What has William Burroughs got to do with shoulder surgery?

When I went into this shoulder surgery I heard nothing but bad things,

You’re going to be miserable.

It will be the worst pain you’ll ever experience.

You’re going to spend a few days knocked out.

Naturally I expected the worst and prepared for it. In pre-op I got a nice nerve blocked that numbed my entire arm from my neck to my fingers. Of course, I didn’t find out about this until I was being woken up in recovery, to which my first words were, “Have I been drinking?” I can only wonder what else I said between the narcotic cocktail of relaxation and total unconsciousness. Perhaps that will be the subject of another post.

As I was saying…

Coming out of surgery my doctor told me what he had done. Looking at my MRI he wasn’t expecting more than a clean up, but once he got inside he discovered greater damage and determined to repair the rotator cuff (completing the tear, then repairing), and fix a tear in my labrum. This was in addition to removing the bone spur. All that done I expected not to be just miserable, but in a total world of hatin’ life pain and agony. If you could map it I would expect it to be somewhere between the 7th and 8th levels of Dante’s Inferno.

As I dressed to leave I could barely move my fingers and it felt as though I had a large piece of meat hanging from my shoulder. I couldn’t wait to feel my arm again even though I knew it would hurt.

Around 8PM I started regaining sensation and the pain started flooding in. Not being the type to prolong any unnecessary suffering in myself, I quickly went for the morphine and percoset, administering the dose per my doctor’s instruction on the lightest dosage. Those directions just made me feel a little weird. Okay, a little weirder than normal.

Finishing that 12-hour cycle at 8AM, I determined not to repeat that mistake again and gave myself the maximum recommended dose of my Morphoset Cocktail.

This was simply another error on my part. I don’t know if morphine accumulated strength with subsequent recommended doses, or if I had done better in taking the prescriptions in conjunction rather than staggering them, even though it was ever so slight.

This concoction shut me down, though I am certain it was the morphine who was the main culprit in my 12-hour bout with chronic itching and narcolepsy. I would fall asleep in the middle of whatever I was doing: sitting on the edge of the bed, reading, sitting on the potty.

Driving to the store. No, I didn’t drive. That was a joke. But I dreamed I was driving.

Falling asleep sitting up frightened me and I quickly corrected this thinking I could just sit down wherever I wanted to and made sure to be in a safe place should the sleepy-time fairy clean my clock at a moment’s notice.

It wasn’t until about 9PM I began to feel normal and I wanted coffee. It goes without saying I did not sleep well. I can only sleep sitting up as the slightest pressure on my shoulder sends me into a fit of moaning equalled only by that of the undead, or maybe bad porn.

Besides that, I’m feeling pretty darn good. The pain is not intense. I still won’t be able to use my arm for a couple of weeks, but at least it doesn’t hurt to just hang in the sling. Freeing my hand I can accomplish most tasks needed by two hands at waist-level. That being typing, gaming, scrambling eggs, and filling a cup with water. This should get me by for the time being.

The moral of this story is don’t play with morphine. Morphine brings meaning to the expression “nap attack.” Also unquenchable burning itches do not a recreational drug make. If you find yourself with morphine on your doctor’s note I prescribe the following four rules:

  1. trim your nails
  2. sufficiently lubricate tender areas to protect them from merciless scratching
  3. never do anything important
  4. see rule #2

Overall though, my experience has not been what I have heard. I see the potential for serious pain and have learned what I can and can’t do, but it has not been that painful for me. The drugs were not as fun as I expected, which left me a bit disappointed because it’s not every day you get to try an opiate.

I’ll be the guy telling people, “Don’t sweat it, you’ll be fine.” Then they’ll come back to me telling me they hated the surgery and are now fighting a heroine addiction.

Oh well, we all do what we can.


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