On January 28, 2016 I underwent extensive Rotator Cuff Surgery on my right arm. This series of posts will focus on my experience through the recovery from this procedure with emphasis on the effects on my ability to regain the dexterity necessary to practice dentistry.
It is my routine to do an extensive Google search on any topic that captures my interest. Needless to say that a diagnosis of a totally torn and retracted rotator cuff in your dominant arm tends to get ones attention. My first research project involved the nuts and bolts of the procedure. I found extensive posts, blogs, videos, etc. on all subjects regarding the current techniques of minimally invasive shoulder restoration. My second focus was on the immediate care and feeding of the arm after the procedure. Again there were scores of hits on my Google and youtube searches. I found the same thing as I looked into the Physical Therapy phases inherent in the recovery and restoration of function. This process took me through the first month following surgery with out a hitch. At about the 5th week post op, I was allowed to begin to move my hand enough that I felt that I could use my right hand to sign some sort of a seemingly important document. Up till this time if a signature was required then what passes for a left handed autograph had to suffice. But, darn it I was gonna start the path back to normal today! I picked up a pen in my left hand and passed it to my right, closed my thumb and fingers in the normal way. A pain shot from my thumb that was far more intense than anything that I had endured in my recovery too that point. I dropped the pen and grabbed my hand to massage it as one does when it hurts. My fingers closed on the muscle at the base of the thumb and discovered that there was only about half the thickness that there used to be. I was devastated. My supposed 4 month convalescence followed by a return to my dental carrier of 40 years immediately morphed into “Oh Lord, will I ever be able to fully use this hand again?” Once I regained my composure I began the process that had served me well up to this point. Now I am a bull dog when it comes to finding what I need on Google. I will read through as many as 10 or 20 pages of returns because I have learned that what ever order the algorithm picks what I want is often way down at the bottom of the pack…. if its there at all. So I asked the Oracle of 2016, “How does a Dentist recover his dexterity after his hand is damaged?” in about a hundred different ways and all I got was crickets. I won’t go into all the ways that I tried to find out anything about this topic, but all of the results were the same. Nearly nothing, some anecdotal tales of “yes, I had it” tales, but no substantive information on how to work through the restoration of the high function that my profession requires.
Initially through what I hope will be a series of posts I intend to relate what I have learned and experienced through the months since the fateful day when I could not even hold a pen to my return to fixing teeth. Hopefully, when the next doc is going through something similar and Googles “What the heck do I do now?” they will find a bit more information than I did.