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Kirby: Finding my way back to a whine-free life

Published August 18, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

T wo weeks ago, I had my right shoulder rebuilt. Age coupled with random idiocies caused it to deteriorate to the point of constant pain. When my wife couldn't stand the whining any longer, she made me see a doctor.

Not just any doctor. Not all of those are the same. I went to see a specialist: orthopedic surgeon Dr. Charles Beck at Jordan Valley Surgery Center.

I like doctors who don't pull their punches, docs who say stuff like: "You're gonna die," or "This will hurt a lot," and, of course, my absolute personal favorite, "You have a dart sticking out of your back."

Dr. Beck's initial reports were grim. There were a lot of things wrong with my shoulder, including muscle detachment, bone spurs, frayed tendons, rotator cuff deterioration, and the end of my collarbone had somehow migrated into my shoulder socket.

It was depressing. But in what will go down as one of the most spiritual moments of my life, Dr. Beck said, "I can probably fix all that."

You never really know how much pain you're in until someone says something like that to you and tears of relief come unbidden. I didn't have to live like this. It could be fixed. Probably.

No surgery is ever a guaranteed fix. You have to weigh the pros and cons of letting someone rummage about inside you. In the end, my wife decided that I couldn't possibly complain any more than I already was, so why not?

She was wrong. I COULD whine a lot more. The shoulder is one of the most complicated and trickiest joints in the body. Even when fixed it takes a long time to heal. In the meantime, the pain is worse.

My wife brought me home after the surgery and stuck me in a recliner in my office. Everything I needed — DVD player, cellphone, rubber dart gun, Kindle, pictures of trolls/grandkids, medication — was within easy reach of my left arm.

Because I was hooked to a post-op ice machine and not supposed to move, I also had a call button to summon assistance. It was so handy that my wife immediately took it away.

HER: "I am not coming in here every time your nose itches. Scratch it with your other hand."

ME: "The TV remote is in that one."

For the first few days I lived on Popsicles and Percocet. Eventually, how­ever, I discovered an agony no amount of drugs could alleviate — daytime television. I had to get out of the chair.

My wife had prepared for that moment as well. Suddenly there were a lot of things I couldn't find — car keys, pellet gun, bug zapper, dog prod, etc. At first I blamed the drugs, but then realized it was my nurse and keeper. She wanted me to get better before I got hurt again.

NOTE: She didn't hide the cannons. Most were too heavy for her to move. So she hid the powder and fuse, without which a cannon is no more useful (or interesting) than a congressman or a tree stump.

Two weeks of recuperation is enough. I'm still walking around wearing a shoulder sling that makes me look like I'm lugging a sofa, but I found some great voice-activated word processing software.

Not only can I write columns without a mind, now I can write them without hands as well. I just have to teach the program how to cuss and I'm good to go.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.