Tag Archives: Shoulder Surgery

Checking In

Checking in for a bit… Sorry I’ve been away for a while.

The shoulder is doing okay, although the doc is a little concerned about my range of motion. He may want to do another procedure on me, in which they put me under, and then wrench my arm around to break up all the scar tissue, and then give me lots of painkillers. It actually doesn’t sound too bad (I’m told it’s a quick recovery), but doc wants to give the physical therapy more time to work. I see him again toward the end of the month.

In other medical news, a couple weeks ago I broke a tooth, so I’ve been in and out of the dentist’s office getting a gingivectomy, crown lengthening, and a crown build-up around one of my molars, way in the back. Eventually I’ll get a crown back there, but in the meantime I have a mouth full of stitches and I’m in a lot of pain.

My roommate has informed me that he’d like me to move out by the end of August, which is fine by me since I’ve been plotting my escape out of this hellhole anyway. I had been trying to save up money to go through a broker and get my own apartment in a non-shitty neighborhood, but I’ve pretty much had to empty my savings account to pay for all this dental work. Unfortunately, it looks like I may have to move into another share situation for a few months until I can build my savings back up.

In happier news, next week I start a six-week medieval stonecarving workshop hosted by my church, the great unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine near Columbia. It should be an interesting course, and I’m hoping I’ll have portfolio fodder to show for it. Last summer I was learning all about cutting-edge theory and generative design at GSAPP; this summer I’ll be kicking it old school with a mallet and chisel.

I’m happy to report that our multi-year restoration project at the Cathedral is almost complete, and has hit a major milestone. Back in 2001 we had a severe fire that destroyed the north transept, and let to a huge cleaning and restoration project that has had various parts of the cathedral buried behind plywood and scaffolding for years at a time.

One evening late last week I had to make a trip up to the cathedral to retrieve something from the acolyte room, and while there, I decided to poke my head into the crossing for a minute. (This was after the church had been closed to visitors for the evening, and there’s nothing quite like having such a space all to yourself for a few moments.) While there, I was thrilled to discover that the huge wall separating the nave from the crossing has begun to be removed, and that the south aisle of the newly-restored nave is now open while much of the temporary barriers are being removed.

Here’s a photo I snapped with my iPhone:

This is the first time in over two years this space has been open to the public, and it was a huge thrill to see the space again for the first time since I moved away from NYC in 2004. There’s still a lot of work to do (later this month the crossing and Great Choir will be closed off so that all 8000+ pipes of the organ can be re-installed), and we’ll have a huge re-dedication service on Sunday, November 30th. There will also be a public “open house” that week for those who don’t feel inclined to attend a religious service.

Yesterday I met up with my former critic from last year’s Columbia summer program for a couple drinks… Just so happens that he’s now the director of the M.Arch. program up the street at City College. We chatted about my grad school plans, and of course he tried to sell me on City College. Not that he had to try very hard, mind you; City College is already very high on my list. But he also strongly recommended that I apply to Columbia and Harvard as well (both places he has taught at), in addition to a couple other programs. He offered to write me letters of recommendation, and he wants to meet up with me again soon to look at my portfolio.

Not a bad drinking buddy to have, huh? He might even be doing the stonecarving thing with me at the cathedral; he seemed very interested and I gave him the contact info.

I haven’t really kept in touch with my fellow students from the Columbia summer program, but apparently two or three of them will be starting at Harvard this fall, and another will be starting at Princeton. I’m thinking that summer program was probably the smartest move I’ve made in a long time… Hard to believe it’s been almost a year already.

In other school-related news, I still plan to finish up my BA degree next year. There really isn’t much left for me to do, so I’m hoping to spread it out over the next 12 months (but knowing me, I’ll most likely goof off for the first 11 months, and then work nonstop to finish everything during the last month).

A few days ago I got a letter from my college at DePaul University, informing me that I had received a Student Excellence Award for a project I had done last year. I was invited to an award luncheon that takes place tomorrow, but unfortunately, the luncheon is in downtown Chicago and I’m in NYC and unable to make the trip right now. I wonder if they’ll FedEx the plaque to me?

That’s all for now…

Nine Months

Sorry I haven’t checked in for a while…. It’s been a busy time at work.

Unlike most of my previous projects, this one is with a quasi-governmental agency that insists on doing everything By The Book™. With the corporate projects I’m used to, some guy usually says “build it”, and that’s what we do. With this governmental stuff, there’s about a million hoops to jump through before we can even talk about building stuff, and loads of paperwork for each hoop.

