Notes on healing


– You would be amazed how many people see that you are wearing an arm sling and think nothing at all about squeezing your shoulder or slapping it, or just plain bumping or running into it. All kinds of people, including friends and acquaintances who know better after having heard a lengthy description of the horrific shoulder operation that led to my arm being in a sling at the moment. I could be wrong, but I swear this is happening with a far greater frequency than before the operation. It is as if people see my condition and they tell themselves “must avoid the shoulder, must avoid the shoulder”, but then some sadistic part of their subconscious comes to the fore and makes them hit it at all costs.

– I still have to wear the damn thing at night, and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since before the operation almost three weeks ago. I have settled into a somewhat bizarre routine of sleeping for one hour, waking up with a jolt of discomfort, staying awake for an hour or so until coma is nearly upon me, sleeping another hour (or two if lucky) then up again for a bit, then another hour or so. Usually I am fully up by 4:30 am. This lack of proper sleeping (and proper dreaming) has made me terribly out of it most days and not very motivated to do anything. My physical therapist tells me I still have to wear it another couple of weeks. Ugh.

– As you can no doubt tell form the above, I have to wear the damn sling everywhere. And, being sick of wearing the same thin jacket day after day, I thought I would try on another one the other day, a jean jacket I have had but rarely wear. Putting on shirts and jackets is a one armed affair as you can imagine, and it takes a bit of dexterity to make it work. The jean jacket was a bit tight, what with the heavy shirt I was wearing underneath, I  realized once I had finally managed to get it on. Too tight in fact, and I was unable to get the sling on over it as the arms weren’t moving enough. I then realized to my horror that like the famous bear in the cookie jar, I was stuck. This caused a mild panic attack on my part as I flailed about my bedroom making grunting and whooping noises while trying to dislodge the (straight) jacket. I briefly considered dialing 911 or a friend to help me out, but finally broke free just before having to amputate my bad arm.

– As I said, what with the no sleeping thing, I am pretty listless most days and not very inspired to do much work. Unfortunately, I really need to kick it into gear to do the work I have and generate more if I ever hope to pay off the debt that this stupid operation has me under, not to mention rent and food and such. Anyone out there need a website or tech support of some kind?

Don’t ask (me to support you). Don’t tell (me you don’t understand why).


Dear President Obama,

What the hell is wrong with you? Why is your administration defending a ban (DADT) that you admit is discriminatory? During the campaign (and since) you have repeatedly vowed to end the ban, while doing very little to actually accomplish that. Of all the promises you have broken, this one makes the least sense of all. As vast majorities support ending the ban, you (as commander in chief) could have ended it with the stroke of a pen. At the very least you could have put in place a moratorium on enforcement while you awaited action in congress.  Your actions had all the political cover you would have needed. You would have been keeping a promise. A promise to people like me, who believed in you and fought very hard for your election, only to now feel (repeatedly) thrown under the bus by you and your administration. You mention that ending the ban in this way (or stopping its enforcement) would endanger the military, but you offer no rationale for continuing this bigotry other than an unspecified fear of change. What happened to “the fierce urgency of now”? What happened to “hope”? Remember how you played us all with your empty promises about your so called “bedrock principles”? The last two years have not been easy to swallow as you and your administration repeatedly let us all down in the following ways:

1. Refused to fight with vigor for the things promised during the campaign (bargaining away a public option, DADT, reduced stimulus, Guantanamo)

2. Actively went back on promises or compromised your supposed principles (expansion of executive power, continuation of police state favored by Bush)

3. Failed to change “politics as usual” by appointing the fox to guard the henhouse (your entire economic team) which favored wall street over main street, the stock market over job creation.

I dont blame you entirely for the failures brought on by the clear obstructions of the Republicans in congress, and I do feel that in a number of cases your heart was in the right place. I also clearly feel that we are far better off as a country than if McCain had been elected. But it is a bitter disappointment to once again have to return to the polls not with “hope”, but rather with an unenthusiastic commitment to “the lesser of two evils”.

You wonder why there is no enthusiasm leading into this election? It is abundantly clear. You don’t seem to understand who elected you and why. Your craven run to the center right is not at all what your supporters expected of you, and they are not pleased. Your decision yesterday to defend a law you know to be discriminatory is just another nail in your coffin, and we will all suffer for it. You had an opportunity to stand up for what is right, and you again took a pass, insulting all of us in the process.

