Throughout my rotator cuff recovery process I’ve been asked time-and-time-again, ‘What happened? What did you do to your shoulder to need surgery?’ And time-and-time-again my answer remained the same, ‘It’s just corrective. I don’t have a cool story.’

Somehow, when people hear of a surgical procedure common to athletes, they dangle on every breath – every word, bracing to hear your war story of how you injured yourself- some anxious to chime in and share their own story in an effort to bond and share a moment. Yeah, I’m not that girl. Athletics have never been my thing. I did competitive speaking in high school, not sports. So I don’t suffer from an old sports injury that I never recovered from or made worse over the years, exerting myself in countless high-energy, sporting events. No, I didn’t suddenly become adventurous and tore my rotator cuff rock climbing or getting tackled in flag football. So what happened? The answer is not a cool one, but it is entertaining to say the least.

Well, I have always had what’s known as unstable shoulders. Basically, my shoulders dislocate regularly. Ouch! Right? I’ve lived with this condition my entire life, so for me it’s just a part of who I am. It hasn’t been as bad as it sounds, though it definitely has it’s set-backs. So, how have I managed over the years?

It all started when I was 10 years old. I would wake up from sleep to find my shoulders dislocated due to my sleeping position. It was very annoying, not to mention painful. As a child, it never occurred to me to tell my parents about it. I just figured it was something that happened once in a while and it was no big deal. So my parents had no idea I had this condition. Well, One night, while watching t.v., I saw a movie, starring Mel Gibson, that would change my life forever and give me a fool-proof method of coping with my unstable shoulders.

There is one distinct scene in the movie where Mel Gibson’s character is bound by chains, tied to a boulder, dropped into the ocean, and left to die an agonizing death by drowning. (Some of you have already figured out the movie and know where this going). At the last moment, he intentionally dislocates his shoulder to work his way out of the chains and courageously swims to shore with his one good arm, manages to make it home, then bangs his shoulder against a wall to pop his shoulder back into the socket…Light bulbs went off all over my little ten year old brain. “Oh!” I thought, “THAT’S what I’m supposed to do!” And don’t you know, for a period of about ten years, that was exactly how I placed my shoulders back into the sockets whenever they would dislocate. I banged them against a wall because that seemed like the reasonable thing to do and if Mel could do it, so could I.

I had my first emergency room visit 10 years later, which I’m sure was the result of my fool-proof method of correcting the nuisance. It was the worst dislocation I had experienced. The ER doctor probably spent 10 minutes cursing me out, yelling at me, AND lecturing me upon explaining to him the history of my unstable shoulders and my sure-fire way of fixing them whenever they dislocated. He was livid. He even made me call my parents. The nurse on the opposite side of the room did a poor job of concealing her laughter as she stared at the phone in my hand because she could hear my mother screaming at me through the phone. Of course, at the time, none of this phased me because I was in a euphoric state of mind from the sedatives the nurse administered to me for pain before they even got me out of the car to wheel me to a room. It was then that the doctor showed me the proper way to place my shoulders back in the sockets and advised me to have corrective surgery by the age of 27…THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Why? Because I was in my twenties and totally indestructible. I didn’t need surgery. I was perfectly fine. That is, until the next big incident which led to my second ER visit and physical therapy.

Until the second incident, I had lived a perfectly normal life doing all the things that regular people do. I’d bowled, worked out, lifted my children, thrown the ball around, the whole nine. Over the years, all of these normal activities contributed to worsening my condition. On this particular occasion, I had decided to landscape our back yard by planting sprouts of tall grass to function as a natural border around our patio. I would then accent the border by laying 40 bags of decorative rocks. Oh it was beautiful when it was all done. I was so proud of my work…until my shoulder fell out of socket in the bathroom stall the next day at work while pulling up my britches. Imagine how that scene played out in an elementary school with the school nurse running down the hall to my aid in the teacher restroom with a locked stall and a screaming teacher (me) unable to pull up her pants. The nurse sent me home with a driver because she refused to let me drive myself home, despite my reassurances that I would be fine driving because I kept a sling in my car for just such occasions. She made that disgusted, disappointed face you make at teenagers when you know they did something stupid, but you don’t verbalize it in an effort to salvage what little self-esteem they may have. She then called one of the administrators to drive me home.

It would be an understatement to say that now, several years later, my corrective surgical procedure was long overdue. I am recovering well; getting stronger by the day; and hopefully I’m a little more intelligent now. So no, I don’t have a cool war story about injuring my shoulder. But one would have to admit, it is rather entertaining.

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