With my right arm mostly out of commission, AutoCAD work is very slow and cumbersome for me, but I can manage non-mouse-intensive stuff like MS-Word and Excel. As such, I find myself doing a lot of clerical/administrative stuff like meeting minutes, emails, spreadsheets, transmittals, and such. Good news is, I’m directing a couple people doing the CAD stuff, so I’m sort of like a Project Manager Lite, which is good experience and I’m learning a lot. That said, I’d much rather be designing stuff and getting it built, so all this administrative crap has me a little down.

Speaking of my right arm, I officially have one more week in the sling, and then I begin a few months of physical therapy. (I say “officially” because I’ve been going without my sling on weekends… I’m so damn sick of wearing that thing. I do okay as long as I don’t try anything weird with my right arm.) My arm’s range of motion has improved substantially since the surgery, but still has a long ways to go… I saw the doc last week, and he said I’m right about where I should be at this point. It will be a long time before I have all my strength and mobility back, though.

The pain has gone down a lot, but I still get occasional flare-ups. Nights are the worst, as there’s not really any position I can sleep in that doesn’t eventually cause my shoulder to start hurting. I haven’t been sleeping very well at all lately, and I think that’s been impacting my performance at work. Sometimes I wish I still had a steady supply of Vicodin, but the over-the-counter Ibuprofin usually does the trick, and without any weird side effects.

My next big task is to get myself into a better housing situation. I figure it will take me about 7 months to save up enough money to get my own apartment (first month’s rent + security deposit + broker fee), so I’ve opened a savings account and have begun putting away money. In the meantime, I’ve begun keeping an eye out for other roommate/share situations that would get me into a better neighborhood and possibly even save me some money. Although my current housing situation usually isn’t too bad, I’m dealing with a crappy commute from a shitty neighborhood, lots of noise issues, and I feel like I’m paying way too much for what I’m actually getting. Wish me luck.

On a somewhat related note, this is about my 9-month anniversary of moving back to New York last July. Normally a 9-month anniversary doesn’t mean much unless you’re pregnant, but in this case it’s significant because my last tenure in NYC lasted about nine months before I had a nervous breakdown and moved to Oregon. I’m happy to report that, despite my housing woes and occasional complaints about my job, I seem to be in a much better position now than I was nine months into my NYC residency in 2004. Let’s hope it keeps up.

Finally… Maybe because of the admin/clerical stuff I’ve been doing so much of at the office lately, I’ve been thinking more about grad school and how to get there. I don’t have much left to do on my undergrad degree and I have plenty of time to do it, but it still needs to get done. Hopefully I’ll be able to kick that effort into high gear this summer and fall, and not have much left to do by the time I turn in my grad school applications next winter.

This afternoon I took a walk up around City College, which at this point I would probably consider my “safety” choice. It’s local, it’s cheap as hell for in-state residents, it has good faculty and a good reputation in town, and I’m on a first-name basis with the interim director of the M.Arch. program, who was my studio critic at Columbia last summer. As a bonus, CCNY’s architecture program is moving into a brand-new Raphael Vinoly-designed facility next year. Not bad at all.

That said, I’ll probably still apply to a few of the “A-list” schools, especially Yale and Cornell. I’ve come to admire Yale’s eclectic approach to architectural education, and briefly visiting New Haven a few months ago helped me visualize the place a lot better. But Cornell in particular really got under my skin, as the whole vibe at Cornell felt great when I visited last year… I just wish Ithaca was about 3 hours closer to NYC, and that going there wouldn’t put me up to my eyeballs in student loan debt for the rest of my life. Ah well, I still have some time to sort all that shit out….

That’s all for now…

Stitches and Spasms

Today was a rough day for me, probably my worst day since the surgery. This morning I took my shower and, while drying myself off, gently bumped my right arm against the wall by mistake and immediately felt a painful POP from my shoulder… Sort of like when you crack your knuckles, but with a much bigger pop. Since then, my shoulder has felt incredibly unstable, and I’ve been having occasional painful muscle spasms throughout the day. Muscle spasms by themselves would be bad enough, but combined with the instability in the joint, these spasms have the effect of momentarily causing my shoulder to dislocate, which hurts like hell.

