Shouldering a Big Load: preamble to shoulder replacement

It’s hard to tell where this surgical intervention is rooted. As far back as I can remember, this right shoulder of mine has taken the brunt of my activities and life. The doctor seems to think it was more rooted in my DNA, but very few people can’t fathom the load these shoulders, especially my right, dominant one. Freshman year, JV football, is the first time I can recollect separating my shoulder. Over the years it happened a few more times, with a baseball irritation and lifting incident peppered in there a few times. Little did I know, that was just the warm up.

I’ll preface this with a bit more shoulder degenerative explanation, sprinkle in a few medical details and have running diary of the twenty days leading up to surgery… particularly workouts and “pre-therapy.”

Lessons from sports for life

Certain things live in throughout ones life, if only at fleeting moments, often cued by a semi-relatable story, interview, or media source. There are a great many of these in everyone, most that are individual but often there are shared memories or lessons shared by ‘groups’.

This morning something on the morning show “Get Up” brought me back to a cool, wet Saturday morning in 1990.

Our Varsity football ream rolled into Delhi, coming off a big win the previous week against Harpursville (think we had 200+ yards on the ground). This week was different; a bit stronger of a team and even though it was great “football weather”, conditions may have been a bit less ideal than the previous.

If my mind serves me right, our team jumped out to a 14-0 lead going into halftime. Things felt pretty good at that point, however, the Delhi coaches opened it up in the second half. That and a few missed tackles saw us facing a two touchdown deficit going into the last few minutes of the game. Bucking down and some good play calling by our staff got us into the endzone, making it a 7-point deficit with under two-minutes remaining. A greatly placed on-side kick, coupled with Craig ‘the animal’ Johnson sprinting and diving into the scrum to win the ball back. At this point, we are probably around the 40-yard line. With momentum on our side, a ton of grit by every one of our guys, we Marched the ball down to the goal line, resulting in another touchdown—probably a bootleg at 8 touchdown to Stilson…or something like that.

This is the moment… coach Rice calls a timeout. Surrounded in a huddle of offense he asked… “are we going for one or two?” Without hesitation, a unanimous “two!” resounded. Tues suck!… well, maybe sometimes they’re okay.

I think we bootlegged to the other side of the field… IN FOR TWO POINTS!

Mayhem ensued. I just remember a blur, a frenzy of guys and football equipment in all directions. But, looking back at the game film and the jubilation everywhere, I remember seeing coach Arotsky flinging his hat, completely crazy with excitement, not quite knowing what to do… trying to find someone to hug… a little reminiscent of Jimmy V when he’d won the National Championship. You could tell he knew the feeling and proud that we gritted it out and we’re resilient until the end.

So, back to the initial thought of lessons learned or experienced from sport… whether it’s a seemingly impossible comeback win, those last five or six gassers, or working extremely hard, earning your way onto a shift or a first team, that belief that it can be done or the extra hours put in to accomplish a task may not seem such an impossibility. It’s stuff like this , I know for a fact, that helped me progress through rehab and subsequent challenges in life. Even if you’ve forgotten some of the important items, they are still in there… just do a little digging.

Delhi football comeback

Do you ever wish…?

So, this morning, on our Saturday morning trek across Mariner’s soccer fields, as a couple hundred people ran around us in all directions, my wife, who normally asks me whatever she wants, today choosing her words carefully, asked “[having been doing this for 21-years, struggling, pushing through, concentrating on each step… do you ever look at people and wish you could just walk like them?]”. I, almost knee-jerkingly quick replied, “definitely” or “sure”.

After reflecting over this, I kind of need to amend this answer.

I often think back to many particular moments. Running the loop up through the cemetery with jimmy Patrillo, hundreds of road miles with Kenny and Matt, monkey rolls and sled drills. I can still, in my mind, replicate how it felt to run, ride, get down and up…that dreaded mile for time.

I don’t believe I ever WISH I could run like they do, seems counterproductive to advancing beyond current challenges, I would sometimes just like to close my eyes, and walk, without the assessment of the ground ahead and the energies invested in stabilizer muscles and adrenaline surges every time I shift off center and regain my uprightness. The worst may be waking from a dream in which I’m running (often with great effort and poor form), or cycling as I once did over 60 or 80-mile jaunts. Yeah, that’d be cool, but I’ve accepted the reality of not leaping or cutting on the football field. On the football note…I’ve had a dream that was so seemingly real that for months I actually questioned whether I finished out my Senior football season. I’m pretty sure I did.

