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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.”

Adam Heck Soccer Camp Revisited… 2022

I have a previous post about the AH Soccer Camp. Check it out for a greater summary.

It’s a great camp, bringing kids of all ages, in fully-co-Ed teams, broken into broad age groups. Initially, I believe, an attempt to create and sustain a better soccer culture. It’s worked amazingly—I believe we’re right around 300 campers again this year.

My kids would forgo other opportunities in order to attend this camp; I’ve heard the same from other parents! When we moved away from Lansing last summer, each of our three kids asked if we could come back for soccer camp ‘next year.’ To which we could almost only answer, ‘of course.’

Fast forward to this year. For the AH Soccer Camp, and our kids, we loaded five of us in the minivan (and a whole lotta stuff), drove 400 miles, and took over Grammys 1100 square foot apartment (she obviously sees how important it is to them). They work hard for 8 hours a day, and it’s ALWAYS a hot week, yet they always want to come back.

It’s like a family reunion. As we checked in day 1, the kids, and us parents, were greeted with smiles and hugs from our friends and past, but forever teammates, like we had never been gone…but definitely missed. The many parents we’ve watched and cheered with, teammates of ours, some family.

AH DEFINITELY enhanced the local soccer culture, but more importantly, he enhanced an entire town’s culture.

Until next summer… can’t wait.

Baseball… What Makes It So Great?

Dexter lights field

I began writing this near the beginning of the season. I continually was pulled on tangents, and could easily turn this into a book. Here’s my best attempt at condensed…

What is it that makes this “slow” game so beloved, and awesome…especially by those who have experienced it?

A sport that’s been around for over a hundred years, has multiple iconic movies “representing”, and was the first “America’s game.” A plethora of books have been written; a few on my list include: The Matheny Manifesto, Fifty-nine in ‘84, and Shoeless Joe. It has existed, relatively unchanged for many of generations. So, what is it?…

I, like many kids my generation, and that prior, grew up playing—baseball, wiffle ball, stickball, or some other variation. We didn’t know why we could play all day and then reassemble the following morning… very much like THE SANDLOT.

Nine guys in the field, extras on the bench, playing against that same blend. Some of my earliest memories from Binghamton and Afton, NY are some of the best of my childhood.

The smell of the ball, the sound of the bat, a fastball smacking that catcher’s mitt… the taste of leather as I’d chew on the knots of my glove as I covered my face, peering the spaces between the fingers… hitting my first home run off Knights of Columbus in 5th grade… city playoffs and all-stars that chewed up most of the summer, although nobody seemed to mind… striking your buddy out, and getting plunked by your other…putting those spikes on after they’ve dried out—super rigid and even more uncomfortable than normal… sweat creeping up to the front of your hat-brim on the 80+ degree days… and, because I caught, the amount of dirt I’d eat playing this fantastic game.

I was thinking, last week, as I sat in the minivan watching the 10U and 12U AAU boys filter in. Their interaction and jubilation, or bounce to their step, showed just how excited they were to be there. I, again pondered, why…. After thinking back to the fun we had, the camaraderie we all shared, even with unsupportive moments, it was great.

When speaking with another parent, he had mentioned that, like my children, his kids are multisport athletes, that like all their sports, but would come to baseball, even if sitting the bench for the game… being with and a part of the team environment is something he loves. There’s definitely something to be said for any activity that can do that.

Baseball popularity has definitely ebbed and flowed over the decades, but it’s always bounced back when interest was down. Certain variables offer support— one of those variables, believe it or not…Covid. When everything was shut down, and people distanced from nearly ALL societal interaction, we could still pick up a glove and a ball or whack balls off a tee and into a net. Baseball seemed to get a resurgence in this time of “shutdown.”

I know that my boys played a lot of catch, and hit a lot of balls while living in isolation—at least they had each other for that. It was an escape from what Covid had done to the world…some fun in our school-at-home, work-at-home structure that had evolved from a reactionary attempt to “stop the spread.”

Another key variable, which is strong in the tri-town, on the Southcoast of Massachusetts, is community support and nurturing. No activity can run itself and even with financial support people are needed to spearhead the entire operation— a board of directors, some of which also coach, assistant coaches at all levels, organizational supporters, workers at the snack-shack, and just everyone coming out to be a part of these kids lives. Most of these kids won’t play in college, many won’t even play high school ball, but they’ll never forget the days on the “diamond.”

