Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cold shoulder starting to thaw

“A frozen shoulder.”

That was the diagnosis of the orthopedic surgeon following his scoping of Rupert last week.

My husband was, of course, under the influence of general anesthesia at the time, blissfully unaware of my conversation with Dr. Field and its implications.

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“Usually, I don’t go along with ‘no pain, no gain,’ but this is the exception,” the doc explained to me.

“You’ve got to see that Rupert moves.”


For months he had been grimacing and grunting when engaged in normal activities that required him to move his left arm. Putting on his belt, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket, reaching for the seat belt–all had become increasingly painful and finally provided motivation for him to make the appointment with the orthopedic specialist. Which led to the surgical procedure last week, when the doctor broke up the scar tissue that had encapsulated his left shoulder. The shoulder is no longer frozen. Just sore. And in need of intense physical therapy. And I was appointed the therapy Nazi. (Remember Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi?)

Would you  believe I had to take him to physical therapy immediately after he woke up from his surgery? The idea was his shoulder was still anesthetized and therefore the initial therapy session would be less painful.

He kept falling asleep as physical therapist Randy had him working a pulley to manipulate his arm in positions it had not been in for months. Like up beside his ear.

After his second exercise session, I made the mistake of leaving Rupert on his own to make his next therapy appointment. He decided to take a vacation of several days.

I cancelled the vacation. He went back the next day.

Life at home is interesting these days, with more therapy and some adjustments in personal grooming. The bandage over the incisions is supposed to be kept dry, so we’ve gotten creative with an old shower cap and duct tape.

All this makes us face the reality that we have reached middle age, with our thoughts and conversations focussing on physical infirmities and their consequences.

Last Friday night, instead of a fun Mexican meal and a movie, we stayed home and ate leftovers and watched the video of Rupert’s surgery. Through the miracle of modern technology, Dr. Field actually filmed the procedure with a camera attached to the arthroscopic device he used to investigate and treat Rupert’s problem.

“Rupert, buddy, see this?” Dr. Field said on the tape. “It’s adhesive capsulitis. I’m cleaning it up.”

The inside of Rupert’s shoulder was just more than I wanted to see.

But now that his frozen joint is thawed out and on its way to recovery, I’ll be glad to give up my role as therapy enforcer, before he starts giving me the cold shoulder.