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Avoiding the (frozen) Cold Shoulder?

Monday, 20 April 2020  | John Kidson

Back in winter I happily drove my car for the shortest distance ever! I reversed just across the lawn – well our patch of drought-stricken dust and leaves - turned up the driveway, then forwards to my usual spot 'left side of carport'.

A short drive full of significance for me! Four weeks ago I finished my latest hospital venture. I've since discovered truth in that old granny psalm 'you never appreciate what you have until it's gone'. It's plagued me a bit lately. What am I missing? Driving! Independence really. I know 'twas only a temporary absence, not enforced by law and order so much as by the dreaded combination of 'medico/marriage': that unique partnership when the doctor and the wife tag-team against you.

And, well that's it really – I mean what can you do? I mean what could I do?

Here's the backstory. Back in winter I fell down a couple of steps – just a couple of inside ones, landed on my bicep. Pain? Well a bit sore; I still I drove down to the markets fine! But unfortunately the shoulder was 'killing' before I made it home.

Forward several months through a cocktail of GPs, physios, injections, pain killers and finally a specialist who declared, after X-rays, MRI scans and other tests: 'I can fix that'. So I agreed to the following surgery: repair left rotator cuff and acromioplasty plus tenodesis biceps tendon. No problem! Yeah well…

I'd had my fill of physio stuff! And yet I had been reluctant to go 'under the knife'. But now with the promise of a pain-free future I said yes. In just over a week he'd be ready. I reckon I was already. So 'keep your arm in this sling, cut this movement out and no driving for six weeks after the operation'. Goodo! Hospital was OK: the 'shaving nurse' was gentle and better looking than any merino has faced; the left arm and chest went bald (one nipple stands out like an halogen fog light – but otherwise ...) And then came the post-operative exercises: 'keeping the shoulder supple' and learning to only use one arm! I can now shower myself (just) and my wife lovingly shares the drying - another advantage over any merino!

Earlier I asked ‘can I take the removed bone with me?’ No, illegal! Besides bone comes out like a paste. Hmm, no souvenir value there.

I guess I have to confess to jumping the no-drive gun by a few days ... but I only used one arm, and not on the road. My right arm mastered the hand brake and gears just fine. My neck was OK looking over my shoulder, and of course forwards was a breeze!

The first post-operative consultation was fine. The doctor said: ‘Show me your pendulums!’ My wife gasped. He tried again. ‘The exercises you learnt in hospital.’ I proceeded to demonstrate: bent over, left arm swinging gracefully between my legs. My wife now smiling encouragement. He said: ‘That's good. The wound is fine. Feel free to shower now; careful when washing under that arm.’ Spoken like an armpit connoisseur.

He then demonstrated a drying technique that involved hardly lifting the arm at all. ‘Keep using the sling I'll see you on about the 28th – no driving until after then!’

What's the worst bit now? Sleeping with a sling? One-armed toilet trips (I use a hospital bottle)? Neither of these – I still can't drive! But I will soon. At least now I am relatively free of pain. He said ‘Keep your arm tucked close to your side – you can eat like this’. He demonstrated: ‘and use the computer too!’

His final cheerio kept driving as verboten: but that little bit of 'driving' was OK. Until now pain-induced writers' block has kept my pen silent, but (hopefully) very soon I am, even now, back in print.

John Kidson is the former Chaplain at Southern Cross University, Lismore.

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