Saturday, January 26, 2008

A one-handed post that doesn't talk about dogs but is self-absorbed nonetheless

(Originally written on January 18):

So I had shoulder surgery on my left shoulder on Thursday, and I'm a lefty. This is a result of about 20 years of shoulder injuries from water polo played mainly with guys, and skiing. A number of friends have asked for the backstory. I have 30 minutes to go before I can take another percocet, so this is as good a way as any to work through the pain.

Last May P-Daddy and I were in a water polo tournament in Paris. P-Daddy happens to be an orthopedic surgeon - this turned out to be highly relevant. We were in a hard-fought, physical game that shouldn't have been as close as it was. Short-handed and off-balance on the side of the pool I was covering, I had to guard 2 players at once. This is a dangerous position because eventually the defender gets caught off balance and scored on. As a defender when this happens, your job is to charge the person as they get the ball and knock the arm down for a quick foul (takes away their opportunity to shoot) or at least intimidate 'em enough so they pass instead of shooting next time they get the ball. It's exhausting, but you need to do it until reinforcements arrive or someone shoots. Going back and forth between the two players, I was getting slower and slower. Where was my help?
In that retrospective mind's eye slo-mo that starts recording with any accident, I saw the opponent get the ball and saw that he was going to shoot. I charged him, knowing I was going to be too late. With all my speed and my weight, I lunged up, out of the water, watching only his hand with the ball, my only thought to knock his arm down. This was going to be the shot. knock it down, knock it down, knock it...
He shot, and I heard our goalie yelling. He or I had blocked the shot. I felt and heard an intense, shattering pain in my left arm as I saw my teammates sprinting down the pool on a counterattack. I thought, I've broken my arm. I can't move it to swim, I need to get out. I rolled onto my back, kicking at the surface, and placed my right hand where it hurt, expecting to feel my shoulder, except it wasn't there. My shoulder was gone. I moved my hand down the length of my arm, looking for the shoulder. I found it a few inches down, about parallel with my breast. Signaling to the ref for a time out, and screaming at the same time, I felt my teammate (and shoulder surgery veteran) Jeff supporting me and getting me to the side of the pool. My teammates on the bench got me on the side as they were yelling for P-Daddy (who later said he was about to score when the refs stopped the game and he heard the entire team yelling for him at the other end of the pool).
It all gets a bit hazy at this point, as I was oxygen deprived from either screaming or hyperventilating from the pain, or both. My teammates lay me down on the deck and when my shoulder blade hit the deck, my shoulder popped back into joint. Just as the pain from the dislocation was excruciating, the sudden absence of pain when it popped back in was one of the most pleasurable sensations ever.  But someone had taken my cap off, and when you take your cap off during a game, you are out for the game. So now I had a new thing to scream, even as P-Daddy was trying to see if I had a fracture, and my team was crowded around me. 
With all the endorphins and adrenalin, once my shoulder went back in, I felt FINE. I felt more than fine - I needed to get back in and play, dammit! So I started yelling "CAP ON! CAP ON!" at the top of my lungs. Patrick took my cap and dropped it on top of my head, which made me stop yelling for some reason. P-Daddy, still trying to see if I'd fractured anything, had had enough and grabbed the cap off my head, shouting, "This tournament is OVER for you!" and flung the cap out of the circle of my team around me.  
I'm told that I got a standing ovation when I finally got up. I don't remember at all, because it started to hurt again. Aanie helped me get out of my suit, get dressed, and P-Daddy and I took a trip to a Paris hospital to get x-rays. The notable aspects of my one and only experience with socialized (or maybe just Parisian) medicine: a really long wait in a 17th century building, an antiquated x-ray machine, a drunk lying on a stretcher in the hallway of the ER who took a piss in the ambulance bay, and the most stylish sling ever.

Before (with another recent shoulder surgery survivor):

After (with Jeff):

No comments: