birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Rotator Repeat

The tears welled up as I sat in the doctor's examination room. The MRI showed that my rotator cuff surgery had failed. I was back where I had started six months earlier. I could try again, have the same surgery a second time, the doctor said. But..."If you were my older sister...I would..."

He'd hit my trip wire and suddenly my cheeks flush. I'm angry. I interrupted him right there. "I plan to ski again, frequently. I plan to swim again, regularly. I am having this surgery again because I need to be able to use my right arm."

I didn't say "Fuck you" but I thought it. I'm not old! Then the thought of not being able to carry my grandchildren brought tears to my eyes again. This whole thing sucked.

If only I hadn't sucked for the standard advice for people my "age," lift weights to build stronger bones. In short order, I'd started to have sharp pains in my shoulder, which I ignored. By the time I went to the doctor, my right rotator cuff was torn nearly straight through with two tendons hanging loose half way down my upper arm.

Rotator cuffs are notoriously slow to heal. So I was puffed up proud that I seemed to heal quickly. I regained my range of motion within a couple of months. By the end of the third month, I'd been cleared to start some modest swimming.

That doesn't diminish the pain of this particular wound. For two weeks, I slept in the glider I bought when I had babies to nurse. Sleeping in a bed meant surrounding myself with a mountain of pillows to prop me in the least stressful positions. I iced my shoulder for months to control the swelling and pain.

The worst of it, however, was the sitting. I needed to be quiet and the patience that required was difficult to muster as the months wore on. I could take walks, but I couldn't drive. I couldn't carry anything heavier than an empty backpack, even on my good shoulder.

So when my arm turned black and blue for no apparent reason and I suspected something had gone wrong, my heart fell. My original doctor dismissed by concerns. It's the bicep tendon, he said without performing any diagnostic tests. You have two of those tendons. This is nothing. "I consider this operation to be a success," he said as he left the room.

So I wasn't surprised when my new doctor confirmed my worst fears. But I knew what I faced, and it wasn't going to be fun.

But, fuck you, I'm not old. Let's get this done. Now. I'm already out of patience.

Times, Roamin'

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