Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while now. I can't believe an entire week has passed, and I'm just now getting around to doing it.

Last Tuesday was CapableDad's follow-up visit with the surgeon who repaired his shoulder. We had been anxiously awaiting this appointment to get more details about why the doctor totally changed the surgery from what he told us he was planning to do originally.

To give a quick summary, CapableDad tore his labrum, which is the cartilage that attaches the arm to the shoulder, and he also tore his rotator cuff. He did this back in late November, but it took until March 8 to find out the extent of the injury and schedule the surgery.

The doctor came in on Tuesday with a file full of photos of the inside of my husband's shoulder. He had shown these to me quickly right after surgery, but it caught me so much by surprise that I couldn't fully absorb all that he was saying.

This time, I was ready to listen carefully and look closely at the photos. It was obvious from the photos that his muscles were very red and swollen. The doctor said this was a sign that scar tissue had been building up inside his arm for some time. The doctor even used the word "horrible" or something along those lines to describe what he saw when he looked inside my husband's arm.

The scar tissue most likely had been building up for a long period of time. It could have been caused by a previous injury. Certain types of people — women, diabetics and people over 40 — are also more likely to have this happen even without an injury. Anyway, apparently, so much scar tissue had formed that he was developing a frozen shoulder (possibly) even before his injury in late November.

Once the doctor saw what was happening on the inside, he realized that my husband was not going to regain full movement if he repaired the labrum and rotator cuff as he had planned. Instead, he cut out tons of scar tissue and filed away a very jagged area on the bone. It was amazing to see in the photos how the bone was rough and discolored before and then nice and smooth afterward.

The bicep is attached to the shoulder with two tendons. One of these tendons was tugging on the torn labrum. Instead of repairing the labrum, he cut the tendon away from it and then fastened it to the bone at a lower point. Although the torn labrum will never repair itself, he said it shouldn't cause any more problems because the tendon is no longer pulling on it.

During the visit, the doctor pushed and pulled my husband's arm in every direction to find out how much motion he has regained through physical therapy. I had to cover my eyes to keep from passing out as I watched the doctor stretch my husband's arm over his leg and push it down.

Somehow, CapableDad survived, although he was in a lot of pain for the next few days. He also gave him a three-week deadline to show a lot more improvement in his movement. Otherwise, the doctor will give him a cortisone shot to help speed up the process.

Being in a constant state of severe pain has become a way of life for CapableDad. For nearly three weeks now, his daily schedule consists of doing physical therapy, icing his muscles and then usually drifting into a comatose state for a few hours from the pain killers. That's the second reason this blog post is called "frozen." He spends a lot of time in a frozen state as his ice machine pumps freezing cold water into the ice pack strapped to his arm.

The progress seems extremely slow, but as I watch him do his physical therapy now, I know he has regained movement. He is also feeling better to just walk around the house or talk to people who stop by.

This week, he started working on building some strength back in his shoulder. However, he can't use his bicep at all until he reaches the 12-week mark. He isn't even supposed to lift a cup with the injured arm before then.

Thanks for checking in with us and taking the time to read. We continue to be overwhelmingly blessed by people bringing us meals, helping us with stuff around the house, asking about us, praying for us, filling in for me on Sunday mornings and just stopping by to lift my husband's spirits. We can never fully convey how much we appreciate it!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Happy Pill

Warning: Do not click play unless you are prepared to be overwhelmed by cuteness. No matter how bad our day is going, we can't help smile when we hear this:


Sunday, March 18, 2012

I need help for this crayon craze

Like many two-year-olds, our daughter is crazy about crayons. She begs for them. Demands them. Even calls out for them the moment she awakes.

"Cwayons! Cwayons! Cwayons!"

But this girl has no interest in coloring. The huge Elmo coloring book and the Barney coloring sheets go untouched.

Her obsession is with peeling the label from each one. One by one, she digs her fingernails into the wrapper and pulls and tugs until the crayon is bare. She isn't satisfied until she has removed all of the paper from every crayon in sight.

Our dining room table is covered with piles of naked crayons. Without their labels, it's nearly impossible to tell if we are about to color with indigo or blue. How can one discern between dandelion and yellow?

At first, I assumed this crayon craze was just a temporary fascination. I could tolerate a few of our older crayons going without their wrappers. Who cares about the free crayons we picked up at restaurants?

