As I recover from surgery on my left shoulder, I think back to Spring 1984. That semester, I was a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut, and one of my classes involved processing collections in the university archives. One of the collections was the Handicapped Homemaker Project, which ran from 1956-1960 (the finding aid can be found at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/HHP/MSS19800005.html). Functioning with one arm strapped to my chest for the next couple of weeks, which will include the beginning of spring semester, will definitely present some challenges that might resemble what those homemakers faced in the late 1950s.
First, this is just a temporary inconvenience while I recover from surgery that involved repairing the rotator cuff and labrum, shaving a bone spur, and putting my shoulder back in the socket (it’s still a mystery how my shoulder was injured; the only fall I can recall was when I was knocked flying in April 1980 when taken out on a double play and landed on the left shoulder—but I did hold on to the ball and make the out). I should be somewhat functional in a couple of weeks (somewhat meaning that the sling will be worn on the outside of my clothing instead of under it) and out of the sling by April. In fact, light physical therapy started the day after the surgery with range of motion exercises for the fingers, wrist, and elbow that are in the sling.
Second, I am fortunate in that the surgery was on my left shoulder and I am right-handed, so I’m not as disabled as some of those homemakers were (or as I was when I had surgery on my right elbow in July 1980). I also am able to drive, although fastening the seat belt is a challenge. I am able to handle most of my personal needs, but I am extremely grateful that my mother lives with me and is helping me with some things I just can’t do with one hand.
So below is a “top ten” list of things that will be a bit cumbersome for the next few weeks:
1) Taking my blood sugar counts
2) Brushing my teeth
3) Injecting insulin. Ever try to attach a needle to an insulin pen using only one hand?
4) Opening child proof medicine caps
5) Getting dressed. It’s not easy trying to put on a top with one arm strapped to your body.
6) Cutting meat
7) Trimming fingernails
8) Putting on gloves (hey, it’s winter here in north central Pennsylvania)
9) Putting paper in the printer
10) Washing hands…or, rather, hand
I am grateful that I have health insurance that will cover the cost of surgery (and the subsequent physical therapy). Surprisingly, the pain really isn’t a problem…although I do wish the sling strap had padding instead of Velcro where it rubs against the right side of my neck.
And, on the bright side…the spring semester doesn’t start until the 28th. I will be wearing baggy sweaters over the sling, but I will be capable of teaching class, even if it’s just reviewing the syllabus and showing documentaries during the first week of classes. I just have to make sure I don’t get knocked off balance—or at least more off-kilter than I usually am.