Breaking My Left Wing, Part 2: “Under The Knife”

January 23, 2017

As I continue the saga of “Breaking My Left Wing”,  I’m typing with only the fingers of my right hand. Not the usual rhythm nor energy I prefer, but I have stories to tell. This is only Part 2, “Under The Knife”.

Rewind to almost three weeks ago: Monday, January 9, 2016.

There we sat in an examining room at TMI Sports Medicine, waiting to see the orthopedist, as per the discharge instructions from the ER attending. The rub was that the doctor named in the orders was not in the hospital’s network. So the phone rep lined us up with another one: Dr. Shane Seroyer.

Up to that point, I’d managed to do more and more, even using all ten fingers on the computer keyboard, only for my bum shoulder to growl, “Give me codeine. NOW!”

Other than a lightweight sling with little to no support and pain  in my shoulder and upper arm that still made me holler at the slightest touch, I guess I expected to hear that my arm was healing and that nothing further would be required.

Wrong-0 de-dong-0.

First, the PA bustled in and pulled up the x-rays, pointing at the area in question.

“Yep, here you go. Multiple breaks in both the upper arm and the shoulder. You’re gonna need surgery.”

BONG. I gasped as my stomach did somersaults before plummeting to my toes.

“S-s-surgery? W-w-when?”

“Tomorrow.  Probably around nine or ten. Keep in mind that several days have already gone by.  The longer you wait, the worse off you’re gonna get.”

After Justin ducked out, the doctor slipped in, introduced himself, and outlined the plan of action: I was to have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but I could take my Synthroid, as usual, in the morning. A team would prep me for the outpatient procedure, give me “happy drops” to make me drowsy, and then wheel me into the operating room, fit a mask over my face, and he would implant a metal plate and some screws after making a single incision in my shoulder before closing up, delivering me to Recovery where I would sleep off the surgery for about four hours before being returned to my room and my husband.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

“Will you actually be the one doing the surgery?” I asked, calmed down by his competent but caring manner.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Schwarz.”

That afternoon, I texted family and friends to ask for prayers, as I dealt with the shock that I — a woman who turned into a weenie at the thought of going  “under” and being sliced open –would go into surgery in less than twenty-four hours.

That night, I petitioned God to watch over me during the procedure and admitted to being slightly scared. He stroked my forehead.

“Got you covered. Now go to sleep.”

“But the doc’s gonna put me under!”

“Have you forgotten that major surgery I brought you through twenty-one years ago? You know, the one where your family hung out in the waiting room for four hours?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That brain-tumor surgery that had everyone wondering whether I’d come out with my head on straight.”

He nodded. “That would be the one. This procedure you’re so worried about is outpatient surgery that requires only one incision and only about an hour and a half — on your time zone, not mine, that is. Soon after, you can go home with that husband I gave you, three years ago.”

“But, Lord, what if –?”

“What if what, my child?”

“Jeff and I watch Code Black and Chicago Med. Stuff happens. People die!”

“Trust me. Go to sleep.”

Soon after, I yawned and closed eyelids grown heavy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2016

Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off to the time I had set: 6:30 a.m. I had managed to sleep quite soundly. After dressing in something comfortable, Jeff helped me ease into the front seat of the car and fastened my seat belt before he slid behind the wheel and headed down the street to Medical City Arlington — the same hospital where he bid adieu to a diseased gallbladder — and Lisa, in Admissions where we filled out all that really fun paperwork before she issued me a bracelet.

Minutes later, a nurse  escorted me to the Surgical Suite. This time, as she opened the door and took me to the room where I would await my turn in the surgical queue, I felt uplifted. Energized. I was ready to quit hurting — the sooner, the better.

Under her direction, I donned what I called my “Jiffy Pop Ensemble” — a blue gown and cap appearing to be decorated with aluminum foil. Garbed in the strange, new get-up,  I crawled onto the bed and let Nurse Lisa put some non-skid slipper socks on my feet before injecting a numbing medicine in my arm and asking me a battery of questions.

“You’ll find yourself answering the same questions by about four people, before it’s all over,” she added.

True to her word, each member of the surgical team– the OR nurse, anesthesiologist, and the surgeon — did indeed ask me the same questions and inspired my confidence in them until the big moment came. The anesthesiologist inserted a needle into my inner arm like liquid silk.  After Jeff bent down to kiss me, I slipped “under”.

It seemed  like only a few minutes when I awoke to someone shutting cabinets and looked around. I was numb  from shoulders to waist. A mound underneath my  gown resembled a the pregnant belly of someone carrying sextuplets and, although I knew it was still there, I couldn’t feel my left hand. Must be that nerve block the nurse told me about.

“Oh, hey, there. You’re awake!” said a young man wearing a cap and scrubs.

“Um…yeah. Where am I?”

“You’re in recovery. We’re gonna take you back to your room in a bit.”

As someone wheeled me back to the room where Jeff greeted me with another kiss, I marveled that I had no memories of the dreaded operating room. No cold, hard, table. No  mask over my nose and mouth.

No memory a’tall, I thought, with a grin. How cool is  that?

After Lisa got me settled, I received a snack of Sprite and crackers which I  managed to hold down. I peed. I belched.  An hour later, I got to go home wearing some big-honkin’ sling/stabilizer contraption intended to protect the surgeon’s handiwork, enough painkillers to fell a Clydesdale, and a metal plate and nine screws (which removed all  doubt that I am officially screwed-up).

Back at home, that evening,  I napped on and off on the couch with my feet in Jeff’s lap and our trusty dog perched somewhere in between.When it came time for bed, Jeff situated me in the recliner, as the nurse recommended. He stretched out on the couch so he’d hear me when I needed anything.

“Thank you, Lord. Y’know, for guiding my team and me through the surgery.”

I imagined loving eyes twinkling.

“Didn’t I tell you I had this covered?”

“You did, indeed. But I’m still glad it’s over.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s my job. Besides, I  love you, kiddo.”

In a few weeks, I’ll be writing Part 3 of “Breaking My Left Wing: Lessons Learned”,  about the next step: rehabilitation, but first, I have to ditch this sling. Meanwhile, here I sit, trying to be patient as I type with only one hand.