Shoulder Surgery – Before and After
by Ted Tenny
Every patient is unique. I’m writing of my experience to give an example of a person going through Shoulder Surgery – things I wish I’d known. My only connection with the Health Care industry is as a patient.

I love to go hiking, and will do whatever it takes to keep up this healthy and most enjoyable activity. My hike pictures from all around Arizona show the beautiful state where I live. At home I have the support of my wife Jacquelyn and our adult daughters, Beatrix and Clara.
Lessons Learned
•   Recovering from Shoulder Surgery is different from recovering from Total Knee Replacement.
A few years earlier I’d had Total Knee Replacement surgery. Recovery then consisted of lots of physical therapy, starting in the hospital right after surgery. But with Shoulder Surgery, the first part of recovery takes place at home. Physical therapy is later.
Don’t delay when you have shoulder pain.
Get it over with, the sooner the better.

shoulder pain    First noticed it in June, 2019. My right shoulder hurt when I was getting out of bed. The problem didn’t go away. While I was on vacation I called long-distance and made an appointment with the doctor.
a doctor
   Dr. John Toth, who took good care of my wife when she had surgery to mend her broken arm, is a sports medecine doctor with lots of experience. He’s the right choice.
5 months before    They took x-rays, found nothing, and sent me to physical therapy. After a few weeks I realized the physical therapy was’t helping. So I canceled it
3 months before    Dr. Toth asked me whether I wanted to go through the rest of my life like this. It seemed to be improving, so I said “Sure.” He wisely gave me another appointment. Then the following week, my right shoulder really hurt when I tried to put both hands behind my back.
2 months before    Took the earliest surgery appointment I could get. They did an MRI of my right shoulder. “It won’t heal itself,” Dr. Toth said. Wish I hadn’t waited.
   I needed clearance from my primary care physician and my cardiologist. Went to the cardiologist that same day, dropping off the forms, but I had to make an appointment to see my primary care physician. All the tests were completed successfully.
snag    A month before the surgery, I went for a hike. Everything was fine on the hike.
   When I got back to my car I put my equipment away. Started to change my shoes. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in the index finger of my left hand. All my other fingers were OK. I finished changing my shoes, noting that the pain occurred when my left arm was extended.
   The next day I noticed a bruise on the inside of my left elbow. Also the index finger on my left hand hurt when I pressed down on the base of my left palm. Hoped the problem would go away over the weekend, but it didn’t. On Monday I called the doctor. The earliest appointment I could get was a week and a half before surgery.
   My appointment went well enough. Dr.Howard thoroughly examined my left hand and the index finger. They took x-rays and found nothing. He said to go easy on it. The problem went away.  :)
one day
   I tried to finish everything that required both hands.
   Didn’t practice doing things left handed. Time enough, after surgery.
   Rachel brought me the Cold Therapy machine.
day 0
December 13, 2019
   My surgery went well. I’m home now, able to operate the computer, albeit slowly, left handed. Pastor Floyd Anderson was there, God bless his ministry. Our daughter Beatrix got up earlier than usual, went with us, and drove her mother’s car home. Church friend Mary Robb gave us a ride home from Banner Desert Hospital when it was over. Thank you, Beatrix and Mary!
   Couldn’t sleep in bed, so I went to the living room and sat on the reclining chair with the Cold Therapy machine on. Amazingly, I got some sleep.
day 1
   Jacque and Beatrix went to the womens’ luncheon at our church. It was about prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. Needless to say, I stayed home.
day 2    Stayed home on Sunday. I’ll listen to the sermon when it becomes available on the internet.
day 3    Listened to Sunday’s sermon.
   The good news is that I can take a shower today, and remove the dressing. My right hand can be used for light duties.
days 4-14    My right shoulder is all bunged up: stitches, discoloration, stiffness and soreness. I took only two pain pills because they are opioids and they cause constipation. My right arm is in a two-part sling. I sleep in a recliner chair in the living room with a cold therapy machine to cool my right shoulder. Amazingly, I get some sleep. It’s hard getting up out of a chair using only my left hand.
   My right hand is good for some light duties, such as holding a food jar while I unscrew the lid with my left hand. I’m growing a gray beard.
   So I’m making it, one day at a time.
day 5    Tom Simonick sent me a get well card, signed by many of the Arizona Trailblazers. Tom was recently elected club Treasurer. He has led a number of hikes.
day 8    The directions say you can take the brace off while sitting in a chair. So I tried sleeping without it. Sure felt the cold more on my right shoulder from the Cold Therapy machine! But the ice didn't last as long. Also my feet and my right hand got swollen. So I got up, put the brace back on, and tried sleeping in bed. No sleep. So I got up.
day 9    Brace back on. Less cooling to my right shoulder. More sleep. :)
day 11    Finally I understood the instructions with the Cold Therapy machine. You take the brace off, but the part that goes over your shoulder has a strap to make it an arm sling. So I tried that. Man was my shoulder cold! Couldn’t sleep. So I took it off.
   There was still ice at noon. So when I wasn’t trying to sleep I gave myself the cold shoulder.
   :)  For the first time since surgery, my right shoulder itched instead of hurting.
day 12
Cold Therapy machine
I’m not going to shave until I leave the house.
day 13    Returned the Cold Therapy machine. Beatrix helped me drop it off. I was told that statistics show patients healing quicker with it, but my sample size is too small to confirm or deny that.
   Shaved yesterday afternoon, since I’m going out today.
