Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shouldering Responsibilities

I cannot imagine why my shoulder injury from last summer is not yet resolved. I have been dutifully going to physical therapy and doing the exercises for four months, but the pain is just getting worse. It could not possibly be that my body’s failure to heal itself is due to the constant lifting of a certain 70lb daughter of mine, or wrestling with her wheelchair, or piling on all the equipment. Could it?

This all started last July 1 when we were moving my aunt out of her assisted living place, I helped my nephew move a television stand. I knew immediately that it was too heavy for me, but I continued anyway – because sometimes I forget that I’m not 18 like he is. My arm hurt for a couple of days. I felt like it was a muscle strain and it would go away soon.

It did, but not entirely and then it started to get worse. By August 1, it was hurting all the time. By that time, my aunt had passed away and we had to deal with the funeral. Then there was her apartment to clean out and her belongings to be distributed. By then it was incredibly painful. . I made an appointment at the orthopedist for September 17. Though the pain was in my upper arm, the injury is to my shoulder. He took x-rays and thought I had a rotator cuff injury, bursitis and bony impingement. He gave me a cortisone shot in the shoulder (ouch) and prescribed physical therapy.

The cortisone shot relieved the pain and I started physical therapy. It seemed to really help for a while. After about six weeks, it started going the other way and the pain returned. Presumably, the cortisone shot started to wear off. Now my shoulder is as painful as it was in September. I cannot reach for anything. Putting on my coat is excruciating, unloading the dryer is painful and closing the car door after I sit down is becoming difficult.

It is clear that all the lifting I do is exacerbating the problem. I told the doc about Maggie and her need for full care. He jokingly said, “Don’t lift her.” Ok, she can just sit in her chair for a couple of months. She does not need to lie down or get a diaper or anything else. He was kidding because he realizes that is impossible. However, continuing as I have may mean recovery is impossible.

Today I return to see the orthopedist. I will not get another one of those shots because I fear it simply masks the injury. Then I lift and reach without pain and likely do more damage. At least the pain is an indicator of which positions to avoid. I am hopeful he will order an MRI and we can find out what is really going on and determine what can be done to fix it.

I am not sure what I am going to do. There is so much physical work involved in caring for Maggie. If I need surgery, I am going to have to hire someone to help. The nurses are here, but they cannot lift her on their own and I do almost all of the lifting. Eddie and Tim are away at school and Steve is at work all day. Besides, his back is about the same as my shoulder.

I probably need to hire someone whether or not I have to have surgery. It is just so awkward. There are dozens of lifts a day, but they are spread out throughout the 24-hour day. I cannot have someone sitting here doing nothing for an hour and then spring into action.

We actually have a ceiling lift system, but there’s so much work involved in using it, that I probably do the equivalent of two lifts to save one. You have to get the sling under Maggie, which means moving her a few times, and then take it off again once she’s in the chair. In order to do that I pretty much have to lift her out of the chair. It defeats the purpose. I think it’s designed for a patient who can assist a bit more in her care than Maggie can.

I need Samantha Stevens from Bewitched to just twitch her nose and make things happen.

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