Anything’s Possible

On reading Grannymar’s post One Armed Bandit last week, I was reminded of a time in my own life when I fought a one-armed battle. I have an inherited connective tissue disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) which leaves me with a tendency to stumble and fall a lot. Being right-handed, my right shoulder has taken many blows over the years but it’s still going strong.

When I was in college many moons ago, I slipped and fell dislocating my right shoulder in the process. Luckily it went back into it’s socket spontaneously but the damage had been done. The anterior ligaments of the joint were torn and my arm needed immobilisation in a sling for many weeks to facilitate repair. From that day onwards, my right shoulder was unstable and certain movements were extremely painful. The joint would easily sub-locate and on numerous occasions this happened when swimming, leaving me stranded in pain with one arm stuck up in the air!

When my first child was a toddler, I stumbled one day while carrying him and again badly tore the shoulder ligaments. As my arms were full, I could not reach out to save my fall and landed on my right elbow sending the full force of the blow through my shoulder joint. I was seen by an orthopaedic surgeon who recommended an operation to stabilise the joint. I underwent open surgery (it’s done by micro-surgery these days) to have the ligaments of the shoulder joint re-structured to form a support network and they were also shortened to limit movement in the joint. A large metal screw was used to hold the re-attached ligaments in their new position. When I awoke from the anaesthetic, my whole right arm was tightly strapped across my chest and it was a struggle even to breathe. I was to spend the next six weeks in this tight strapping with only one arm usable. It was a difficult time as I had a small toddler to look after but we soon devised ways and means to get around most problems. I became a dab left-hander at doing most tasks though it took a while to get used to getting dressed one-handed and trips to the toilet took rather longer than usual. You try pulling up and down your clothes with one hand and you’ll realise what I’m talking about!

Once the ligaments had healed, all the strapping was removed and I started on a long programme of physiotherapy to recover movement in the joint. This was a very painful process and as time went on, the pain got worse instead of better so I was sent back to the surgeon for review. He was puzzled by the pain and recommended further rest for the arm, in a sling. A few weeks later I noticed a protruding lump at the top of my right arm which was very painful to touch. The metal screw used to fixate the ligaments had wriggled it’s way loose and x-rays showed that at least one inch of it was protruding from the bone. Back I went into hospital for more surgery to remove the piece of offending metal which I still have to this day, as a souvenir. Yet more weeks ensued with my arm in a sling before I was allowed to start physiotherapy again. You have no idea what pleasure it was to finally eat a meal using a knife to cut my food.

One of the aims of the surgery was to restrict movement of my arm in certain directions, to reduce the likelihood of further dislocation. No matter how hard I try, I cannot rotate my arm outwards and have learnt instead to rotate my body to reach objects on my right-hand side. I used to love playing tennis but my restricted shoulder movements made this impossible. Not to be defeated, I went back to tennis lessons starting at beginner level and learnt to play the game left-handed. Anything is possible when you’re determined to succeed. This all came to abrupt end however with another stumble which resulted in torn ankle ligaments but that’s another story. These days my right shoulder joint makes lots of strange creaking noises but it remains pain-free. I only wish the rest of my joints were as good.

7 Responses to Anything’s Possible

  1. Grannymar says:


    That all sounds very painful! It is amazint what we can do when needs must.

    Did you ever count the hours you spent in or at hospitals?

  2. Steph says:

    Grannymar – I lost count years ago!

    It always makes me laugh when I end up in hospital with a nurse at my side who thinks they’re doing me a favour by explaining what happens next. They’re only doing their job but little do they realise that I probably know the protocol better than them! I’ve had some funny occasions when heading to theatre for surgery when I’ve ended up reassuring the nurse in attendance 😀

  3. Bendy Girl says:

    Ouch! Was it a putty platt (sp) surgery you had done? The captain had that procedure on his shoulder (admittedly he did get shot through it!) and it has held up really well. Me on the otherhand, I’ve had erm too many shoulder surgeries to remember and all failed. I think the metal not holding is related to the EDS as I’ve heard it mentioned by others, and in my shoulder the memory staple that was used ruptured from the bone and became a nasty pointed sharp thing that migrates round the joint every so often. Unfortunately it can’t be removed without destroying my bicep muscle so I’ve just learnt to live with it. It always freaks out anyone viewing my shoulder x-ray though!

  4. Steph says:

    You’re spot on! BG

    It was indeed a Putti-Platt procedure. And you’re also right about ‘metal not holding’ being EDS related. The surgeon said he’d never had that problem arise before but as I hadn’t been diagnosed with EDS at that stage, we didn’t know any better.

    That staple of yours sounds really OUCH!

  5. I will never whinge about hurting my shoulder ever again!!!
    doing things one handed is a real bother, but its amazing how fast one adapts!

  6. Steph says:

    No, no, AV

    You continue to whinge away. Shoulder pain can be really debilitating. When the pain goes into your chest, you simply can’t escape it . The message is rest, rest, rest until the aching settles because if you use it on and off, you’ll set up a cycle of inflammation in the joint which can be difficult to settle.

    You’ll find when you first come out of the sling that you’ll subconsciously keep your arm across your chest for protection and this can actually make the aching worse as you’re tensing the muscles without the support of the sling. I recommend you use your arm gently for short periods and then give it intermittent rests in the sling.

    I have little or no pain in my right shoulder these days though it is vulnerable in certain positions. If I sleep on my right side at night, it affects the nerves to my fingers but only temporarily. It’s pretty good really all things considered.

    Here’s hoping that your shoulder settles down quickly and that the news on Miss Bo continues to be good 😀

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