Surviving Shoulder Surgery: Preparation

In December of last year, I hurt my shoulder. I am not one to run to the doctor quickly when something hurts so I did not give it a second thought. The issue was that the pain did not go away. My mom got sick, and I got busy Tending to her and with the appearance of COVID-19, my shoulder went into the back burner.

At the beginning of May, I had a routine appointment with my primary doctor and mentioned to her my shoulder pain and she referred me to an orthopedist. I decided it was time to address that annoying pain that I have had for six months. Long story short, they found out that I had a torn rotator cuff, arthritis and bone spurs in my shoulder and that the only solution was surgery. So as a birthday present I gave myself a new shoulder.

I had decided to do a lot of research on this surgery. A lot of the things I saw and learn made me decide that I was going to give back what I received. A lot of people made video journals of their journey through the surgery, which helped me a lot into preparing for what was to come. I had promised myself to do that, but videos are not my thing; therefore, I’m going to pay it forward in the only way I know writing. I am doing this by using one of the tools I’ve had to incorporate, since it’s harder to type with just one hand, especially when it’s not your dominant hand: Dictate on Word.  Don’t worry I will do my best to check for typos. But excuse me ahead of time for any mistakes.

BE PREPARED and PREPARATION IS THE KEY plan, prepare

Preparation

I think the most important thing is to prepare before the surgery. This was my first surgery ever, so I had a lot of questions on how things were going to play out. Now I do recommend for anyone to go on YouTube and look at all the videos there in terms of rotator cuff surgery. I will share a lot of what I learned through the videos and lot of my personal experience.

Insurance

As soon as they tell you that you are going to have surgery, please call your insurance company. One of the things I learned through this process, even though I’ve been working with insurance companies for many years is that it is never too early to call your insurance for clarification of what are the requirements for your surgery. Your doctor’s office is going to call the insurance company, but do not rely on that. At the end of the day it is you who will have to pay for any mistakes, and I mean money.

One of the issues for me was, my insurance company only required me to notify them three days in advance of the surgery. However, there was an issue with the location of where the surgery was going to take place. It took six weeks to get that sorted out. If I had not started the research as soon as I heard that I was going to have surgery, my surgery would have been postponed probably by two months. Even starting early, the surgery ended up being moved to a different location and different date than originally scheduled.

There was a lot of negotiation between the insurance, the provider’s office and the facility and I had to be involved in all of that.

The other issue I faced was confusion on the benefits. I had a copay.  The doctor’s office thought it was due to them. The facility said it was due to them. During my pre-op appointment, I paid the copay to the doctor thinking that it was due to the doctor. So, when the facility called me to say that I owed them money, I was confused. I had to call the insurance company and had them with me on the phone to clarify who was the money owed to. At the end of the day, yes it was to the facility, but now I had to chase the doctor’s office for a refund. I must clarify my doctor’s office was great and they processed the refund really quick.  But at some point, I had less twice less money because I had to pay that copay twice until things were sorted out.

Home Preparation

It may sound crazy, but the first thing I did was try to do everything I do on a regular basis without the arm that was going to be operated on. Part of the reason I did that, is because I had to identify what things I was going to need to make my life easier once the surgery happened. Especially because I was going to be on a sling for a month. I was going to have no use of that arm for a while. Trust me, no amount of practice is enough, even if people look at you crazy you are the one who’s going to have to deal with it

For example, I realized that I would not be able to cut anything. I am right-handed and that’s the arm that was going to be operated on. I was not going to risk cutting myself by trying to cut something with my left hand. It proved to be exceedingly difficult.  I could not even butter bread with my left hand because it was hard to take it out of the tub. I decided to buy squeezable butter and that was the best thing ever.

 After that I also bought everything for personal hygiene in pumps:

  • hand soap
  • body wash
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • toothpaste dispenser where you can put your toothpaste on the wall just put the toothbrush underneath it and it will dispense it all of it very worth it.
  • Spray deodorant
  • Wipes-the first two days you can’t shower and in other days you just want to make sure you’re clean after using the bathroom.

Work

I work from home. I knew that I was going to return to work before I was off the sling and have my arm operational. Therefore, I had to do some practice and adjustments too to make that work.

  • Cordless mouse – I have the advantage that I have taught my left hand to use the mouse years ago but. With this gadget my life has been easier.
  • Keyboard- Through practice I understood that my keyboard was going to be an issue. Typing numbers was going to be challenging when it is on the right side of the keyboard. I was not going to buy a full keyboard for just a month. I did buy a numbers pad that I could locate on the left-hand side

Those things arrived weeks before the surgery. I was able to test their effect effectiveness into what I was trying to do and work perfectly fine.

For the first week, I was going to have someone with me all the time.  At some point I knew I was going to be on my own. I bought a little plastic cabinet with three drawers just took put in the clothes that I was going to wear during this time. Again, this may sound crazy. It has really proven to be a good decision.

Clothes

Talking about clothes one of the things I learned from the videos was that you should get tops 2 size bigger than your normal size. That may sound like an exaggeration, but it is not. Although you do take the sling off to put your clothes on, since you can’t lift your arm, not just because you’re not supposed to but you literally can’t, it is hard once you get up the one sleeve to put the shirt over your head. It really hurts a lot.

Now post-surgery I’m not able to use any of my regular clothes because they won’t go through my head without hurting my shoulder. So, I’m glad I took that advice. I have a lot of sleeveless shirts, to sleep, for day use, even to go out wherever I need to go, all of them are at least one size bigger and that has made my life so much easier.

Also, pants, no buttons, no zippers just something that you can slip up and keep on walking.

Shoes have not been an issue I’ve been able to put socks and tennis shoes and sandals on without trouble.

Ladies if you have long hair, it’s going to be problematic. If there’s one thing I can’t do, is put my hair on a ponytail or a bun. I do need someone to prop my hair up every day. I can’t do that by myself and I have not found a solution.

Sleeping Arrangements

Most people on the videos that I saw bought a recliner. For the most part you’re going to be uncomfortable sleeping flat on a bed for the first a few weeks. I didn’t go with the reclining option because I have an adjustable bed and that has worked perfectly fine. Now if you don’t have either and even if you do have any of these options, you’re going to need a lot of pillows to prop yourself up, to prop your arm up during the day and at night . I have one pillow for my office to put my arm on, while I’m working. I have four pillows on my bed. Pillows are going to be your best friend during the post-surgery time.

I think I have covered everything I did too prepare for this surgery. If I remember something else, I will add it in one of the next posts, but for now I think I gave you most of the things I did prior to the surgery. The next time, I will give you the information on what I did and what happened the day off the surgery.

Be blessed!

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