Luckily, I already had a follow-up appointment scheduled with my surgeon this morning to have my stitches removed. (Instead of a huge wad of dirty gauze stuck to my shoulder, I now have four Band-Aids.) I told him what happened, and he didn’t seem too concerned about it, but said we should keep an eye on it. The doc basically said that with all the swelling and such, some instability is to be expected, and that muscle spasms aren’t totally unexpected, either.

As for the pop, the surgeon felt pretty confident that his repair work should be able to withstand a minor bump in the shower, and that he had successfully tested my shoulder for full range of motion before he put it back together on the operating table (and while I was still asleep, thankfully). He would have been more concerned about my shoulder coming apart if I had fallen down or something like that.

As such, I’ve been relying heavily on my Vicodin today, which has made productivity at work almost impossible. Fortunately, the Vicodin does a good job of numbing the pain, and it does it with a minimum of dizziness, nausea, and sweating. Unfortunately, it also has the effect of pretty much knocking me unconscious for a couple hours. I spent all afternoon at the office doing everything I could just to stay awake, and getting absolutely no work done. Maybe tomorrow will be better, although I’m toying with the idea of taking the morning off. At least I haven’t had any more muscle spasms since this afternoon.

I have another appointment with my surgeon in two weeks. I’ll be happy when this whole ordeal is over.

Progress Report

One-handed typing is much more of a hassle than I imagined it would be. With both hands I’m a pretty fast and accurate typer, but with just one hand I feel like I’m back to grade school hunt-and-peck… Much slower, and a lot sloppier. My postings will probably be rather short during this period.

Using the mouse with my left hand is also a bit of a hassle, but not as bad as I feared. I haven’t tried any AutoCAD stuff, though, so things might get interesting when I return to the office (most likely Wednesday).

So far the Vicodin is doing a decent job of keeping the pain under control with a minimum of side effects, but even with the Vicodin there’s always sort of a dull, general pain. And with my arm in a sling all day and night, my elbow and hand often get rather stiff and painful. This is going to be a long six weeks.

My dad came up from NC for my surgery, and it’s his first visit to NYC since the mid-1960’s. I managed to take him around to some of the highlights of the city, which he enjoyed. On his last visit to New York in the 60’s he was rather disgusted with the city and swore he’d never come back, but he seems to have gotten a much better impression of the city this time around. He heads back to North Carolina tomorrow morning.

Hello Mr. Vicodin

Well, I survived my surgery… So far. For the first several hours afterwards, I was under the effects of a nerve block in my shoulder that made my entire right arm completely numb. Now that that’s worn off, I’m in a considerable amount of pain while waiting for the Vicodin to kick in… And I’m hoping to avoid some of the more unpleasant side effects of said Vicodin.

Doc said I had an “interesting” injury, but he was able to make the necessary repairs without any trouble. I’ll be in a sling for six weeks, and then I’ll have several months of physical therapy. In the meantime, though, I’m getting a crash course on how to do everything one-handed, and I’d consider it a huge accomplishment just to get some sleep tonight.

Good times…

It’s On

Friday, February 22nd is when I go in for surgery. The doc will attempt to go arthroscopic at first, but if he gets in there and sees tons of damage, he’ll probably need to go old school with a full incision. My recovery time will be greatly dependent upon which method he ends up using.

Under the Knife

I finally had the appointment with my shoulder doc, and my insurance company gave the green light for surgery. Since this is a preexisting condition my doc was worried I’d get socked with a $30,000 hospital bill if the insurance company denied my claim, but it turns out my firm’s group policy has no exclusions for preexisting conditions. If they did, I wouldn’t have been able to have surgery until October at the earliest. I call the surgical coordinator tomorrow to schedule the surgery, which will probably happen in about 4-6 weeks.

One of my parents will be making the trip up from North Carolina for the occasion… My mom has never been to NYC before, and my dad was here once the late 60’s. So, in addition to dealing with the surgery, I’ll be playing host and teaching mom or dad how to ride the subway, etc.

After the surgery, I’ll be in a sling for about six weeks, and then I’ll have about six months of physical therapy. And when all that is done, they’ll take a look at my left shoulder and see what’s wrong, if it’s still bothering me then. Looks like I’m in for an interesting few months.

My deadline to apply for degree conferral is tomorrow. In order to graduate in June, I’d have to pay the school $100 and submit tons of paperwork tomorrow, and commit myself to doing lots of schoolwork between now and the end of May. With this surgery business (along with BMCC dragging their feet in processing my application), that simply isn’t going to happen.