Instead of the wishing for things, it’s working towards a goal and acknowledging those “small” victories or accomplishments. maybe that’s how I keep my sanity… kinda.

A few awesome experiences: snow boarding on the plastic toboggan sleds under full moon with Matt Herdeker, pretending we were James Bond, swimming out bikes across the river (that was dumb), climbing up the beams to the top of the train tressle in Sidney with Hudson Cutting III

TBI as it affects me…

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can come in many forms and be somewhat or extremely individualized to each situation. It ranges from a seemingly innocuous low-grade concussion to physically impacted or oxygen-deprived brain injuries. Often it will be some combination of the numerous types. To avoid a novel’s worth of information, I’ll detail my injury and level of affliction.

Moving forward from the moment of impact…

The mechanism is rather unclear—one report said seatbelt, one said not. What is clear is that my head struck something, causing a rattling of the brain, followed by the bony cervical vertebrae to be thrust up into my brainstem region, including a small round object known as the cerebellum or “hind brain” (see below pink area). That impact caused a huge cascade of changes and inflammation to the region and beyond.

The brainstem began to swell, encroaching upon the cerebellum, which was probably impacted as well, and it’s extremely important functions—movement and balance primarily, however breathing and temperature regulation seemed most important at that moment. The impact also caused a bleed within the brain, filling all four ventricles, necessitating a shunt, or small plastic drain tube, to be placed in the right front forehead. Internal pressure by fluid buildup can pose a whole new concern for brain injury.

Methylprednisolone was given as an experimental means to decrease or reduce further inflammation through the impacted regions and the shunt was releasing the blood accumulation within the ventricles. Thank god for these means of treatment; they potentially minimized further damage.

I think, that which I’m still battling the most, is damage that occurred to the cerebellum. I knew it was important, but not to the extent which it is, until I began reading up on it. Thirty years later and Clinicians are learning new details.

Over the years I’ve learned that the most primal aspects are governed by this region—breathing, temperature regulation, and several involuntary and reactive responses, balance, even immune response (I believe I read that).

I find myself experiencing positional vertigo. What’s that you ask? Vertigo is thought of as the spinning room; mine can better be summed up by needing to focus on a spot or an object while I’m walking. If im walking and move my head or shift my gaze, the world will spin faster than I can recover from. At that point I’m usually hitting the floor before I realize it.

Another major issue I have to account for is excessive muscle tone. It’s difficult to describe to someone else… until they are in a position to bend my legs and stuff me in a car or assist in stretching. “Hey, can I help bend your leg?”…. “Sure” I’ll say. As they struggle, using a great deal of their strength, worried that they are hurting my leg. Nope just super stiff… like a rusty hinge in need of some WD-40, good oil, or a blow torch.

Lastly, I’d just like to add… there’s just some weird stuff that just appears seemingly randomly from injury to injury, some of which one wouldn’t really think about unless brought to your attention. One example is non-smooth movement upon repeated movement—flex and extend your arm ten or twenty times. Easy? Mine starts out good for one or two, then it gets “jerky” or “stuck.” Same as if I lose my balance (which NEVER happens)… quick movements tend to shorten range of motion too, making recovery difficult, hoping I can tuck-n-roll adequately… which is less frequent because the arms often don’t extend quick enough.

Im sure if you spoke to another person with prior injury that they would have a list of many different resultants.

So much could be added to each piece, probably a books-worth. Hopefully I covered the intended areas semi-adequately. Feel free to reach out with any further questions or info.

9/11 always gets me thinking…

As 9/11 nears each year, I find myself drawn to the stories, the images, the dedications…. The details, the stories, the growth of a people.

How the heck would I have gotten out? Would I have even tried? I sure would have been heavy for 100 floors!

The stories of these first responders going up into the clouds essentially, one step at a time, in an effort to save more people… while people, black people, Chinese, people of all genders and pronouns… none of that mattered, a body was a body. Probably every one of these responders knew, with quite certainty, that they wouldn’t make it out… just how many more lives they would influence.

These stories, some touching, some very sad, all heroic, demonstrate extreme selflessness and motivation to be a better individual— more helpful, more kind and loving, physically and mentally stronger and more resilient to what life bestows upon us. Witnessing what these people did, under the circumstances they were acting within… for a short time makes me feel like I do nothing, but I guess it’s a larger testament to what they did, as opposed to my shortcomings…

The Heck footprint

We rolled into Lansing on a hot and sunny Saturday evening in 2018. I parked that 26-foot Penske truck to be unloaded Sunday, and headed over to “the” soccer camp early Monday morning. My wife’s new boss highly recommended this camp, sure the kids would love it.

