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A Shot In The Arm…And Then Some

August 16, 2012

Okay, x-rays have been taken, they’re good, so now I’m off to the doctor’s office to see what he has to say.  Now, this isn’t my first rodeo with joint issues, and it’s not going to be my last. So I’m getting to know my orthopedic surgeon pretty well. Not well enough to go to coffee, but too well for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad guy, and chatting in the grocery store would be fine. But, I’m pretty sure I’ve paid for a few of his family vacations. Single-handedly.

As it happens, I’ve inherited my grandmother’s ortho issues. Not the quality of hers I would have chosen; but it’s what I got. Deal with it, woman, I tell myself, you can‘t change it, so move on as best you can. I would have been perfectly happy with Grandma’s artistic ability, which I do have, and I don‘t want to seem ungrateful, but I‘d have been happy to stop there. But, I was given more. The artistic quality is a gift that I absolutely treasure, and I think of her every time I find myself exploring a creative new way to express myself. In those moments, I feel close to her. But I have to take the good with the bad. It could be worse; I could have gotten her heart problems. I can live with bad joints; I don’t always like it, but it’s not fatal. Inheriting her heart issues probably would be. Harder to manage and more debilitating the long run, and  fatal. All in all, I’ll keep the ortho stuff, as long as I can keep the creativity, too.  In case anyone asks…

So, when physical therapy wasn’t working for my neck issues, I talked to the therapist about my shoulder. I’d had issues with that about a year ago, and some of the symptoms were coming back. Last fall, they injected me with steroids, so I thought it was worth a ‘shot‘ this time around, too. In fact that’s the treatment I’d have prescribed for myself, had I been asked But, having worked as a nurse, I know that doctors really resent it when some underling, like a lowly nurse suggests a course of treatment. Especially surgeons, they‘re the worst. Even if it’s a no-brainer. Like this. Some surgeons work themselves into a real snit and refuse to cooperate at all. Then, it starts looking a lot like a temper tantrum, and that’s just not pretty, any way you look at it.

So, armed with that knowledge, I decided to dust off my diplomatic skills; surgeons have large but sometimes very fragile egos, so I needed to be tactful. I thought it over and came up with a plan; tell him about my neck problem, add that P.T. wasn’t helping much, give a few examples of what it‘s like for me, like the fact that driving causes those horrible migraine headaches unless I sit really close to the wheel. And that I think I’d really be screwed if I was in an accident. Then move on to my worsening shoulder issues, add the fact that the last injection I had helped quite a bit, and let him take it from there.

Makes sense to me that my shoulder would be affecting my neck. After all, they’re next door neighbors, and they share a few muscle groups. Doctors like to think they know it all, and they do know a lot more than me, most of the time, but truth be told, they can be dumb as rocks sometimes, just like the rest of us.

So, I let him run through his whole spiel, one I’d heard many times before. As I said, this was not my first visit to the office. But I was patient…smiling, nodding, saying things like ‘that’s nice’, and ‘oh, really.’  Being polite.

In fact, after conferring with the Ladies of the Pool, I suggested to him that his office come up with a punch card system…after ten visits, you get a free coupon redeemable at Caribou Coffee or Starbucks. Or better yet, a free steroid shot. That I could really use!

With my joint problems, I’m no stranger to steroid shots… I’ve had them in my back, knee, shoulder, ankle and foot. A free one occasionally, would be wonderful. Some of them hurt badly enough to make me wonder why I agreed to actually pay for them.

And, the doctor agreed…said if it was up to him, that’s the way it would be. I’m thinking he may have been schmoozing me, but I’ll take it. A rare combination indeed, a doctor who knows his stuff, and has a sense of humor. I like that in a doctor; it puts me at ease, and then I remember more of the questions I planned on asking in the first place. That way I can avoid that embarrassing phone call to ask the rest of my questions.

So, there I was, sitting in my thin oversized blue gown, open in the back, waiting for the doctor to come in. As I said, we’d already talked at length about this procedure, and since I’d had it done once last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…well you get the idea. I knew what to expect.

I’m sitting on the table, facing the wall while he’s busy jabbing a 3 inch needle into my already inflamed shoulder. ‘A little poke’ he says. Obviously, he has never had this done to him. At least it’s over quickly…not more than 30-60 seconds, but with some of those shots, that seems like a very long time. And all the while, he’s talking about how if this doesn’t work, surgery might be the best option. Thanks, Doc. Just what I needed to hear, I think to myself. How encouraging.

As steroid shots go, this one was small potatoes. A injection in the knee isn’t too bad, either. Not pleasant, but tolerable. At least it doesn’t feel like he’s cauterizing it with a blow torch like it does when they jab that needle into an inflamed nerve in your ankle or foot. Or spine. During those procedures, I envision myself looking like that cartoon cat…you know the one, where cat sees dog;  cat gets scared out of its wits;  cat winds up clinging upside down to the ceiling with its eyes popping out of its head and it’s fur standing on end. That’s me. Just exactly how I feel. At least the spinal injections get progressively less intense, because the inflammation decreases with each injection. I had four injections in my back, each a week to ten days apart, Now injections into my lumbar spine isn’t something I’d like to repeat, but they helped. So they definitely beat the other option: surgery.

This doc’s a keeper…he has the ability to follow my unspoken advice. Nice.

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