Sunday, March 3, 2013


In the weeks since my injury I've probably read every internet article, forum thread, or blog post the Internet has to offer on the subject of broken clavicles and surgical repair. I'm more convinced than ever that the decision to operate was the right one.

My surgery was performed by Dr. Joshua Dines, who was actually recommended by the first doctor (who suggested waiting a little bit before going the surgical route) I saw. From the first exam with Doc Dines I was instantly impressed and there was no doubt he'd be my surgeon. He was confident that surgery was the answer and that over time I will make a complete recovery.

The operation was performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery on February 19. I've got to tip my hat to all the nurses, doctors, and volunteers for making the day as stress-free as possible. The facility is top notch and I knew I was in good care.

Once I arrived at the HFSS my first stop was to be fitted for the brace I'd be placed in after the surgery. It's basically a heavy-duty sling but it positions the arm out to the side a bit more: apparently the arm position allows for increased blood flow into the area to aid with healing.

After that I filled out some paperwork and just waited for my name to be called.  Once I settled into my pre-op room the parade began: nurses, the physical therapist, the chaplain, more nurses, the anesthesiologist, and eventually Dr. Dines. By then I'd been asked every possible question, had my shoulder shaved, and was ready to roll.

At my request I was allowed to walk into the OR myself; I couldn't stomach the idea of having someone wheel me in when my legs work perfectly fine. Having not really had any major surgeries I must say that the OR was impressive. I got a good look at the assorted sizes of titanium plates, one of which would become a part of my body. I gave one of the assistants my phone to take pictures (if I was going to have to live with a plate inside my body I wanted pictures of the whole ordeal) which they actually agreed to take and climbed up on the table. A nurse plunged a syringe into my IV cocktail, informed me that it might burn a bit and the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery area with a heavy snorer next to me.

Due to the local anesthetic I felt nothing in my shoulder and as I eased out of my slumber all I wanted to do was go home. I was offered an overnight stay but I was committed to sleeping on my recliner and not in a hospital bed.

Between the Percocet and left over anesthesia I actually slept rather well. I woke up expecting to be in major pain but I felt rather well, little did I know that it takes approximately 24-hrs for the local anesthesia to completely wear off. What began as a good pain free day turned (in an instant) into an uncomfortable afternoon and evening.

Three things which helped me get through my first week of post-op:

Family and friends: Thank you all for the text messages and phones calls; I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and concern. In addition my parents, in-laws, and wife were amazing. I was completely dependent on the help of others to do anything; my dad was practically a 24-hr nurse, and the rest of the crew did everything I needed and more.

Percocet:  Now that the initial pain has worn off I've mostly stopped taking the pain meds, but they can still be helpful in getting a full night's sleep. 

Aircast Cryo-cuff:  At the recommendation of the Doc's office I picked up the shoulder cuff and cooler.  Once filled with water and ice, the system uses a built in pump to continually circulate icy water into the pack which sits on my shoulder.  The pack is well designed, comfortable, and easily adjustable and has made it easy to keep my shoulder well-iced.

Last week I had my first post-op follow up with Doc Dines and he's pleased with how everything is going.  Apparently the bones lined up extremely well during the surgery and rather than having to use a graft to repair the ligament (which he thought he might have to do) he was able to simply suture the tear back together.  The incision itself, though long, is shockingly clean and benign; I don't expect the scar to be nearly as gnarly as I'd originally thought it might be.  They also took new x-rays which show that the healing has begun and gave me my first look at my hardware.

The Doc's orders allow me to use my right hand for small tasks (a major upgrade over not using it at all) but I will need to wear the brace for several more weeks.  I have two basic range-of-motion exercises to begin doing but the real therapy and strengthening won't begin for at least 2-3 more weeks. 
Each day I feel a little better but I have to keep reminding myself that - much like training for an Ironman - nothing is going to happen overnight.  My bone needs time to fortify around the plate and the ligaments need time to properly heal before any real rehabilitation can begin.  For now I will do my best to keep on taking it easy and allow the process to unfold.

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