But then she found a box of Crayolas.

There's something I love about a brand-new box of crayons, perfectly sharpened, standing neatly in rows. I love sorting them by color and lining them up in gradients from reds to oranges to yellows to greens to blues.

But still? Maybe I could give up even some of our brand new crayons if it would keep her busy. Don't get me wrong. We love to play with her! It's just hard to keep her happy when all the other kids are working on school work. This girl wants one of us to be her constant companion. She begs and pleads for a playmate.

Unless, of course, she has crayons.

After a few weeks, the toddler starting getting faster at stripping down the crayons. We would dig through drawers and cabinets to fuel her obsession. Oh, I know I could have told her to stop. But each batch of crayons would buy me 30 minutes to help the other kids with school or to clean up the house. If I could handle picking up the little piles of wrappers, I figured it would be OK.

Now, we are several months into her crayon stripping addiction. I've raided the cabinets of reserved school supplies. A box of 24 will keep her busy for two days at most. Should I give in and start buying crayons just to keep her occupied? Soon, she'll be able to unwrap 72 in a day. Is it worth it to give the rest of the family long stretches of quiet?

Then, I got to thinking. There must be something else that is made to quench a toddler's thirst for pulling off labels? A sticker book with removable stickers? Paper dolls she could rip to shreds? I'm determined to find something to refocus her attention.

Anyone have any ideas?



Friday, March 16, 2012

Zero to 180

Why am I updating my blog at 2 a.m.? I know it's ridiculous. I've basically reached the point that I'm tired of trying to go back to sleep over and over again.

I don't mean to sound like I'm whining and complaining. But for those who have asked, this is what life has been like the past seven days.

Our schedule feels very similar to what it's like to have a newborn in the house. Except we don't have a super cute little baby to admire during the waking hours. Instead, we have some very bruised, very sore muscles that are bundled up in knots, screaming and needing to be nursed around the clock.

I've been trying to think about why this experience is so different from anything we've been through before. I mean, I'm the Queen of Broken Arms. I've broken both of my wrists and both of my shoulders at various times in my life. I've been in full length casts and smaller casts and slings. So, I get the pain and discomfort of having one arm immobilized.

But the unique thing about having surgery on a muscle is that you are basically fighting against your own body's attempts to repair itself.

In both cases, the human body is creating scar tissue as fast as possible to fix the injured area. With a bone, this is great. Just don't move it for six weeks, and the bone actually ends up stronger than it was before.

With a muscle, your body is wrapping the area in scar tissue, which, if left alone, will become as hard as bone. If you don't continually move it and break it up early on, you won't be able to regain full movement later.

Right now, Capable Dad's ability to move his right shoulder is at zero. He has to exercise his injury three times a day without actually moving the muscle that is trying to heal itself. In other words, he has to use the other arm or his pulleys or a long cane to pick up, pull, lift and lower the limp right arm.

My amazing husband has always been naturally athletic. So, it's hard — and somewhat surreal — to see him struggle and wince in pain as he pulls up his arm to 90 degrees or slowly pushes it down to lower it to the bed. It's hard to imagine that these small movements can create such excruciating pain.

His schedule has become a four-hour cycle throughout the day. Eat. Take pain medication. Do physical therapy. Apply ice. Fall into a deep, comatose state from the pain medication.

Three days a week, he leaves the house to go to his torture session with the therapist (as opposed to exercising at home). She stretches and manipulates his arm to the point that he requires a lot more ice, more pain medication and more sleep. While he can move his bicep zero, her goal is to get it to 180.

Throughout the night, he starts to get restless around hour three of sleep as the pain medication begins to wear off. He has to pull himself out of bed and eat a snack so he can take more medicine and get back to sleep.

We can see him getting stronger each day. But I definitely wasn't expecting this level of pain to continue at Day 7. I really didn't know what to expect.

Anyway. We can't even begin to say how much we appreciate people who have helped with our kids and brought us food and prayed for us this week. We are super thankful for everything. The warm weather also has been a huge blessing that has made our days SO much more pleasant!

I wanted to post a photo of the injured area because there is nothing like an enormous bruise to make a blog post more exciting. Instead, I will post a photo of the 2-year-old eating one of the smiley face cookies sent by friends from Capable Dad's office. They totally made us smile!


