My shoulder surgery was February 23rd. Today is May 31st. That’s just over 3 months ago. What’s it like post-surgery? Not fun. The doctor says a full 9 to 12 months for recovery. Some people say longer. Let’s see where I end up…
T- Minus 5 Hours: Wake Up in Charlottesville, Drive to Outpatient Surgery Center. Realize it isn’t open for another 30 minutes, drive around Richmond at 5AM in the morning looking for post-surgery treats. Richmond was chosen because UVa is a learning hospital and I don’t want any students touching me. Sorry people, I will trust you one day.
T-Minus 90 Minutes: Get suited up in hospital gown, get an IV with some happy stuff in it. Meet the anesthesiologist, total nerd. Totally seems like a cool nerd. Brings out some electrodes to find some nerve in my shoulder for the “nerve block.” Pass out.
T-Minus 15 Minutes: Wake up and don’t realize what happened and am being carted off to surgery room. Not cool that I’m awake for this. Quickly pass out.
The Beast Awakens
60 Minutes Post-Surgery: Wake up in recovery room with nurse and mom with major headache and really need to go to the bathroom. Nurse tells me headache is probably from no coffee. Hmmm, more like the chemicals. Nurse won’t let me go and brings me a receptacle. Decline and hold it. Wander to bathroom and pee smells like sulfuric acid. Shoulder is still numb, set in a really large sling and immobile.
3 Hours Post-Surgery: Are you serious? Nerve block is now wearing off. Where are the percocet?!
6 Hours Post-Surgery: Are you really serious? Nerve block is totally worn off and this is absolutely horrifically painful. Arm is glued to the side because any small motion causes major pain.
48 Hours Post-Sugery: Been stuck on the sofa for pretty much the entire time. Going to the bathroom, eating, moving and anything else produces more pain than it’s worth. I need someone to prepare meals and Sarah D takes super good care of me. She was the best caregiver ever!
72 Hours Post-Surgery: Really need to take a shower. Need two helpers to get a t-shirt off and support the shoulder in the process. My shoulder is majorly swollen and ice has been useless because the amount of bandages on the wounds. Nights have been sleepless because any small movement produces enough pain to wake me up. I’m able to make it to the gym to see people. Standing up for 15 minutes while on painkillers isn’t possible given the additional strain on the shoulder.
1 Week After Surgery: Still not able to cook or remove shirts on my own. Not able to stand for longer than 15 minutes. Still reaching for the painkillers 4x per day.
The Baby Can Crawl
10 Days After Surgery: Able to remove shirts by myself, but sedentary lifestyle is starting to hurt mentally and physically. Especially when you go from 4X CrossFit WODs + 4X Strength Movements + Other Sports to nothing, your body isn’t used to it. Besides the initial pain around the first few days, this period was the worst because I couldn’t do any sort of exercise.
2 Weeks After Surgery: Am capable of getting on the GHD machine and doing some gentle cycling on a stationary bike. It’s not enough, but at least it’s something. Even squats are painful because they contribute to a slight rotation in your shoulders which just isn’t possible after the surgery. Rehab has started, but rehab is “active assistance” meaning no muscle usage, just moving the arm in directions with the help of a pully or another human.
4 Weeks After Surgery: Time to get out of the sling! Doc asks to see the range of motion. Arm literally doesn’t move higher than chest; arm is stuck at about 10 degrees off center when my elbow is by my side.
6 Weeks After Surgery: Rehab is still really slow. Doc really wants a full 8 to 10 weeks until we start strengthening and major stretching. I’m able to put together a few wimpy metcons with cycling, GHD work, air squats and some one-armed pressing. Still waking up early in the morning with some super painful shoulder soreness. I haven’t exercised in almost two months and I’m going crazy. My friend Amy has been super helpful through all of this and I’m grateful she was so kind.
8 Weeks After Surgery: Running isn’t officially OK’ed, but I can do it without any pain. I get my first bar on my back after about 2 months. I haven’t lost that much squatting power. Rehab has gone from wimpy sessions of baby strengthening movements to full on let’s-hammer-on-Kyle’s-shoulder-until-he-screams-in-pain stretching sessions. I’m responsible for my own strengthening work and literally we just stretch my shoulder in every conceivable torturous position for about 45 minutes to an hour twice per week.
10 Weeks After Surgery: I don’t have to sleep on my back anymore!!! I can open doors, turn the wheel of the car and do stuff with my left arm without pain. I can do a full golf swing without any problems. Rehab dude is majorly stretching my shoulder. Normal people would pass out; I just make really funny faces and my shoulder vibrates.
12 Weeks After Surgery: I’ve regained a TON of mobility and I mainly have my rehab dude, Eric Magrum to thank for that. At 12 weeks, I can manage a bar on my back with no problem, I can do light weight turkish getups, I can press light dumbbells over head, I can do really wide grip pass-throughs, ring rows, snatch progressions, knee pushups and a lot of band stability work that wasn’t even close to possible 4 weeks ago. My shoulders are visibly smaller and weaker than prior to surgery, but I expect in less than 4 weeks I will be able to start rebuilding some muscle in my upper body.