Very sincerely,

Stephen Disappointed Suess



Just came back from my first visit to my new physical therapist. I really like her and the entire operation seems way more professional than the last one I went to. Here they move my arm and massage joints and muscles in a very specific way. At the last place they just kind of pointed to a picture workbook and said “do that”. Here on the other hand, they were very specific with degrees of movement and helping me to understand what I can and can’t do, including giving me some tips for sleeping with this god damn sling on my arm. The only downside to this place is that it is a bit of a hike to get there, and even though I can take the subway for part of the trip, I still end up walking at least 15 minutes. And wouldn’t you know it, it was raining when my session let out this evening. Ever try to manage opening and closing an umbrella with just one hand, then walking 15 minutes in heavy rain while your other arm is tied up and throbbing in pain? Did I forget to mention how much it adds to the fun that I can’t get more than 4 hours sleep before my shoulder and position wake me up? I’m grumpy because of it. I’m not a very good patient, I admit it. I’m more of an impatient, at least about sickness. It is one of those things that I should meditate on and try to come to terms with I guess. Maybe I will try that tomorrow.

Whoa nelly


I went to get the stitches out today and was feeling pretty good about my recovery progress since the operation. I brought my sling but didn’t wear it in and got scolded about it. Even though I had called and asked several times about what I should and shouldn’t do, they weren’t very clear with me until today. So I really have to wear this damn thing all day, every day and while sleeping for the next 3 weeks. I may feel a lot better but they told me we don’t want to risk an injury at this delicate stage and need to wait till the internals have healed. They also showed me a fascinating picture taken inside my shoulder while they were performing the operation to let me know just how screwed up my labrum was, very much detached from my bicep. Then they showed me  a photo of the frankenstein-like repair job, a support drilled into my bone and the wires that reconnected it and tightened it between the bicep and shoulder. It was kinda gross but kinda cool too. Long story short, it needs more time to heal and I better get used to wearing this thing and taking it easy for a few more weeks. At least I can begin physical therapy this week (responding to my emotional need for progress of some sort), and so I will try to choose a PT tomorrow.

It is no picnic, but i’ll live


So it is a few days after my surgery, and I believe (and hope) the worst is behind me, pain-wise. The surgery itself was no big deal since I was under general anesthesia, but about 12 hours later when the last of it wore off it was awful. I wanted to kill myself and every other person in the near vicinity. My pain meds didn’t seem to be working, so I doubled the dosage and about 90 minutes later it subsided enough that I was no longer grimacing and moaning. Since then the pain has lessened to the point that I only take one or two pills a day now, and  I am not in pain as long as I am not doing anything with my right arm. This whole experience has really made me realize how lucky I am to have the friends I have. The first three days it was absolutely critical to have someone here with me to do things that I could not manage on my own. There is a machine that circulates cold water around the shoulder that had to be hooked up continuously for the first 72 hours after surgery. And this machine needed to be refilled with fresh ice every 2-4 hours and then hooked backed up, an impossible task for someone with just one working arm. In addition, the first couple of days were so rough there was no way I could move around and do things for myself. My wonderful friends came in shifts to cook for me and take care of me, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Special thanks has to be made to Michael and Josh who stayed over those first three nights and missed out on a lot of sleep by taking care of me. What does someone without friends or family do in a similar situation? Do they hire some home health care worker? What if they can’t afford that?

I have little by little been feeling well enough to come back to the computer to type for a bit, although it is a bit awkward and painful. I need to get back into work, I have  a lot to get done. It isn’t easy, but I have to make it through or I will be broke. I did some site work today and will be hopefully more productive tomorrow. My doctor’s appointment to remove the stitches isn’t until next Monday, at which time they will also give me instructions for physical therapy. I am hopeful that I can shorten the estimate of 6 months he gave me before surgery. That said, sleeping is still the worst. I have to be pretty much sitting up on my sofa with pillows behind my head and my right arm in the sling resting on my chest. I have to stay pretty still in that pose and sleep that way. I am getting better at it, but it is still pretty uncomfortable and I can’t seem to manage more that 5 hours a night that way. The drugs help to put me out a bit, so I try to take them just before heading to bed (or should I say, “heading to sofa”).

All in all, and although I sure as hell would not want to repeat it, this has been a pretty interesting experience, and one that makes me grateful for the people around me, friends and family who have been here or called from far away to check in on me. It has strengthened my sense of community and connection to the world around me, and made me very grateful. Not that I wasn’t appreciative before, but a health event like this really helps one see the best in people.