One day I will write a complete book about about the on-going love/hate relationship with my shoulder. Over the last six years, my shoulder has cost me a lot but also let me find a new passion with the outdoors. My one overwhelming conclusion is that shoulders suck. But they do provide entertainment! I give you my latest installment of: The Shoulder Saga. (insert dramatic drums here)
Last week I had my 4th surgery on my left shoulder which means that this week I am writing this blog entirely one handed! Due to some scheduling conflicts I have had to spend most of the week of recovery on my own. (Shoutout to my cousin who took me in for the first night post surgery and was rewarded with all my wonderful groggy post surgical comments. Her book is coming soon!)
As a hiker who spends a lot of time outdoors alone I feel like I am pretty self sufficient and so wasn’t too concerned about recovering on my own. I mean how often do you need to use BOTH arms to do something around the house? I quickly learned that I overlooked a few things and I wanted to share those with you now.
Warning: I will keep this cleaner than the bath got me and no photos or videos will appear unless I start an Only Fans page so it is safe to keep reading! I learned a valuable lesson over these last few days. The sponge bath fantasy only really works out if the nurse is involved. The reality of a one armed sponge bath is more like a combination of yoga, and trying to grease a cat. Not only do the sheer physics of reaching certain areas fall short on the best of days but keeping the wound area dry adds another challenge. I bent in ways I never thought possible and could never do again.
With the fear of dampening the precious stitch of yarn always front of mind, I decided to just run some water and soak a rag. Simple. Then I found out that the time frame that a rag holds kinetic heat energy is roughly from the big toe to the little toe. Any longer than that the warm, comforting rag will start forming ice crystals that it is all too happy to spread in a frostbite inducing way to any exposed skin. So now simply bathing was a race against time and science. Scrub, scrub, rinse. Shiver. Repeat.
Hair of the Dog
If you have every tried to wash your hair and not get your shoulder wet you are way more flexible than me, but not nearly as creative. Surely there is a product that lets you shampoo dry hair. This must be common and as a single man I’m sure I can navigate the cosmetic aisles and find such a dry shampoo. No. There are roughly 17.4 million haircare products on the women’s side of the aisle that I never noticed until today. The men’s side just has a jar of dirt and WD40 depending on how clean you want the hair. So I improvised. Baby wipes! Some babies are born with hair right? This must work? Well six wipes later and I am back at the store looking at the WD40 dandruff formulas.
Some of you are probably going to point out that I could have just wrapped my incisions in plastic wrap and taken a shower. You would be correct…in theory. In practice I knew that I could wrap a cut on about 90% of my body in plastic but not my shoulder, not with one hand. I learned this the hard way.
The Doctors notes mentioned that I could take off the surgical dressings and replace them with band-aids after a few days. The front side tape of the dressing started to come loose so I figured it was about time. I reached across my body with the good arm and started to peel the tape. No problem! Well, until the tape stuck on the back of my shoulder. I tried to reach further to get the rest of the tape.
The further I reached with my good arm I noticed I started to rotate. Just a little at first and then more and more. Before long I was spinning like a dog chasing his tail. The bandages flapping loose against the breeze and me spinning like a tornado with my tongue hanging out of my mouth. First tight spins, then looser spins, then sneaky spins and finally wobbly “I’m kinda dizzy” spins. No luck.
I proved I was smarter than a dog earlier with the baby wipes shampoo move so I can figure this out. Enter the tongs. Tong, ta-tong-tong-tong as Sisqo would say. So now I’m spinning, I have a pair of kitchen tongs gripping the flappy part of the bandages. I pulled and spun, spun and pulled and the tape just wouldn’t budge.
Now I am stuck with these bandages half on and half off just flapping in the breeze like a bad toupee. I have to do something. Time for a little engineering of my own. I don’t have any medical tape but I do have Band-Aids. Those tiny ones that cover paper cuts. Maybe I can tape this down with a Band-Aid. One. Two. Five. Eleven Band-Aids to tape down the bandage and I am set. Another victory in the shoulder saga.
Shoulders are the Worst
Shoulders are great when they work but you really notice them when they are strapped to your side in a sling. You really REALLY notice them that first time that you sneeze. The first sneeze snuck up on me. Then all at once the pain shuttered from the top of my head to the bottom of my icy (but clean) little toe. I would say that I saw stars except I couldn’t see anything through the tears.
And finally, you never know how much you use a shoulder until you wake up in bed, one arm in a sling, and realize that you have to pee. The bladder has no patience for the dance of the beached whale. Each roll, pivot, and arch of the back are in a battle against the hourglass like timer of the bodies systems. The Velcro of the sling somehow sticking to the bedding and doing its immovable object impression against the irresistible force of a fat guy with one arm trying to sit up. The race is on.
Like a three limbed turtle stuck on its back, I wave the working limbs and do a reverse inch worm maneuver and make it to the edge of the bed. To the freedom of the bathroom. All my problems solved! Until I remember I have to untie the drawstring of the PJs with one hand. Shoulders are the worst.
As every hiker knows the journey is just a part of what gets you to the destination. The minor discomforts of life, which hopefully you saw as much humor in as I did, will lead to a better shoulder in the long run. Hopefully…it is the fourth surgery in 6 years.
Surgery is weird because you wake up feeling so much worse. Then with hard work you hopefully improve each day after. It is really like having a clean slate. With time I won’t remember spinning like a dog chasing the tail. I won’t remember the first sneeze. I will get to the point where I don’t even remember I have shoulder. It will just be there and will work. Like not thinking about stubbing my toe on the trail when I reach the peak, I will just remember the positive end to the long journey. Shoulders may suck but surgeons and recovery are pretty awesome.
More from the Fatman
I will continue to intermingle hiking and life blogs for a few weeks while I recover. If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!