Monday, March 12, 2012

The vampire or couvade syndrome?

CapableDad was almost ready for surgery. We had talked to nurses and the doctor's assistant who reviewed his medical history, got his IV in place and recorded his blood pressure. All that was left was a visit from the anesthesiologist.

She was a female doctor who was probably close to 60. She explained to us that she was going to give CapableDad some pain medication in his IV and then she would insert a needle into his neck to administer a pain block to his right shoulder.

She rubbed her hand along the side of his neck to show us the area where she would insert the needle.

"Ohhhh, he has a niiiiiice neck," she said with a big smile. She felt his neck again. "Yes. He has a very nice neck."

She looked at me and laughed. "Oh, we're all vampires," she said jokingly.

After she left the room, my husband and I both cracked up. It seemed like her laugh was just a little too sinister. Could it be that she really WAS a vampire?

And if not, can you imagine a male doctor making the same remark about a female patient? I'm not sure my husband would have thought it was funny if the tables were turned.

After the surgery, CapableDad said he couldn't remember a thing about having a needle injected in his neck. He couldn't even remember counting to 10. He said the anesthesiologist told him to lie down on something like a bean bag chair and said, "This isn't going to be very com...fort...a......"

And that was it.

I was in the waiting room by then, but I think I know the exact moment the needle went in. I felt a sudden pain in my back. It was the unmistakable pain right in the spot where my epidural went in for each of my four C-sections. Although I have felt that pain once in a while during the last 11 years since our first child was born, I haven't felt it in more than a year.

I have had that pain in my back almost constantly since CapableDad's surgery last Thursday. I've also been ridiculously tired. While his super-powered pain medication often gives him extra energy, it seems that with each pill he takes, my grogginess grows.

What was going on with my extreme exhaustion and this pain in the back? I looked on the Internet for answers, and that's when I came up with one possible explanation.

It's a scientific fact (studied by scientists and PROVEN by medical professionals) that when someone you love goes through an extremely painful situation, you can also feel their pain. It happens most often to a husband during his wife's pregnancy. You've probably seen those guys who grow a gut as large as their wife's pregnant belly? Sometimes they have fantom labor pains, too.

They even have a name for it. Couvade Syndrome. That must be it. I diagnosed myself with this medical condition. I would need to take frequent naps, eat extra chocolate and take hot baths. That would be my only hope for a cure.

But as I thought about it more, I realized there could be another possible cause.

My husband has been in so much pain that he's only tried to take a shower one time. His shoulder is still covered in Sharpie marker where the doctor mapped out a diagram of his muscle structure on the outside of his arm. Just below that is the initial of the doctor and the anesthesiologist who both left their tattoos to make sure they operated on the correct side of his body.

Maybe she WAS a vampire after all. Or maybe it was voodoo. Was it just a coincidence that I felt that sharp pain at about the same moment she would have injected the needle in his neck? Could there be more to the fact I've been fighting illness and fatigue since we got home from the hospital?

I realized I needed to get rid of her markings.

I carefully took rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball and did my best to wipe away her initials still there in Sharpie marker.

My back is feeling better already.

Or maybe I just need a nap.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Third day

Today is Day 3 after Capable Dad's surgery. We both woke up feeling worse for wear.

His shoulder is in immense pain. His back hurts from trying to sleep upright. His head is foggy from so much pain medication.

I woke up with a sore throat, runny nose and stuffed up head.

I also woke up so thankful for the people handling my Sunday morning responsibilities at church this morning. I looked at the clock and added an hour for the time change and realized there was no way we could have made it on time. I was so glad for the freedom to sleep this morning.

While I overslept, the boys were helping their dad fill up the ice machine that pumps freezing cold water into his ice pack. The 7-year-old has been busy all morning practicing her hand stand walk overs in the family room. And the 2-year-old runs around in circles singing a medley of her favorite songs: "Twinkle-star! Twinkle-star! I love Barney! I love Barney! Jesus Me!"

The most difficult part of yesterday was helping CapableDad do the physical therapy he is supposed to do at home before he goes back to his second torture session on Monday. We have a pulley system that hangs over the top of the door. He straps the injured arm to one handle and the goal is to pull it up to a 90-degree angle. He doesn't move his arm at all the rest of the day, so the shock of doing this exercise is great.

