A year ago on this day, I fell off my bike. I dislocated my left arm, fractured it in three places, broke another bone in my left shoulder, and suffered associated muscle and soft tissue damage. The next day, I had four hours of surgery as a plate and ten pins were inserted to repair my arm which was then re-located into the shoulder and held in place by a strip of muscle that was sown across the socket. Damaged muscle was also reattached. This was followed by five months of physiotherapy.
Today, the arm feels okay. It is not 100%, and likely never will be. However, it does what I need it to do. I can ride my bike, I can paddle my kayak. I remember sitting in Emergency, doped to the gills on morphine and looking down at my busted shoulder, resigned to the fact that I might never kayak again. I thought that that was a cruel move by fate to let me discover a new sport that I love, only to take it away from me.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. It doesn’t seem to hinder my kayaking at all. In fact, strength and mobility seems quite normal if I keep my arm below shoulder level. It is only when I lift it above shoulder level that mobility issues arise. I can’t lift it straight up over my head anymore. I can only get it to about 75 degrees. I can cheat it, of course, and twist my torso a bit so it looks like I can get full range, but I know I can’t actually achieve it. It doesn’t hurt or anything, it just simply stops and won’t rotate in that direction anymore. My strength has not yet returned to normal. Lifting heavy boxes over my head is an adventure.
Occasionally, I can go for a few hours and forget about it, but most days the shoulder consistently reminds me that it ain’t quite right anymore. It almost constantly feels tight. And it is. It doesn’t sit right in the socket the way it used to and the strip of muscle that was sown across pulls it in hard. If you look carefully, my left shoulder is slightly narrower than my right shoulder. One of the chronic conditions left behind is that I get some slight chafing in my left armpit because the arm is held in so tight. I have to remember to let the arm hang away from my side so the armpit can dry out.
My shoulder gets sore and gets stiff. The muscles, particularly the muscles at the front of my shoulder, are fighting a battle with the stronger muscles of my back. The front muscles, which have all been tightened due to the accident, want to pull my shoulder forward and in, a folded-in slouch in other words, while my back is trying to keep things straight and upright. The front muscles ache fairly regularly, not enough to be painful or debilitating, but enough to remind me that major trauma occurred here. The same is true of the stiffness, which is mostly like a dull background noise, a persistent irritant like a buzzing bee that remains just out of swatting range.
I shouldn’t complain considering that at this time last year my left arm was in four pieces. And I’m not. But sometimes I feel like an alcoholic who faces his recovery every day. I was hoping that after a year I wouldn’t be constantly reminded of my injury, but it looks not to be the case.
But time heals all wounds, and hopefully my shoulder and I still have plenty of time together.