On June 14th last year I woke up twice. Once at six A.M. to take a taxi ride to the hospital, and again around lunchtime in recovery after my wrist surgery.

I felt pretty fucking miserable for a lot of last winter. I spent my days working, watching TV, playing Reborn with one hand, and wishing I could have a different life.

On June 14th this year I also woke up twice, the first time in Florence to have some breakfast and then a morning stroll in the Boboli Gardens of Palazzo Pitti, and the second time after a brief nap on the train as we pulled into Venezia Santa Lucia.

View from the top of Boboli Gardens

The wrist that this time last year was in a cast and dragging me down was now dragging a 17 kilogram suitcase for two kilometres of Venice's cobbled, car-less streets, and up and down bridges across the canals.

I took for granted that last year's surgery would have a short and linear recovery and I was wrong about that. I'm not taking anything for granted any more. Venice is an awesome place though, and I'm glad I have my life. Today felt like a chapter end in that story, and as chapter ends go it was a satisfying "fuck you" followed by a sunset.

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If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?

King of Snake

For the past six weeks I have been living in the worst sock puppet performance the simulation has ever generated.

Mmmm, painkillers.

I have endured the harsh winter deprived of most of the few joys the season brings. No chopping up massive pumpkins. No driving to locations for low-UV hiking. No warm showers. No bike rides. Instead I've had this, the egg.

For six weeks I've been brooding. And keeping my arm dry, and warm, and nourished.

And after all of that brooding today it finally hatched!

Coincidentally my right ctrl button has also been broken the past six weeks.

Roll Your Sleeves Up

Back in autumn I bought myself a few long sleeved thermals along with a new jacket with the intention of being able to leave the house over winter and not be cold. Or even stay in my house and not be cold... I did not foresee having an arm cast for six weeks over the winter solstice which, while good for helping two ends of my ligament scar back together, did not permit long sleeved garments unless they were closely related to an old Oody.

It turned out my garment purchases had been as equally ironic as the Vice Nights Duncan Robinson jersey ordered for myself at some point between tearing my labrum and diagnosing it.

Fortunately at the two week mark my hospital plaster was replaced with a fresh, fibreglass cast and while I was a little dismayed to be informed that it would on my forearm for another four weeks, at least this one was slim enough for my arm to fit through the sleeves of my winter wear. I can even fit a glove over it. This small piece of good fortune has motivated me to keep a positive attitude and aim not to sit under a blanket counting the days until July 27. I even ate a salad on the weekend although the ingredients were not as finely chopped as I'm used to.

Who knows, maybe Vice Nights will get a redemption arc too.

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One (Year) Down

I feel compelled to complete the One (x) Down theme I started to track my shoulder surgery recovery process which started on May 19, 2021 and has only ramped up since then.

Sometimes when I go for a walk in the last light after sunset after doing eight plus hours of computering I reflect on the last year and all the stretching and rehab and medical bills I endured. And I think to myself, damn, I really did throw away a huge chunk of my life and time and energy to not achieve anything. I'm still in pain, and I can't shoot a basketball, but now I can't lie on my right side either. I need a minimum of four pillows to sleep comfortably. This is how my spiral into death will be measured, in cushions. One night in my late eighties sixties forties I'll be propped up against some pillows in a hospital bed with an extra pillow under my knees, another one padding my spine, two supporting the weight of my arms, and a well-meaning nurse will put just one more small neck cushion behind my head and I'll literally cark it.

I have to try harder not to think about it.

In April 2021 I attended an orthopaedic surgeon and showed them an MRI of my shoulder which showed my AC joint was inflamed. I had come armed with an internet search and a chat with a physio and I believed an AC excision would be the solution to my oppressed desire to wear my new Vice City Duncan Robinson top. When the surgeon diagnosed me with a labrum tear I believed them because I'm not an orthopaedic surgeon so I'm not going to argue. I mean, the lesson here is to advocate for your own health when you have doubts, but you're often going to need hindsight to nail that.

After a gruelling, highly motivated recovery from the surgery (I really wanted to wear that top, hit a corner three on some suburban hoop, and like high five some buddies right after, and feel alive) I still had the same discomfort and limitations and after paying for a whole bunch of extra physio I was sent for a second MRI which showed that my labrum repair was looking super good, oh and my AC joint was even more inflamed than the images taken in 2021. Hmm. Somehow I had torn it since the surgery? Hmmm. Or both injuries had happened at the same time back in 2020 when I hurt it. Hmmmmm.

I declined to have any follow up surgery, as Omicron was making life a problem for Adelaide at the time and I was only just recovering my sick leave from the last surgery. My plan was to stop lifting weights and just enjoy life with pain by riding my bike and going bushwalking.

These all sounded like good ideas but I wish that my surgeon had advocated for my health and encouraged me to have surgery, instead of happily letting me walk away to be my own problem instead of his. If I'd been in a sling in February it would have been a lot harder for me to crash my bike and break my elbow and wrist. Now that those injuries are healing my shoulder pain is returning.

If there is some advice I will share with anyone in their mid to late thirties who is suffering from shoulder pain - which was the intent of the shoulder recovery series to begin with - it is this. Don't stop resistance training, no matter how bad your knee and shoulder or anything else is feeling. At least at the time of my last MRI I could pick up a barbell off the ground, hang from a bar, twist side to side. The loss of the limited power, flexibility and core strength that has occurred since I spat the dummy about health and fitness only four months ago has really cost me now that I've realised I'm going to need it back if I want to make it to that hospital bed in my late forties.

Bulk Billed

This morning I took another pleasant ride to the sports hospital and locked my bike up at the now extremely familiar bicycle parking.