With over 350 kids participating in the Old Rochester Youth Baseball (ORYB) little league, this organization is an amazing example of how to nurture and grow a program. Props to EVERYONE that plays a part in ensuring my kids, and your kids, get these memories.

17,892 days… what an adventure

With my birthday approaching, I began to wonder how many days my 49 years equated to…with leap years figured in of course.

As the Dead once sang, “what a long strange trip it’s been.”

As you most positively know, some days can be extremely long, exhaustive, maybe frustrating…

Of my nearly 18,000 days, only 6490 predated November 24, 1990… meaning that I’ve been doing this for 11402 days… actually 11,403 days.

That first 6490 days paved the way, set the groundwork, for how to handle the remainder of days. Early childhood and school—both academic and athletic—taught lessons on deadlines and planning and their resultant consequences. Athletics also gives a constant tutorial of accomplishment and failure. Your failures, not necessarily your accomplishments, and how one handles that can shut you down or can make you work through a difficult moment or work toward a desired outcome. Rarely is it ever a straight line. There are several walls put up and divergences from your path.

Ultimately, finding your way back to that path or adjusting where you want to go, will keep you on a path, closer to a desired outcome.

There have been a whole crap-load of walks and divergences in those 11,403 days… hopefully another 20,000 days of twists and turns to come.

Budzy…my little visitor

While in the hospital, in 1990, my room was frequented by a very young child from the cancer unit. Budzy was what he went by.

It all began at the Ronald McDonald House, just up the road from Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY. The House offers affordable, if not free, housing for families of long-term hospital admits. While my mother was staying there, she met a young gentleman who had been a common face there over the last year-plus. He had a son, probably three, maybe four years old. The cancer unit had become a second, or, maybe more accurately stated, a first home to him.

I never knew his name—other than just “Budzy.”

He was in a single corner room, overflowing with toys and movies—VHS…so, accompanying it was a five-foot high stand on wheels with a big TV and VCR—a large assortment of cartoons and Barney. Some of his toys offered distraction in times of need, while others, ride-ons, were there when he was feeling up to it…moments of being free… a kid…in the moment, having fun.

As with anyone in treatment, he had his good and bad days, good and bad moments, times of contentment, and moments of fatigue and sorrow. A delicate balance of rest and healing. Budzy always seemed upbeat, considering durations spent in the hospital, hours spent in treatment, the loss of an eye as a result of infection.

I first met him one evening when his dad was changing it up, bringing him up to my room. It was a long trip, so dad would bring him in his Radio Flyer wagon—sometimes sitting up, reclining or doing his part to help pull the red transport vehicle. No matter how he was feeling, he always wanted to visit “the guy with the handle bars”—this in reference to the halo contraption I was wearing to keep my neck immobilized.

For those that don’t remember this thing

I don’t know what it was, but we seemed to be good for each other. For him, maybe I was funny looking, with all my hardware and the tropical fish earrings hanging from the pins that extended into my head. Maybe it was the change of scenery and a different face, one that would light up whenever he rolled into my room. The occasional chocolate deliveries that he made could have made him feel special. He would make the trip up just to give me a couple Hershey kisses or other holiday candies…. Quite possibly, his eager anticipation that he felt on the commute up, unbeknownst to him, provided a few extra endorphins, adding a bit more ease or enjoyment to his evening.

For me, it was this little pint of peanuts, that had been put through more than most of us will ever know, and even though he didn’t always wear a big smile, he had a look of contentment or ease of the mind… at least in those moments. His presence in my room added an entire fresh energy with each visit. I think it made me feel good to see him happy.

Several occasions, I’d swing by his room for a visit, up until my discharge in March.

Several months had passed in my rehabilitation, finishing out school, reinventing my life. I decided to head back to Strong for a visit. It was with much sadness that, on my first visit back, that following winter, that Budzy had lost his battle with cancer.

Nobody said life is supposed to be easy. In fact, we often feel that we received the short end of the stick if too many obstacles are impeding our enjoyment of the life we figured we somehow earned. I think a lot can be said for enjoyment of the moments or times that we get. Good and bad experiences are labeled such by human experience and expectation.

Try being a little more open to interpretation and experience your experiences, not labeling or judging them.

Shouldering a Big Load: 51 day check

Reverse total shoulder, 2 weeks in New England Baptist, and the journey at home.

