Surgical War Stories (or What People Ask Post-Op)

People like to talk about what ails them. This week, Betsy and Sal do just that.

Consider this the Palm Column, as in Palm Springs or Palm Beach. Betsy chose the topic, but I feel confident that this is the type of subject matter best suited for those coastal Palms, otherwise known as God’s waiting room.

What we’re discussing, of course, is surgery. And by surgery I mean aches, pains, inconvenience, injury, medical treatment, post-operative medical treatment, recovery, lack of recovery, success rates, failure rates and guilt. Okay, I’ve just talked myself into thinking Betsy’s topic reaches beyond the Palms. After all, show me a pregnant woman and I’ll recount tales of my labors and deliveries with such detail that I’ll need an episiotomy. And pregnancy doesn’t even fall into the category of orthopedic surgery. It’s just female battle scars. 

The point is, people like to talk about what ails them.

So my little sister had rotator cuff surgery just before Thanksgiving, and as a result she’s walking around town with a contraption that looks like something hawked on late night TV. I can hear the Sham-Wow guy now, shouting at me from the screen. “Tired of supporting your arm? Who isn’t? I’ve got the answer. Sling-Wow.” 

Betsy’s wearing the Sling-Wow. Only that’s not the right name for it. It’s an orthopedic contraption that looks like something the inventors of the Slanket might have imagined. Part sling, part pillow, she’s sporting a Pill-ing, or a Sling-Ow, or a Foam-ling, or a something that combines the arm support of a sling with the ridiculousness of a body-hugging foam pillow resting beneath her breast. 

It makes me laugh just to type that. That’s because I’m not the one wearing it. I got to wear the far more dignified orthopedic boot when I broke my ankle.  But that’s another column. Unless you want to talk about it. My break was bad. Really bad.  A trimalleolar fracture. The worst.

See? This is what happens. Someone you know, or love, or at least see in the deli line at the grocery store is utilizing a familiar medical grade accessory and the conversation just flows.

Which brings me to what Betsy wanted to write about: what people are saying to her as she roams the city streets with her arm in its post-operative state. 

Betsy says: Here are the top 11 questions I’ve been asked since having my rotator cuff surgery, along with the implied judgments that always seem to accompany such queries.  

  1. “Was it an accident?” Interpretation: You’re an idiot. 
  2. “Was it an athletic injury?” Interpretation: Very macho.
  3. “Who did the surgery?” If it is the same doctor they used, instant respect. A different doc? Ominous look of pity and dismissal.
  4. “Not sleeping in the recliner?” Interpretation: Your tear must not have been as bad as my tear. 
  5. “How many tacks?” The more tacks, the bigger the tear. The bigger the tear, the more respect. I had FOUR tacks. That’s a lot.
  6. “How long you gotta wear that thing?” Interpretation: You look like an ass. No other way to take that. It’s true.
  7. “I had the surgery. Look what I can do now. “ Here is where the person begins to air swim in the aisles. I’m fascinated. Really.
  8. “You going to rehab? Where? You HAVE to do it RELIGIOUSLY.” Preach, preach, preach. Then they tell me they still do their exercises every day and when they don’t it’s a HUGE mistake. I nod and begin to think about my shopping list.
  9. “Still taking the meds?” This is where it gets interesting. There are two types of people. Those who take pride in the fact they have a high tolerance for pain and those who take pride in the fact that they have great meds. I’m taking the Fifth on this one.
  10. “Why should I have my tear fixed? I’m fine the way it is.” These are my favorite people. I look at them and know that I will see them in the sling in anywhere from six months to two years depending on their level of activity and their level of denial. Go ahead chiropractors; this is your opportunity to write in the comments section. I tried everything.
  11. “When can you get back to normal activities?” Disclaimer: That one is from my husband. Do I really need to explain it? Surely he means laundry, right?

Sally here again. See that last item? Number 11? That’s where the guilt comes into play. On the other hand, she does have a note from her doctor…

Joannie B December 16, 2012 at 04:21 AM
hmmm.... re: number 11 - I'm pretty sure he doesn't mean laundry. ;)
glittergrrl January 22, 2013 at 09:30 PM
I am having the same surgery in 5 days...can't wait to get all these wounderful questions from people...Have to start preparing for my answers lol Good to see your doing well. :)
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