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By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

The nice young man in the blue uniform ushered me into the inner sanctum. The room was rather chilly, a sensation, which was heightened by its stainless steel furnishings.

“Here we are,” he said. “Lie down there, please.”

I did as requested. “This is all new to me,” I said, making conversation, striving to hide my nervousness. “I don’t especially like how this rig is constructed. It looks like the table they use for lethal injections.”

“Nonsense,” the nice young man chided gently. “Now just lie back and relax and let the stuff do its thing.”

Wanting to comply, I quit talking. The world underwent an abrupt transformation. I was suddenly in a different room! It took a moment to realize it, but my shoulder operation was already over!

My sore shoulder saga began a year ago, when I felt an out-of-the-blue stabbing pain in my left shoulder as I picked up a magazine. I ignored the discomfort, thinking it a one-time thing. Either that, or the magazine had absorbed an inordinate amount of gravity.

But the pain began to visit more and more often. A medical investigation was launched; an irritated tendon was theorized. Physical therapy was prescribed and steroids were injected. The pain simply sneered at these ineffectual efforts and continued to grow worse.

I eventually consulted an orthopedic surgeon who – surprise! – recommended surgery. All I knew was my left shoulder was rapidly becoming more painful and less useful.

This is what brought about the aforementioned encounter with that nice young man, who was an ansethe… I mean,

anasthol… Oh, forget it! Let’s just say he was a PTS, or Put To Sleep, guy.

The PTS guy’s goal was to inject enough deadly chemicals into my bloodstream to induce unconsciousness, but not so much as to produce death. The fact that you are reading this would seem to indicate he succeeded.

When I awoke a nurse asked how my shoulder felt. “Like someone mucked around in it with a chain saw!” I replied. I

later learned that this wasn’t far off the mark, that my surgeon had essentially done a Roto-Rooter job on my shoulder

and had removed some “angry red scar tissue.” Let this be a lesson: don’t hold in your anger.

Morphine was injected into my IV drip. This did nothing to dampen my discomfort, so the PTS guy was summoned.

Using an ultrasound gizmo, the PTS guy snaked a small catheter into a spot near a nerve in my neck. I was told I could view the procedure on a nearby screen, but I demurred.

Watching my flesh being impaled isn’t my idea of must-see TV.

The effect of the catheter was immediate. My shoulder pain instantly disappeared, although my left arm also went numb. But I didn’t care. This is so very much better.

About an hour later I was told I could go home to begin the at-home phase of my recovery. My wife, bless her kind heart, had made excellent preparations.

For instance, she purchased several pairs of sweat pants for me. I had never worn “sweats” and must say they are wonderful. Not only are they soft and comfy, they say to the world “Here’s a guy who doesn’t care how he looks, and doesn’t want to deal with any annoying zippers or buttons.”

This is important when one arm is so numb you could swear it belongs to someone else. It was interesting to learn how to perform certain tasks one-handed. The good news is that the numbness wore off after about a day; the bad news is that a thundering ache took its place.

My wife had requisitioned an extremely cushy recliner for me to recline upon. This is where I spent the first couple of post-operative days, wallowing in misery and doing my best to reduce the world’s supply of narcotics.

Those first days were a haze of fitful naps punctuated by visits to the bathroom and liberal pill-popping. Even though my wife did her utmost to care for me, my mood soon

became similar to that of a hemorrhoidal badger.

Since I didn’t shower for the first 48 hours, I probably also smelled like one.

I made several important observations during this time.

I learned that there are some real sinkeroo movies on TV late at night, flicks that are best viewed either through closed eyelids or while in an opiate trance. I discovered what it’s like for time to lose its meaning. Of what use is this “watch” thingamabob on my wrist?

I am much improved now, thank you. My rapid recovery is no doubt a testament to the skill of my orthopedic surgeon, but I think it’s also due to the superb care given to me by my wife.

And that is definitely a good thing. Because as nice as PTS guy was and as nifty his “stuff” is, I don’t really care to hang out with him again anytime soon.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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