Men,” etc etc.

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