He's only supposed to do it for three minutes. We are both extremely relieved when he makes it that long. It's really hard to watch him in so much pain as he slowly move his arm up and down again. But he's a trouper and determined to do his exercises.

We learned at physical therapy that Day 7 is when the human body starts laying down scar tissue like crazy. Once in place, the scar tissue is as strong as bone, so it will be very difficult to regain movement if it settles. The goal is to get as much movement back as possible before the scar tissue forms.

After three minutes of physical therapy, we get the ice and pain killers ready. The physical and mental exhaustion set in, and he's usually knocked out for a while.

Overall, we are so thankful. This week is supposed to include some 70-degree weather. We have been so blessed by people helping us out in every way. Thank you so much to everyone who has asked about us, brought a meal, sent a text or said a prayer. We appreciate it!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Small miracles and unexpected blessings

It feels like I've been trying to get on my blog for weeks to update all that has been happening in our lives. Despite the fact I'm fighting a cold and should go take a nap right now, I'm finally forcing myself to sit down and write about some of the events of the past few days. I don't want to forget the details, and this is the one way I will be able to look back and remember.

Thursday was the day we had been anticipating for months. My husband has been living with some very serious pain in his right shoulder after an accident that actually occurred around Thanksgiving. At first, he tried to ignore the pain, but by the beginning of January, he couldn't take it anymore.

It took several trips to different doctors, X-rays and an MRI to determine that he had torn his labrum, which is the cartilage that attaches the arm to the shoulder. He also tore his rotator cuff, which are the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder.

He was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who handles many injury cases for major sports teams in the Chicago area. We would have to wait more than a month to get in for surgery. We sometimes doubted the decision to stick with this doctor because the wait was so long and he was in so much pain. But that turned out to be one of our first small miracles.

After the surgery on Thursday afternoon, the doctor and his assistant called me from the waiting room to explain what had happened during surgery. After he saw my husband's muscles and injury from the inside, he decided to totally change his plan. The doctor realized that it was going to be very difficult for my husband to regain his range of motion with the original plan to stitch the labrum to the bone.

Instead, he decided to move the tendon that attaches the bicep to the bone. By doing this, the bicep would no longer tug on the torn labrum, causing so much pain.

He also filed away part of the inside of the shoulder bone and a bone spur that had formed. This was all very confusing to me, but he assured me the end result would be a much better recovery. While the other surgery had a very good chance of leaving him stiff and making it difficult to resume his love for biking, this approach should give him the ability to recover completely.

So, we both feel like finding a doctor who could make a call like that during surgery and look out for his best interest and lifestyle was one of our small miracles!

Another small miracles actually came two months before the injury. My husband was offered a new job almost out of the blue. He wasn't looking to switch companies. But we were attracted to the change by two things: better health insurance and a better lifestyle.

At his old company, it would have been very difficult to take the time off that he will need for his recovery. We are also so thankful for much better health insurance that will cover a lot more of his surgery and physical therapy. He is expected to need PT three times a week for three to six months. Looking back at when he started at this new job in October, we would have never imagined how much we would need these benefits!

The last few days have been packed full of unexpected blessings. I've been blown away by all of the people from our church who have been showing up with meals and calling and texting us to see how they can help. I didn't really think I would need much help since I wasn't the one having surgery. But taking care of my husband, as well as our four kids, has been harder than I anticipated. I have been exhausted the past few days. We are so, so thankful for everyone who has helped us in any way.

I could probably go on and on, but I will wrap up by saying our last unexpected blessing has been the gift of laughter. In an odd way, we have really enjoyed the past few days. I have been able to stop thinking about all of my other responsibilities and just focus on my husband and taking care of him.

From the time we went on our "date" to the hospital for surgery, we have been cracking each other up. I hope I will find time to write about some of the funny things that have happened the past few days.

I guess I should mention one other small miracle — that is the miracle of the way God created the human body with the ability to recover from a surgery like this. The doctor is very serious about physical therapy and he scheduled my husband's first session the day after surgery.

It was kind of shocking to think that he could go from having his bicep reattached one day to lifting his arm the next. He has to keep his arm completely immobilized and he is in a ton of pain just normally. We could barely believe that the therapist wanted him to move it all over the place!

The PT is very difficult. It's exhausting for him to sit and lift his arm a few times using a pulley. But it's also amazing to see him regain a little strength.

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