Monday, August 22, 2011

My Experiment with Steroids

I have had a rough couple of days. I spent the night in the emergency room on Saturday night and have gotten very little sleep since then. I had a similar experience four months ago and wrote about it in my blog here. However, this time it was different and I did not realize it until I looked back at that blog I wrote in April. In April, I had horrible pain in my right shoulder, but this time it was in my left shoulder, so it is from something different.

Thursday night I felt some discomfort in my left shoulder. It wasn't too bad, but it was noticeable. When I woke up Friday morning, it had intensified and didn't let up all day. By Saturday, it had significantly grown worse. I felt awful pain anytime I moved it and usually had to lift it with my right hand to even put it up on a table when I sat down. I am sure it looked humorous to see me do anything. I never realized how difficult it was to do simple things like put on socks with one hand. Putting on a shirt was torture. Using only one hand wasn't the struggle; it was the pain involved with trying not to move my bad arm. The slightest movement sent sharp pains through my shoulder. I shed a lot of tears that day.

That night I went to a local trivia night fund raiser, so I was around people who saw me struggling and encouraged me to go to the hospital. My buddy, Adam, was especially forceful. He told me all night that I needed to go get it taken care of. However, since I had dealt with this before, I did not think it would be necessary. Yes, it was painful, but it would be gone in a few days. I just needed to ride it out like last time. About five hours later, I changed my mind.

I went to bed that night and took some Aleve to ease the pain. It didn't work. I could not find any comfortable position. The pain grew much worse over the next couple of hours. I couldn't adjust my blankets or even change positions without searing pain shooting through my arm. I came to the realization that sleep was not going to happen and this was obviously much worse than what I had experienced back in April. I got up and tackled the task of dressing myself again so I could go to the hospital.

I got to the E.R. about 2 a.m. and they laid me on a bed to await the doctor. The movement involved in getting myself there has made the pain much worse, so the doctor was going to get to see me at my worst. After all the preliminary questions, blood pressure checks, pulse taking, and explanations of my issue, the doctor came into the room. He introduced himself as Dr. Doolittle and I immediately laughed. The first instance of laughter caused my shoulder to throb, so I think I was able to pass it off as a wince of pain.

Doolittle (that really is his name) asked me where my shoulder hurt. As he started feeling around on it, I told him that it hurt when I moved it and it didn't really hurt to the touch. He immediately proved me wrong. He then attempted to move my arm to see what level of mobility I had. Once I relaxed and let him try, he found that it doesn't move at all without cries from me. He decided that it appeared to be bursitis.

He ordered some X-rays to be assured there was not a more serious problem. Before the X-rays, one of the nurses came in to give me a shot of anti-inflammatory medication. As I started rolling up my sleeve, she told me that she would be injecting a large amount of fluid so it would have to go in a 'meatier' area. "Drop your pants." She told me it would burn, but I am not really scared of needles, so I wasn't too worried about it.

There was so much medicine being injected that it took a while to get it all through the syringe. About 20 seconds into the injection, my butt suddenly felt like it had caught on fire. She wasn't kidding. It burned...a lot. I tried to sit still and not tense so she could finish, but it was difficult. Luckily, it subsided after a couple of minutes. It burned for the next several hours, but the intense burn was only for those first few minutes. In the meantime, I was able to get the nurse to admit I had a hot butt.

Then, it was off to radiology for my X-rays. They brought a wheelchair in for me. I don't know if I could ever get used to being pushed around in a wheelchair. It feels so strange to have someone else push me around, especially when I know I am perfectly capable of walking. However, I was glad to have it when we came back from there.