After yet another nap inside an MRI yesterday I was to learn what was happening in my shoulder. I was expecting bad news: failure of the labrum anchor from May, another surgery, no explanation for my shitty tissue.

Instead, my surgeon shared his surprise that the labrum repair was intact and unremarkable. My AC Joint, however, was extremely inflamed. Instead of surgery he wanted to try a cortisone injection to confirm the location of the problem, and give me another month of structural integrity limbo.

I suppose this is relatively good news, although a microscopic part of me was disappointed that I couldn't write today's journal entry about the torn labrum omicron variant.

I had been beginning to feel queasy that every year was going to follow a pattern of coronavirus mutation, shoulder injury, significant lifestyle changes.

I'm trying to suppress the memories of the last time I got a cortisone injection into a chronic injury hotspot in the weeks before Christmas.

Then I cycled home.

1 (Recovery) Down

My shoulder surgeon said it would take six months to fully recover from my labrum repair and biceps tendon reattachment. My surgery was on May 19th so allowing conservatively for any impact from daylight savings I should be fully recovered from today.

I am not fully recovered. I did all my resting, stretching, rehab and conditioning as prescribed and by the start of October I was about 90% there. I still had pain under load pushing or raising anything. I never got to the point where I could shoot a basketball. That is, I never got to the point I was at before I had the surgery.

After cutting back my strengthening at the start of November I still made no progress, and then last week my shoulder has regressed further, to the point that I'm in pain from simply lifting my arm. Maybe the physio will have some idea when I see him on Thursday. Maybe he'll just give me another rub.

I'd been really optimistic about the operation, but this year has really reinforced how fragile my body is. Unlike mine, the hands of the clock are working efficiently and I don't really know what I'll do when all my limbs are net negatives.

I was in considerable pain on my morning walk yesterday. My shoulder was throbbing and I had a whole day of work ahead of me. I didn't know how I was going to get through it. But I wasn't depressed. I realised that I have been at this point so many times in my life - back, wrist, knee, hamstring, hamstring, hamstring, shoulder, knee, shoulder - where pain completely owns me that I've become inured to the feeling. I know that I'll grind through the resting, stretching, rehab, beer, and conditioning until I get back to the point where I can injure myself all over again. Another recovery down, onto the next one.

One (Trimester) Down

My recovery from labral tear repair and biceps tendon reattachment has progressed okay, one quarter of a planetary orbit post-op. Although a quarter of an orbit seems an appropriate signifier considering my current level of external rotation. While I am able to pick up weights of about 10kg from ground to shoulder height, my plan of developing supreme leg strength through a rehab period regime of back squats has been dashed by my inability as of yet to be able to get my upright forearm past the line of my body. At least I'm getting really good at goblet squats.

Day to day activities are mostly back to normal. I've ridden my bike and driven the car and pruned some trees and doing any of these for long periods needs a beer afterwards. At the twelve week mark my rehab program was progressed to include a whole new array of light/no weight stretches, poses and exercises. No existing exercises were removed from the program. If you ever need to rehab a joint I strongly recommend against ball and socket types. You really take for granted the range of movement available during flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, medial rotation and lateral rotation. There's plenty of time to reminisce about it when you're spending your free time in the evenings lying on an exercise mat with your arm up your back and your opposite knee cocked and then rolling on top of your own arm in the hope that six months from now this painful activity is what permits you to apply sunscreen to your upper back by yourself.

Post surgery rehab truly is the least rewarding form of resistance training. Cold sweat runs down your forehead, your muscles ache and beg off, the minutes pass by and the only reason your knuckles are close to where they're supposed to be is because your entire wrist is flexed skywards. I have four booklets of movements and stretches. I barely remember how much pain I was in before the scalpel came for me, but it wasn't as much as this.

But I'm not complaining. At least this dictionary of shoulder exercises gives me something to structure a workout around. Things are getting better every day week. Nothing pops when I cut up vegetables anymore. The surgeon and physio claim that I'm half way through. I'm never playing social basketball again.

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The Pendulum Swings

I had the dream again... I think I'm playing basketball, but actually I'm anesthetised, topping up the bank accounts of members of the ATO's top 5 income earners while they re-attach my tendons to the wrong parts of my skeleton.

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In the six weeks since I have been following the booklet of arm rehab advice. The exercises primarily involved using my good arm to swing around my bad one.
This was the shittiest beard I could find on a Lego head.

This was the shittiest beard I could find on a Lego head.

The goal is not 360 degree swivel articulation like the Lego dudes. I'd take what I had before back.

My favourite exercise was the one where I used a wooden spoon to push and stretch my arm away from my body. The physio couldn't have known that I would have the Official Bradism Long Wooden Spoon For Tall People in my kitchen.

Combined with my discipline for rehab, I quickly regained mobility and strength. After a few weeks I felt like I could win an arm wrestle against a toddler.

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I saw my surgeon today who refreshed my memory on how good he was at cutting into people and re-attaching tendons to the wrong parts of skeletons.
Maybe I asked too many questions because he charged me an $8 gap.

I asked if I would be able to dunk a basketball after 6 months and he said yes! That will definitely make this worth the investment...

Sometimes I think I'm feeling nostalgic about those early days of rehab. Sitting in the backyard listening to audiobooks and drinking cups of soup. Watching NBA playoffs on the couch. Excused from having to work and write and exercise and needing to floss and (briefly) shave. In reality I know that nostalgia for days in pain is really just nostalgia for days in pain where I didn't also have to work eight hours a day.

Now the pain is starting to fade, and I can use the wooden spoon for its intended purpose again. I'm looking forward to a return to the gym and the writing desk and maybe the basketball court, and putting this behind me - which I can currently do to about 50% of normal range of motion. I can move on and embrace the future. Yay!

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