My BA degree has already been 14 years in the making… What’s another few months? As long as I don’t get too far behind, it shouldn’t impact my plans to start my M.Arch. in fall 2009.


While my mental health issues have been the predominant focus of this blog lately, one of my nagging physical health issues has apparently reared its ugly head again.

In my last blog entry I mentioned that, typical of most Aspies, I tend to develop obsessive interests about various subjects from time to time. Back in the late summer of 2004, while living in NYC the first time, I took up a strong but ultimately short-lived interest in whitewater kayaking. I had never been in a kayak before, but was anxious to try it out and see if it was something worth getting more seriously involved in. The first step in that process was to sign up for a beginner’s kayaking lesson.

So, on September 11, 2004, I headed down to Chelsea Piers for my first lesson. I changed into a wet suit, and the instructor and I went over a few basics on the pier before launching into the Hudson River. I launched first, and splashed around a little bit in the water while the instructor got situated into his own boat. So far so good.

Meanwhile, another group of people were in the process of launching a huge tandem canoe into the water nearby, and for a minute it appeared as if they were going to launch it right on top of me. I slightly panicked, lost my concentration, and promptly flipped my kayak. At this point I suddenly found myself upside-down and underwater in the Hudson River.

An experienced kayaker in this position would have performed a simple Eskimo roll to get back upright again, but I wasn’t an experienced kayaker, and hadn’t yet been taught how to perform such a maneuver. Rather than attempting to roll, I decided to pull my cord and eject myself from the boat. I did so, and quickly swam back to the pier.

At some point during that process, though, my right shoulder exploded. I’d had problems with this shoulder when I was younger, but it had been years since it had given me any trouble and I had almost forgotten about it.

My dislocated shoulder quickly popped back into the socket on its own, but not before the damage had been done. For the next several weeks I was in agonizing pain, and the slightest movement of my shoulder would cause it to dislocate again. I could hear the bone grinding whenever I moved it, and it felt lik a bag of gravel.

Along with the rotator cuff, there’s a ring of cartilage called the labrum that holds your shoulder in place. MRI scans confirmed that my right labrum had literally been ripped in half, and that the ball of my humerus had been damaged. You know it’s a bad sign when a surgeon with 30 years experience operating exclusively on shoulders looks at your MRI’s and says, “Shit, that’s interesting!”

Surgery and a lot of physical therapy would be required to get my shoulder back in working order. Unfortunately, the day after I scheduled the procedure, I was laid off from my job and lost my insurance coverage. Fixing the shoulder would have to wait.

I moved to Oregon a short time later, but stuck to exploring whitewater rivers via hiking trails rather than by boat. By January or so, my shoulder was no longer in constant pain, but I still had to be careful about how I moved it.

When I moved back to Chicago in March and finally got insurance coverage several months later, I went in for some more MRI’s, and the doc wanted me to try some physical therapy before he operated. The PT didn’t help much, but I ended up declining surgery because the pain was no longer severe enough to justify it, I was beginning classes again and didn’t want to deal with the disruption, and I was worried about being screwed over by my health insurance provider based on some stupid loophole in the policy. (They had already sent me a $2000 bill for the MRI’s, and I was afraid to find out how much I’d end up paying for the surgery and weeks of physical therapy.) The doc said my shoulder should be okay as long as I’m cautious about how I move it, but that it would need surgery sooner or later.

Fast-forward about two years.

Last night I was on the sofa watching The Big Lebowski. I had my arms up behind my head when I felt a powerful sneeze coming on. I sneezed, and my right shoulder promptly popped out of its socket in a very familiar manner. It popped right back in again, as usual, but not before causing a huge amount of pain… And it’s been sore and unstable ever since, just like old times. Living in New York City apparently causes my right shoulder to dislocate without reason or warning.

Now that I actually have a pretty good health insurance plan, it looks like this would be the right time to start the process for having this thing fixed for good. From what I remember being told last time, the surgery will be done on an outpatient basis, I’ll be pumped full of interesting drugs for a few days, and then I’ll need a few months of physical therapy sessions.

Now I’m wondering if I should go ahead with my plan to enroll on a fairly intensive courseload this semester, or if I should hold off (and delay graduation) until I get this shoulder fixed.

And a happy Monday to you, too.