A Somber Recollection

On Wednesday (1/6/15), at the very beginning of my appointment with my surgeon, he mentioned that I may have damaged the surgical repair. He said this because he was concerned that I am still having pain in my shoulder. I answered that I could not remember a time when I might have damaged it.

But tonight, as I had the need to take pain medication, my wife reminded me of something that may indeed have caused my surgery to be damaged.

On the day of my surgery, when I woke up in the recovery room, I was surprised to find myself in level 10 pain. I was surprised because, on my previous shoulder surgery, I had been given a pain block, and never experienced any substantial pain until 12 hours later. But today, I was moaning and crying, and writhing in pain. The attending nurse kept asking me what my pain level was.

There should have been no question in anybody’s mind about that. Anybody who works in this field is familiar with the “Pain Level Faces” chart, and would not have had a problem diagnosing my pain level. She also kept asking me if I wanted my wife to be brought into the room.

Even though I was in intense pain, I was still able to have the presence of mind to realize that my wife’s coming back to see me isn’t going to help much, so I told her “No.” Later, she would ask me again if I wanted my wife to come back there.

At that point, I was bewildered why she would keep asking me this, and as I was still agonizing in pain, I told her that I didn’t care if she came back or not, I just needed my pain to stop. At that, she brought Pattie in to see my pitiful condition.

While this was playing out, the anesthesiologist was trying to get my pain under control by injecting a drug into my IV. He tried the first injection and waited a while to see if if would relieve my pain. It didn’t.

He then told me that he was going to inject the strongest possible pain killer that he had at his disposal. He said that after he administered this drug, he would be able to smash me in the knee cap with a sledge hammer, and I wouldn’t feel it.

Once the drug began to work, I was able to calm down. At this point, this doctor began advising me that I should begin moving my shoulder as soon as possible. As a patient who had already had this surgery before, I was quite surprised to be receiving this advice. I questioned him on how I should go about moving my shoulder.

While he was instructing me on how to do these shoulder exercises – as soon as the very next day, Pattie remembers the nurse shaking her head indicating that she was not in agreement with his advice. At the time, I remember thinking that it was odd for an anesthesiologist to be giving advice like this to a shoulder patient.

But, nevertheless I figured that he worked for a lot of surgeons, and he knew what he was talking about. So, on the very next day, I began moving my shoulder, as I was instructed by this doctor. At the time, it didn’t hurt, and so everything seemed alright.

That evening, I was in intense pain, and even the strong pain medication I was given would not relieve it at all. I ended up calling the anesthesiologist who advised me to call the on-call surgeon to find out what I should do, because the pain was intolerable.

He at first told me that I should just go in to the emergency room. I was quite surprised with that option, and asked him if there was not some other kind of pain medication he could call in for me. He explained that under new laws, they are not allowed to call in prescriptions for narcotics, and so that option was out.

During the course of our conversation, he discovered that I had a couple of pain medications that, when used together, might be able to give me relief. I took the pills as advised, and I got some relief.

As this occurred on a Friday night, I had to wait until Monday to get an emergency appointment with my surgeon to tell him what had been going on since my surgery.

During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I had begun moving my shoulder as I was advised by the anesthesiologist. The doctor was noticeably shocked to hear that I was given that advice. He told me that I should never have moved my shoulder at all, and furthermore that that was the very reason that I was put into a sling immediately after my surgery.

I told my surgeon that he needs to get with the anesthesiologist, and inform him that he is not to be advising his patients to do what they should NOT do. He told me that he would have a talk with him. He was upset at the time, and I could tell.

Fast forward now to my appointment yesterday. Before the surgeon came into see me, he always has an assistant nurse come in and interview me about my progress. She asked me how my pain was. She knew that I have been calling in prescriptions regularly. I told her that I still have pain. She seemed kind of surprised about that, and told me that the doctor would be in shortly.

As soon as the doctor came in, he told me that my repair may have been damaged. When I told him that I could only think of one time when I might have injured it, he asked me what I did. I told him what it was, and he said that that wouldn’t have caused it, because the incident was a couple of weeks ago, when sufficient scar tissue would have been laid down to prevent the injury at that point.

He then said that I may not even remember when I did it. BUT, and here’s the thing – HE REMEMBERED THE INCIDENT WITH THE ADVISING ANESTHESIOLOGIST telling me to begin moving my shoulder as soon as the very next day. He also remembers my unscheduled appointment right after surgery for what was unusual pain. He remembers me telling him that I was doing the little exercises that the anesthesiologist recommended. He is a very smart man with a very good brain, and he remembers everything – even things that, until tonight, I had forgotten about until being reminded by my wife.

As Pattie and I talked about all this, I began to worry that my shoulder could have been damaged the day after my surgery because of a talkative anesthesiologist who was dispensing BAD advice to a shoulder patient against the very wishes of the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery.

I cannot even fathom how I will feel if, next month when I go in for another surgeon appointment, he tells me that he wants to do an MRI to see if the surgery was damaged.

I cannot even imagine having to go through all of this again, because I was given bad advice by someone who should not have even been giving advice outside his field of expertise and against the wishes of the attending orthopedic surgeon.

In fact, at this point, I may request an MRI, just to have the piece of mind of knowing that my repair wasn’t ruined the day after my surgery because of bad advice from an anesthesiologist.

Now I know what my surgeon meant when he said that, “You may not even remember when you re-tore your rotator cuff.”

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