   Clara called from the hospital early in the morning. Her car was totaled. It is in west Phoenix south of I-10. She came home on LYFT early this afternoon. Then she (driver) and I (passenger) went to west Phoenix to get her personal property out of her car. Delay, caused by some confusion over whether her car was really there. But they found it, and she got her personal property. She drove home in the rain.
   Clara had been hospitalized after her auto accident on December 11. I hadn’t seen her since before my shoulder surgery, but she looks and sounds fine. When I’m driving again I’ll buy a new 2020 Subaru Forester. Clara will get my 2011 Subaru Forester. We keep cars in the family.
day 14    My right leg is hurting. Sure hope it’s temporary.
   Rain all day. It will make the flowers grow. In the afternoon I went with Clara to Staples and Wal Mart. Jacque and Beatrix went there earlier, so we waited until they got home so we wouldn’t get the same things.
day 16    Jacque I went to church today, for the last Sunday in 2019. Clara drove us there. “Prioritize Prayer” was the sermon title and pastor Jeremy Walloch preached. It was based on Luke 11:1-13. People were glad to see me. They talked about me in Men’s Bible Study yesterday morning, I’m told.
day 17    Leg cramps got me up from the recliner chair in the living room. So I tried sleeping in the bed, but couldn’t. By then it was time to get up, so I got up.
   My follow-up appointment went OK. Turns out I’d been wearing the sling wrong, but they showed me how to put it on right. Also they took x-rays, removed the stitches, and showed me pictures with lots of medical terminology. My next follow-up appointment is in four weeks.
   I’m making good progress. Someone will call me from physical therapy.
day 18    Tried sleeping in bed. Couldn’t sleep much, so I got up.
day 19
   New Year’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. You get to watch football on TV and veg out for the day. But in the early morning I looked up stock prices. Most of our stocks are up.
   Couldn’t sleep in bed, so I had to sleep on the recliner chair in the living room, once again.
   Quy Nguyen sent me a trip report of her New Year’s Eve hike.
day 20    Spent most of the night in bed, but then Jacque got up so I got up, and I spent the rest of the night in the recliner chair in the living room.
day 21    In my first physical therapy, we had trouble finding the place. I was late but got all the forms filled out. Then the therapist had me do a few exercises and he moved my right arm. Doesn’t hurt much.
day 25    Today Ryan gave me some new exercises at physical therapy. They must be the right ones, because my right shoulder hurts. Clara drove me to therapy.
day 30    Didn’t sleep well, so I got up early. Put the clean dishes away. Did the Bible lesson for tomorrow. Decided to give away the film scanner, since Nikon has stopped updating the software and Clara’s equipment can be used. Finished editing a trip report for Quy Nguyen. Then I got some more sleep.
one month
day 32    I had a bad experience last night. Couldn’t sleep in the bed, so I moved to the recliner chair in the living room. Got some sleep, but then I had to get up and go to the bathroom. So I tried to push myself up out of the chair using my left hand. Just then, I suffered a cramp in my right leg. I had to get up to go to the bathroom, so I pushed myself up with both hands rather than stay there and suffer a leg cramp. After going to the bathroom, I got up.
   At physical therapy, Ryan was sympathetic when I told him. My exercises today were the same as last time, with slight variations.
day 45    Clara drove me to my follow-up appointment this morning. It went well:
:) I don't have to wear the sling unless I think I need it.
:) I can drive.
day 50    For the first time since December 13, I did my exercises lying on my back on the carpet. They have been my best defense against back pain, since 1977.
   In the afternoon I went for a neighborhood walk.
day 54    Ryan gave me new exercises in physical therapy. My range of motion hasn’t improved.
   Tried elevating my feet with a pillow under them when I slept on the recliner chair in the living room. It seems to help.
two months
day 70    Tried the pulley I bought from 360 Therapy. It allows me to pull up my right hand with my left hand, to improve the range of motion.
   I get up from chairs using both hands now. Much easier.
   Since I’m not ready to hike, I do the next best thing. Find old trip reports, and if they have pictures, put them up on the web. 30 so far.
day 75 :) For the first time since December 12-13, I was able to sleep all night in bed.
day 86 Took a 3-mile walk, my longest since December. My daughter Clara dropped me off at Recker Road and the rabbit trail. I walked from Recker to Higley and back, then walked home.
three months
day 105 Progress! I can dry my back with a towel the regular way, instead of the way bears do it (by rubbing their back on something). Also I can lie on my right side in bed, for the first time in months.
day 107 More progress! I helped Jacque put on her compression sleve. In the afternoon I went for a walk in Red Mountain Park, then came home and took a bath instead of a shower—my first bath in months.
four months
day 127    The rabbit trail in east Mesa goes for a couple miles under a power line. Nothing is built, but there are houses on either side. Lots of flowers in season, people out walking during cool weather, and plenty of rabbits.
   This morning I walked from home to Higley Road, taking pictures of flowers and other things. I set out to take a picture of every kind of flower there is on the rabbit trail, but I’m not sure I got them all.
   Just west of Recker there were service trucks and workmen. They were cutting down trees and bushes beside the trail. They had one of those machines that chews up tree branches.
   It’s the longest walk I’ve been on in four months. I’m almost ready to hike.  report
day 136 My follow-up appointment went well:
:) I can hike!
:) Don’t have to go to physical therapy after this week!
Next follow-up appointment in six months.
day 139 My last Physical Therapy. I can continue the exercises at home.
day 141 :) Went on my first hike hike since December! report

updated May 11, 2020