Progress has continued, however slower than I’d thought…

Initially opening and closing hand, wrist flexion and extension, supination at wrist, bicep curls with full extension—tricep isometric, and shoulder flexion. Shoulder retraction…

Lately, shoulder flexion has become more challenging; that coupled with shoulder against the wall-shoulder flexion with added assist and hold for 10 seconds. Working on this one. Not sure if weakness is causing pain and limited range.

Sit to stands, marching, reverse lunge at sink, calf stretch… feel as though I’m getting back to a workout schedule again… kinda.

Looking forward to cornhole, bocce, and training the kids for their athletics (just got a new training on combine training). Looking forward to beating them all up a bit between that and medicine ball work!

Aside from a little extra pain and some edema in feet I’d have to say that things seem better than initially anticipated.

Happy New Year!!

Congrats on another trip around the Sun! I’ll take some time to reflect back on this past year, and once again, books could be written, in volumes!

Got a new house, a new shoulder, hopefully with that a renewed lift in conditioning and life’s goals.

Whatever your doing, eating, or drinking… wherever you are, be safe and start 2022 with a good energy!

Cheers until the next post!

Ice Fishermen, Funky Ice… and Fractured Ethical Friendships

This one may be a bit more personal for me, maybe therapeutic. Hopefully it provides a quick read and good to contemplate.

Looking back… is there any way you can have disdain for somebody that saved your life?

I am grateful, however, I’m quite positive that I would have, given the opportunity, done the same thing for a friend.

After a week of planning and excitement, there was no way we were going to let the arctic, subzero freeze that abruptly moved in, thwart our ice-fishing plans.

Mother Nature had been generous with her snow up to this point. However, we got one of those strange one-day warm ups, followed by subarctic temps racing behind. When Saturday morning arrived, everything was a frozen winter wonderland. Snow barriers prevented us from pulling down to and parking at the cove. Instead, we were forced to park on the opposite side of a sizable cornfield—a windswept, seemingly barren white desert.

Thirty-plus minutes later we stood at ice’s edge, five-gallon buckets bulging with our tip-ups, bait and other goodies. Armored with heavy, warm boots, Carhart full-body suit, and big fat gloves—one step away from Christmas Story’s bundled brother. Onto the ice we moved… me and my tight unit of ice fishing comrades. One step out and my foot went through a thin layer of ice and dropped down to the main base-layer. “Is this a good idea? Should we be out here?” “Hey, it’s freezing out! Of course the ice is safe.” After a series of step-crack-lift-step-crunch… an ordeal lasting better than 20 or 30 feet…

One final step ended with an area of about 10 feet completely opening up… OMG, before there WAS OMG! As we felt the ice go, I leaned as far forward as I could, and my nearest buddy layed out on ice while grabbing my shoulder— preventing my water-logged suit from pulling me to the bottom …. As he lie still, asking if I’m ok … I believe I just said, “man, this is pretty f’in cold!”

FYI… mind you, this was post accident, I could not swim with a buoyant vest, let alone in ice-cold water with fifty pounds of wet clothes and boots…

Somehow, we managed to roll me up onto the ice, where we for some insane reason, continued to fish on “better” ice. I lasted for a bit, then decided better of it… forgot we had to traverse that windy, freezing, white desert…with a frozen solid Carhart suit. One man under each arm, short shakey steps—shivering every step of the way—falling about every tenth. Eventually making it back to the cars—never would I have made it alone … this is where the conundrum begins…

Years later… after many of friend exchanges, favors… all the things you do for real friends and family… an opportunity arose for both friends… one that we entered into a monetary contract, with an understanding of reciprocation. Never was ethical behavior a forethought or consideration, knowing that the right thing would be done. Well, when the going got tough… the contract was null and void… better yet, “in default at document initiation”… ethical?

As far as legalities are concerned, they may have been absolved from repayment of the legal note that all parties agreed upon… however, there are legalities… and there are moral and ethical “obligations” to close friends…

Economic hardship may have somehow remedied ethical shortcomings …. However, not impacted enough to affect their personal property, family vacations, etc…

Moral…. Unethical…. Life saving… a “mental blend” of thoughts, actions, and memories.

I know for a fact that I’m forever grateful for saving my life… but knowing I’d do the same for anyone that I knew and most I do not. No time to think, it’s reactionary. The other, not so much. Sad, however, that such an incredible deed can be overshadowed by a decision that was much more consciously-derived.