So, away we went… July 30th I believe. We arrived at fields around 8:00 a.m. The fields were abustle, a fun energy about it. A sweltering ninety degree week, about 30 games, drills, and lots of bonding over lunch and between-game downtime. We knew nobody. By the end of the week it’s like the kids and myself felt as though we’d belonged here, with that group.

Spearheaded by the legendary Adam Heck- Lansing soccer coach who I’m told began this as a means to create a better soccer culture within the area. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet Adam. Since his untimely passing, coaches Benji Parkes and Eric Stickel have carried on the seasonal tradition.

Fast forward to 2021… so much has happened and changed over this Covid-influenced year and a half. It only seems fitting that today, August 2, 2021 marks the 25th year of camp… a touch of normalcy once again. With 260 campers it is an amazing sight…. and sound.

So, when I mention the “Heck footprint” what I’m referencing is the collective group of coaches, staff, and community members coming together to coach the teams, greet the campers every morning… with a smile and enthusiasm… the group of players collectively assembling the large tents provided by Mr Hatfield… morning workouts and the camaraderie that comes with that. The entire group encircling whichever coach is speaking or directing. Two-hundred and sixty kids having a good time outside, no electronics… increasing their skills, their confidence, or, like my kids, making some fast, long-lasting friendships. Thanks Adam… you also Benji and Eric. This is a great thing!

Tragic? Or, fortunate for a full childhood?

As I sit here and watch my boys play in their 10U and 12U baseball games , I can’t help but to reflect on the years of fun and work that I was able to be involved in. [fast-forward 3 months, to soccer season]…

As I sit and watch some games this weekend I think and feel what I felt in my childhood. Internalization of accomplishment and jubilation stirs up those early kid years and the fun we had, as well as the lessons learned.

People often view my accident and it’s timing in my life as tragic…

Maybe it was initially, and if there were no other paths to blaze and groom. Blazing the path is the initial changing of life’s direction, often the crushing of dreams that you’d began grooming before the path was even made, a game-plan of sorts. Grooming… that’s the unknown, the changes, the evolution of ones new direction.

I’ve been grooming this path for the last 30 years. Sometimes it starts to grow back over and I’m shaping it, and sometimes I lose sight of where I was and where I truly want to go. Then, when I step back and look, like zooming out on that digital map, where there finer details melt into the big-picture, becoming absolutely clear… kind of. By doing this on occasion paths can be ‘tweaked’ and fit into what one’s forging.

So, back to this term, tragic… I did a lot of really cool, fun, shaping things… probably more than anyone needs . I tend to recognize all this while watching my kids and hoping they can have at least part of what I experienced.

Christmas 1990

Christmas 1990

Never got this published… better late than never. Enjoy!

It was right around Dec 24 when I was transported up to Strong Memorial… still little to no developments. Christmas Eve I finally had my hair washed, I believe three times! The dirt, skin and blood were all washed from my halo bound head. As I lay in bed, at about a forty/five degree angle I had the urge to curl my right arm up, a task that I’d repeatedly failed at the prior month.

The arm curled up. I may have done a second then called a nurse to witness my ‘feat of strength’. Only problem… fatigue took over and could not quite make it. After sleeping on my achievement, things seemed to start coming back and progressing forward.

Progress aside, let’s explore Christmas morning 1990. Santa made his way through the hospital, exciting the many kids who called this place home. It was a great morning, however, it was a strange, somewhat frustrating experience. Unwrapping presents was different than what any of us had thought. It consisted of a series of minute movements of forearm, wrist, and fingers after fingertips had been slid into folds or gaps in the gifts and their wrappings.

Fast forward to 2020… 30 years later…

Well maybe 27 years…

Many years have passed, more ups than downs, and it’s me called on for computer/game setup or foosball table construction. Hard to see day to day or even year to year changes, but to see my reliance that year versus where we sat this year… I am pretty dang fortunate. Merry Christmas Everyone! Love to all

Firefighter’s, EMS, First Responders… our heroes’ startling statistics, and why I’m forever indebted.

Firefighter’s, EMS, First Responders… our heroes’ startling statistics, and why I’m forever indebted.

— Read on walkingagainmoving.wordpress.com/2021/04/27/firefighters-ems-first-responders-our-heroes-startling-statistics-and-why-im-forever-indebted/