Shouldering The Load



            I did something stupid the other day, which is not all that uncommon, but usually, it’s only for fun. This time it was for curiosity, much the same as using an opening such as this to pique your curiosity so that you hang onto every word until the end. I’m not above cheap literary parlor tricks.

            I’m going to have a full shoulder replacement in a few weeks, which is something I didn’t even know was possible until the orthopedic doctor said, “You need a full shoulder replacement.” I thought he was kidding. He could have said “You need a full set of condor wings if you want to fly,” and it would have made more sense. I would have signed up right away for the condor wings, but I needed an MRI to determine if I was a suitable candidate for the shoulder replacement.

            Having an MRI is fun. First off, the appointment was at 7:30 in the evening and a person who I assumed went to school for either MRI’ing or buffing floors greeted me with a paper leisure suit. Once I was changed, he then set me up on a rolling sleigh, bolstered my shoulder up with foam, and gave me a set of earplugs.

             I’ve seen these earplugs before.

             They are brightly colored gobs of foam that are smooshed into a thin cone and placed in the ears. They are about as effective at reducing noise as strapping a jackhammer on the side of one’s head, which is what it sounds like to be inside of an MRI machine, only more sporadic. The noise kicked on suddenly, then stopped, then came back on louder, then stopped again, and then the technician asked (via a speaker) if I was OK. He was concerned, which I appreciate, but if he were really concerned, he would not have placed me in a narrow tube with a death metal rock band. I said that I was OK, so he continued rat-a-tat-tatting the magnets.

            “You’re doing fine,” he said during his next pause and round of concern, which woke me up because I had actually fallen asleep. I know, it’s weird, but if I lie down anywhere, under any circumstances, my brain kicks into sleep mode. Give me a pillow and I could sleep on a parking lot.

            The exam ended as most fireworks displays end, with a raucous finale of sonic resonation then an abrupt silence while the sleigh inched its way back into the room. “Thanks,” I said, and then shuffled back to the dressing room while holding up my one-size-fits-all M.C. Hammer pants.

            Two weeks later, I visited the orthopedic doctor, who told me I was good to go for a new ball and socket, which differs from a socket and ball. How you may ask? Well, in a normal, organic shoulder, the arm part is the ball and the badly engineered shoulder part is the socket. With a replacement, either way will work; however, the ball and socket work better, but just in case, both sets of parts will be on the stainless steel TV tray.

            So, after an almost three-month wait, the surgery is coming up very soon. I know it won’t be a picnic, but I had a chance to talk with my rheumatologist who had it done and he said it’s not that bad. He then windmilled his new shoulder around; similar to how Michael Phelps warms up before going for a swim. I was impressed and showed him how I can button a shirt in ten minutes with one hand.

            I’m not worried. At least not too much.

            My orthopedic doctor is the best person around to perform this surgery, and as long as I don’t start pitching for the Yankees with my left hand, the new parts should last a while. If they ever have to be replaced, I’m hoping for an Iron Man arm. If science puts its considerable resources into replacing faulty body parts on Baby Boomers with advanced mechanics rather than—oh, let me think—trying to fly one hundred and forty-two million miles to Mars, wait almost two years for the planets to align again, and then fly back, lots of people will be happy.

            So, what did I do that was stupid? I’m glad you waited to find out. I watched a shoulder replacement surgery on YouTube. I took a biology course in college only because I heard we could poke around at a cadaver that had been donated to science and had flaps installed over key organs, so this sort of thing has always interested me. As students, we were supposed to open the various flaps, identify the organs, and label them, but this was a little different. This was going to happen to me. I’m glad I’ll be out like a light for this one since it involves hammers, drills, saws and screws, which in my experience, have only ever been used on lumber.

            Should be interesting.


            Hey, I’m back again. I had my pre-surgical exam this morning, where they bled me, checked my heart and took my vitals. I was asked by the receptionist, the person who weighed me and checked my blood pressure, the physician’s assistant and the nurse who drew blood and gave me the echocardiogram the same question: Have I been outside of the country, traveled to Africa or been exposed to the Ebola virus in the past twenty-one days? OK, ask me once when I get there, but unless I could fly to Africa in the time it takes to get from the scale to the inner waiting room, stop asking me.

            I did get an interesting booklet on what to expect and what to do afterward. Some of the ideas involved the following: not driving while on narcotic pain medications, no strenuous exercise and my favorite—no bowling if the surgery was done on my dominant arm. Roger that. Also, I could set off airport scanners, so given my magnetic attraction to TSA fondling, I may have to call Homeland Security before I board a plane.

            Also, note to self: If something goes wrong, I’ve left instructions not to donate my body to science if that science will be a bunch of dopey college students sticking toothpick flags in my kidneys and liver as if I’m some sort of charcuterie plate. I mean, really—does anyone who checks that box think that is going to happen?


Posted in essays Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *