The State of the Paul

I’ve had my surgery, and it was a rousing success. The doctor said that there was wear on the rotator cuff, but no actual tearing. He’s opened up the gap so that there is more room for the rotator cuff to move without wearing on the acromium(?). After the surgery, I was a little concerned that half my tongue was numb (although I could still taste with it), but that numbness is getting a little bit less every day and currently just involves about 2 millimeters of the tip of my tongue. Over the last two weeks since the surgery, I’ve been seeing less pain and more range of motion, although I’ve still got lots to recover. I start physio next week, and I’m going to do every exercise they give me, and then some. I got the doctor to sign the request for physio for both shoulders, so maybe I can stave off the same thing happening on the other side. I’ve also been approved for limited driving, although without being able to raise my arm very high it probably wouldn’t be good to go out in a snowstorm or long drives on the thruway just yet.

Obviously the good news has me re-evaluating my plans for this kayaking season. It’s going to take a while to get back into the shape I was in last year after 6 months completely off, and however long it takes me to regain full mobility. So I think I still have to consider the spring races a complete impossibility. I might be able to do some of the summer races, although I don’t think I’ll be competitive. But really, I think what I need and want most of all for this summer is to get better in surf and waves in the ski, and also (once I’m better in the ski) even in the Thunderbolt. My dream is to be as good as Ken, but I’d settle for being as good as guys like Mike or Bill. (That’s not a slam at the other guys – Ken is amazing in the waves, and I don’t think anybody would deny that. Dan and Doug are almost as good, but they don’t look as at home there as Ken, and then a few steps below that comes everybody else, and then a bunch of steps below all them comes me.)

So the big question in my mind is whether I should aim everything at being good and fast in time for Long Lake, or whether I could build up the enormous distance base I’d need to race The 90. I don’t think I could hang with Doug or Mike in the 90, but I could probably finish. Either way I’m going to have to put in a lot of hours, both on the water and off. And I’m putting aside the money now for a SpeedStroke to help towards that goal. I know a lot of people say they get bored doing hours on the SpeedStroke, but I’ve done several 1.5 hour workouts on other people’s SpeedStrokes and I enjoyed it.

Last year my goal was to do 650-700 miles during the year and then 800+ the year after to prepare me for the 90, and I actually managed 778, but I’m probably not going to manage 800 in 2011. So I don’t know where that leaves me.

Surgery scheduled

I’ve got my shoulder surgery scheduled for February 3rd. The doctor says that if things are good inside the shoulder, I could be looking at 1 week in the sling, and only a month or so recovery, but if things are as bad as they were for Vicki, it could be 3 to 4 weeks in a sling, and up to 6 months of recovery. So there is a slight chance I might be racing (although not as well prepared as I was this year) by the end of the season, although I’m shelving plans for the 90 even if things go perfectly.

And in related news: The Onion.

Medical update

Ok, I’ve seen the orthopod today. The official diagnosis is “PARTIAL TEAR SUPRASPINATUS, AC OA, IMPINGEMENT”. What he said was that the tear wasn’t as bad as my doctor said it was, but that I have some sort of bursitus or tendenitis. He gave me a cortisone shot into the bursa, and a scrip for physio therapy, and I see him again in 6 weeks. He said we’ll have to see if that works, and if not I’m going to end up getting similar surgery to what Vicki had.

This could be a disaster for my hopes to paddle the “90” next year. Or I could recover quickly and get back to where I was a few months ago.

Shoulder update

Just got a call from my doctor – the MRI results are in, and I have a small but full thickness tear in my rotator cuff. I suspected it might be the rotator cuff. Now I have to see an orthopod to see if this is going to require surgery or physio or something in between. It sounds stupid, but I’m almost hoping it will be surgery because in my history of pain, physio never fixes anything.

In the mean time, it’s time to dust off my old SafeType keyboard. I hated having to crane around to see the infrequently used non-alpha keys, but being able to type when your arm is in a sling is a major plus when you don’t have sick leave.

The brain is a gate for pain

I was watching “House MD” and Doctor House is trying to live without pain killers for a week, and ends up crushing his hand with a pestle to deal with the pain in his leg. Doctor Wilson just shrugs and says “The brain is a gate for pain” or something like that, explaining that the brain only lets you feel the worst pain of the multiple pains you’re experiencing. I’m only too aware of that, as the constant pain in my knees and hips makes it hard for me to feel other pains until they are so intense as to be dangerous. The three days I spent walking around with a burst appendix which I thought was trapped gas is testimony to that, as is the foot and a half of gangrenous large intestine they removed when I finally went to see somebody about it.

And thus, a new sudden shoulder pain is very worrisome. All too often in the past, the first indication I’ve had of a joint pain is when it’s so bad that it becomes permanent. And of course, every new joint pain is just another one that the doctors shrug and say “I don’t know, maybe you’ve just got bad joints”. I don’t even want to bother seeing a doctor about them any more – they’ll think they know what it is, put me through months of treatment, and when all it does is make it worse, they shrug and go on to somebody they can actually treat.