That's not going to happen!
The X-rays were not fun. In order for them to get the shots they needed, I had to position my arm where they could better see the joint. For the first one my arm basically had to hang by my side, which wasn't too bad except I had to hold it out a couple inches from my waist. Now, I can do this if I can use my right arm to support the left one, but to use the left arm muscles to hold it there was excruciating. She would get it in position and ask if that was alright. Through tears I exclaimed, "No, but take the picture quick!" She was as gentle as she could be, but it really hurt. For the next shot I needed to rotate my arm to be palm forward instead of back. This small movement surprised me in how difficult it was to do, but we got the shot. She then came out of her little anti-radiation room and informed me that I am not going to like her. She says, "For this shot I need your arm like this." She then holds up her arm like she is going to make a right turn. I knew this was not possible, since I had not raised my arm from my side for two days, but decided to give it a try. I held my left wrist with my right hand and tried to raise it. I hadn't moved it six inches when she realized that I couldn't do it. She then decided that if I could place my left hand on my right shoulder, that may expose the joint to get the shot we needed. That was much easier to do.

Back in the wheelchair, I nursed my shoulder that was now exponentially sorer than before I got there and I wondered when the anti-inflammatory medicine was supposed to kick in. The next nurse asked me if my arm was starting to loosen up yet. I told her it was worse from all the movement. Dr. Doolittle (HAHA!!) then came back in and told me that the X-rays looked fine, so he was confident that his initial diagnosis was correct. It was probably bursitis. Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) that lies between a tendon and skin, or between a tendon and bone. He then explained that once this gets inflamed all movement becomes extremely painful. He really didn't need to tell me that part. I was very much aware of it.

Notice the one buff arm
He then produced another syringe. "This is a Lanacane steroid," he said, "that is going to go directly into the joint to add fluid to the bursa sac." The main thing I heard was steroid. All I really knew about steroids is that they are often used by body builders to help them bulk up. I immediately thought of Freddy Rodriguez in the movie Lady in the Water. He was doing an experiment by building up one arm but not the other with weight training. If I got this shot in just one arm would I look like him? I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Either way, I was wondering what this shot would be like. This was not a surface injection like every  other shot I had ever received. This was going deep into my joint. I didn't expect this to be pleasant. I rolled up my sleeve and braced myself.

He put the needle in and had to adjust it a bit to get it into the bursa sac, but it soon found its way. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. He then stated that it may start to burn, but I would need to sit still because it takes a while to get it all in there. I never really felt any burning, but my whole body got hot. When I said that, Doolittle (HAHA!!) said, "He's passing out! Lay him down!" I told them I wasn't passing out, I just got really hot. The nurses told me I had lost all color in my face and my skin got clammy. These are all signs that someone is about to pass out, but it didn't happen.

An hour later, I was headed back home with my arm hurting more than when I had gone in, but I had some pain killers and prescriptions for codeine and more anti-inflammatory medication. I had to call in sick that morning since we cannot dispatch at the Sheriff's Department while on medication. I have instructions to contact an orthopedic doctor tomorrow so it can be looked at more closely to see if there is anything more serious.

I am starting to regain some mobility in my arm today, but I am very limited. I still cannot lift anything without pain, but it has gotten much easier to get dressed. However, since I cannot afford to take off any more days of work, I have gone without the painkillers today, so I can work this afternoon. I may have to stop taking them anyway. They warned me at the hospital that codeine knocks people out, so do not drive after taking it. However, it has the opposite effect on me. It does help with the pain, but has the same effect as caffeine. I am wide awake after taking it. I can't sleep at night when I've had a dose.

I am healing and am glad to be moving around again, but I am really starting to believe that my body is out to get me. Getting old seems to have a downside.


  1. Sounds like an exciting weekend. Glad to hear your shoulder's starting to feel a little better.

  2. So sorry to hear about the hospital ordeal you had last weekend. I'll be praying that your arm recovers quickly. On a lighter note, I'm rotfl about Dr. Doolittle and your attempts to persuade the nurse about your literally hot butt!

  3. About time that I get mentioned for all my hard work!!!!!

  4. Wow... quite a story. How in the world did you type all of this up with your arm being only slightly recovered? And what happened in the end? How long did it take to fully heal? Did you end up seeing and orthopaedic doctor? I can't believe the ER doctor's name was actually Dr. Doolittle lol... With a name like that he really had no choice as to which profession he went into. Brilliant!

    1. I was better within a few days and the ortho doctor said it didn't sound like something he needed to see me about.


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