To this day, I am still often bothered by the loss of the friendship. Too “big” of a bad decision and too consequential to overlook. So, when you think something may be difficult or may fall short of what you think it should be… often the right gesture and effort and hard work could save parts of your life or spirituality…

doing the right thing.

Generosity of A Community: Rochester, N.Y.

For years now, I’ve wanted to, in some way, communicate how much a community’s generosity has meant. I’ve reached out to put it in the local paper, but I guess with stressed funding and a diminishing presence of newspapers, I could not find somewhere to express my thanks.

1990

Thirty-one years prior, I was in Strong Memorial Hospital, and that’s where I would reside for Christmas, New Years, my 18th birthday, with a release just before Easter. As a 17 year-old, being a couple hours away from home, one could easily begin to feel isolated, never mind being “different “now—a new life, lifestyle, and challenges around every corner.

Christmas morning was my first surprise, when a few local organizations donated some presents—one of my favorites…a local card shop donated a box of baseball cards. There were a few other items—maybe some snacky food-stuffs too. It was the next thing I remember, and still possess, somewhere in a box… I just moved recently. A local grade-school, in the Strong Memorial area of Rochester, N.Y., I believe, made an entire box of get well cards…maybe thirty or forty of them. I believe it was a first-grade class or classes (a great lesson for kids if any age). As a 17 year-old kid I thought it was great, as a 48 year-old guy I love it!

That influx of thought, energy, and love can lift a person, making them feel some community, even if for the near-term when most needed.

My aim is to try reaching enough people in that region so at least one can say, “hey, that was me!” So, if anyone in that region, especially, or anyone close by, please share and spread. These people would be late thirties by now, and I would love for it to get back to them. Teaching community, higher-ups, anyone and everyone.

If this reaches nobody … today’s take? Think about others, make one day better. Thanks

Again, a huge thank you to all these people for a lifelong gift! Happy Holidays

2021

Shouldering A Big Load: the journey begins

We came up to Boston the night before surgery in an effort to avoid any extra stressors—traffic, car trouble, accident on the freeway, probably a good idea since I had the 7:30 surgery spot, arrival at 5:30… a.m.

The night before didn’t quite go as planned. I grabbed an accessible room to help my night and morning surgical scrubs and easier navigation. Walked in bathroom and just steadied myself on the grab bar…then, there it went! Out of the wall, fell on and broke my walker, and Sue hurt her wrist trying to catch the 175-pound rock that was falling at her feet. Not exactly the night as we planned it.

Man, that 3:30 alarm hurts. Wake, get moving, and presurgical scrub. A quick call to valet and we are off. Five-minutes down the road awaited my surgeon. Sue dropped me at the registration and we were rolling. All the prep-work was now underway. I was happy to find out that because they treat Celtics players and other athletes, they had those “grippy” socks in a 2XL size. They fit!

IV was placed, and first meds administered… off we went. Don’t remember much at recovery, but sent up to my room.


DAY 1

Thursday and Friday were essentially lost days. In and out of sleep, pretty bad nausea, and expected relatively high amounts of pain. It wasn’t until Saturday the 13th that they changed the pain meds in an attempt to alleviate some nausea. By lunchtime I finally started to feel a little human again and by dinner, I was feeling quite a bit better…all things considered. It was the day I’d had my first exercises shown to me…need to progress on to next set.

Open and close hand 10X, wrist flex ion/extension 10X each, supination (this was tough) 10X, partial bicep curls and extension, and ambulation (had to make it as hard as it sounds)…I first made about 10-15 feet. Oh boy!! I guess that’s a step above a three-person transfer from bed to chair, and it reciprocal.


DAY 4

A day of NFL games slated, and I actually cared! Standing and walking, only as far as my room door, a few exercises, and a nice steady diet of protein and vegetables, and much valuable healing rest.

Current…day 11?

Much progress made but in the midst of locating a rehab facility, a positive Covid test derailed that arena. Even though it’s a residual due to my August Covid sickness, not active Covid. Guess those particles didn’t get the memo about going dormant at the 90-day threshold… I was at like 96 days. So, we’ll find out next day or two if I’m off to rehab or to our readily equipped post-shoulder cave.

I’ve a lot to fill in for my own interests but it keeps stuff fresh in my mind and updates some of you friends and family.

Definitely highly, highly recommended this facility and these people for anyone in need! New England Baptist