Soft Shoulder Ahead

I do like to think I have a healthy perspective as far as my personal limitations are concerned. My body has gone through some significant changes over the years. Some of them are self inflicted. Others are just evidence that I am not as young as I used to be. In 1986, I was 20 years old. I had finished an enlistment in the United States Navy and I was certain I would be the next Paul Stanley (with slightly less face paint). I didn’t look like a body builder but my body was somewhat toned due to my recent military tenure. I was ready to make my mark on the world with a guitar and a blow dryer (as I said, it was the 80’s).
Time, of course, has a way of changing things. My guitar playing is sorely out of practice. I have long since retired the blow dryer. I didn’t so much retire it as it eventually died of boredom. My hair is now much shorter and greyer. I am also a little over 100 lbs heavier than I was in 1986 (file that under self inflicted). The effects of time and the excessive weight have had its consequences. I also have sleep apnea and high blood pressure. My rock star blue eyes now have the assistance of bifocal lenses. Let me put it this way – I have all but given up hope for a career as an Atlanta Braves home run hitter. Don’t work Hank Aaron. Your legacy at Turner Field is safe from the likes of me. Nevertheless, I try to take some of it in stride. I may not be as strong or as fast I used to be. But, I still have a chance to lose the excess weight and get myself in better health. I know I can’t completely turn the clock back on my physique. I CAN however wind up my figurative watch a bit better. In spite of the fact that many of you are too young to know what it means to wind a watch. My ego is not too bruised these days.

Recently, however, my ego has been a bit harmed due to a recent injury to my shoulder. I initially thought I slept wrong on that arm. I figured a good hot shower and a nice massage from my lovely wife would help to correct this. I thought incorrectly. The pain remained to the point where it shot from my right shoulder blade all the way down to my right elbow.To move or rotate my arm was would prove to be painful. To lift my right hand over my head would prove to be excruciating.

I tried to surmise what caused this injury since I had ruled out sleep position, My wife and daughter reminded me that I had carried a window air conditioner  from my daughter’s room to the curb in front if the house. Both my daughter and my wife insisted that I see an orthopedic doctor. My daughter had also suffered a shoulder injury that had to be surgically corrected. Given that, I relented to her recommendation and my wife made an appointment for me. In the days that followed, my daughter helped me with some physical therapy (since she knew it all too well) and insisted I put an ice pack on my shoulder each night for a brief bit. My family has graciously endured my daily groaning. My daughter showed even greater patience and understanding as I referred to her as Lady Torquemada (due to the exercises and ice packs she provided me).

The appointment finally came today. I was greeted by a nurse practitioner. She wore this lovely royal blue blouse. She had long flowing hair (imagine Farrah Fawcett without a curling iron). She wore dangling, but tasteful earrings. I thought to myself: maybe this wont be as bad as I imagined. I thought incorrectly. Nurse Farrah-Pretty-Blue-Blouse asked me some questions about my injury. She then began to move my right arm into a variety of positions. These were simple range of motion tasks. It was somewhat painful when she rotated my arm. When she placed my arm behind my back and gently pushed upward, it felt like a dagger piercing my shoulder blade. The pain I felt was too obvious for me to hide as my wife and kids who were sitting in the exam room with me. Nurse Farrah-Pretty-Blue-Blouse recommended physical therapy for me. She then offered me an injection of cortisone. She said this would reduce the inflammation after a few days. She pulled the needle backward to South Alabama and met my shoulder in New York. Once inside my shoulder, she decided to make stops in Syracuse, Utica, and Schenectady before making its way back to Rochester. Finally she gave me the referral form that indicated I had a rotator cuff injury with nerve impingement.

So it was now official, I have injured my shoulder doing physical work and was treated with a steroid. Maybe I AM to be a professional athlete after all. Watch your back, Mr. Bonds. I may just go for home run 763. I only have to hit….763 home runs to make it happen.


Sometimes, Stress Is Good?

I had the joy of visiting my doctor recently. During this visit, we got caught up the state of my mind and body since I had last seen my doctor some 8 months previously. She commented about my weight and asked if I felt that the reading was accurate. I made a comment that scales don’t lie (in an effort to dismiss the subject). Her next question had the subtlety of 100 grit sandpaper: “Have you noticed your clothes have begun to fit more tightly?” My wife nodded in silent agreement. I felt like I was at a parent teacher conference being called out for passing notes in class. Except in this case, I was being called out for repeatedly asking someone to pass the gravy.

Along with this pleasant topic of conversation, my doctor made some adjustments in my medications. In the interest of being through, my doctor also scheduled me for a cardiac stress test. I have some mild anxiety over this forthcoming test but I was usually able to divert myself with other things: work, watching the Braves lose the wildcard playoffs after a good season, learning new chords on the mandolin, or preparing for two upcoming midterm exams. OK, maybe that last one wasn’t the best way to avoid stress. Getting an F on one of these midterms is more stressful. After all, this will require that my wife and kids will have to meet with my teachers. I’d prefer not to be the only grounded parent in my neighborhood. In the days that followed, my wife caught a terrible cold. I did my best to keep my distance while proving her with a never ending supply of cold medicine and cough drops. My room reeked of eucalyptus. I had koala bears knocking on my door at 3 in the morning begging me to hook them up.

The day before the stress test, my wife got a phone call from the office performing the test. They said I could not eat for 4 hours prior to the test and I could not take my blood pressure medicine. I don’t know about you but it was beginning to sound like they were stacking the deck against me. I was sure that any minute they were also going to feed me a fried bologna sandwich and make me sit in a sauna for 20 minutes before the test. This didn’t happen which was sad. I rather enjoy fried bologna.

A cardiac stress test involves attaching enough wires to your body to become an antenna for the nearest college radio station then briskly walking on a treadmill. You start at a nice pace with no incline. As the walk continues, they increase the speed and the incline. During all of this, a nurse has a blood pressure cuff wrapped around your arm. This requires a lot of talent considering that you are walking and wired for sound (I think I hear the B-52’s playing). So every minute or so, the nurse will say “30 more seconds on this level”. Then, as you make your way up this imaginary hill and you feel as if your face will explode, the nurse inflates the blood pressure cuff on your arm to get another reading. I can only describe this part of the experience by saying I think I know what it feels like to be a zit.

The speed and incline got me to where I felt like I was racing my way to claim a prize at the top of Stone Mountain. It would have been true as I was really getting an urge for that fried bologna sandwich. The routine continued: “30 more seconds, Shane”, another blood pressure reading, and my head feels like Mount Saint Helens. At this point, the treadmill slows down and the incline levels off. The nurse then takes off the leads which held the monitor wires (Darn, I was really digging that song). It is at this point that I should delicate point out that I am, shall we say, hirsute (i.e. hairy as an ape). I didn’t really think of the repercussions at the beginning as the nurse was strategically shaving areas of my chest to place the leads. Now that the leads were off, I looked like aliens have made crop circles on my chest.

I left the office with my wife and I treated her to breakfast. Now, I know what you are thinking. So, let me just set the record straight. I DID NOT HAVE a fried bologna sandwich. After breakfast, I went home to relax and prepare for a midterm that was taking place that evening. As the day went on, I began to notice that my very generous wife had something waiting for me once I got home. She had given me her cold. Man, I had JUST gotten rid of those koalas, too.