3:34am. We meet again. Its just another night in the McNaught house. I've been awake since about 1am and I just moved to the couch as to not disturb hubby. After a rather overwhelming 100% response to my insta-story poll asking if y'all wanted to know more about my shoulder injury, I figured what better time than the present. So here I am, cup of tea in hand and The Office on in the background, buckle up buttercup, this is quite complex.
I had been working at Walgreens since high school, I'm talking 16 yrs old and braces. Fast forward and it is now 2009, I'm 18 and had graduated in Mesa, AZ the year prior. After turning 18 that September, I was now living in Bellevue, Wa and had transferred to their local branch. I had just been promoted to a Senior Beauty Adviser position, and at the time, that was all that mattered.
Part of my job description was counting and ordering inventory, then stocking the shelves upon its' arrival. It was 'truck day,' which is just what it sounds like. A giant semi truck with Walgreens printed in giant red letters along the side would pull up behind the store, where we would then unload the truck, separate the totes by department, and proceed to stock the shelves and store any overflow.
A bit later in my shift, after all the sorting from the truck was completed, I was about midway through stocking the shelves of my department. shampoos/conditioners were next up. I bent down and picked up the tote by the two side handles. It was a bit heavier than I expected, 35-40 lbs if I had to guess. So, I wanted to readjust how I was carrying it. I used my right leg to bounce the tote in an upward motion, enough so I could move my arms below the tote, catching it on my forearms. As soon as the tote made impact with my arms, my right shoulder immediately dislocated backwards.
Did you know 95% of shoulder dislocations happen anteriorly (forward)? That means that only 5% of all shoulder dislocations happen posteriorly (backwards) like mine just did. That is an extreme difference in odds. The majority of posterior shoulder dislocations occur due to stroke or seizures.
Diagnosis and Treatment
My official diagnosis is a combined form of Cervical and Segmental dystonia. Cervical dystonia is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the neck that cause abnormal movements and postures of the neck and head. Segmental dystonia affects two or more adjacent parts. Spasms can be minor or severe, I happen to have a very severe case. I get sharp shooting pains through my arm and in my fingertips, along with numbness and hypersensitivity to topical things.
I am effected through my C4-7 vertebrae. One of my vertebrae is protruding out and compressing a nerve sac outside of my spine. These factors cause severe muscle contractions that extend through my shoulder, neck, and arm down to my fingertips. Exclusively on my right side, stemming across my back, stopping at my spine.
We are still trying to pinpoint the exact root of the injury.
The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerve fibers that run from the spine, formed by the lower vertebrae (C5-8 and T1). These nerves send signals from your shoulder to your arm and hand.
Over the years, we have tried to treat it surgically, medicinally, with botulinum toxin (botox) shots and different injections. Ongoing physical therapy is attempting to retain any prior muscle control I had previously to being injured.
We are currently in the middle of a treatment plan that we truly believe is our best and possibly last option: Peripheral Denervation Surgery, or the Betrand Procedure. To date, approximately 2,000 cervical dystonia patients have undergone this procedure. There is a long road that we are on before we actually perform the procedure. Series of tests and temporary nerve blocks are crucial to pinpointing which nerves would be burned off. It is irreversible. While many nerves do have the ability for regrowth in some circumstances, doctors believe mine will not. I obviously will not sign up for anything unless I know my odds and what to expect. A lot to think and pray about. No wonder I have my first grey hair!
It is a very frustrating circumstance. Both physically and emotionally, I can't lie and say that any part of this is easy. I handle it all by the grace of God alone, and the amazing support system I'm blessed to have in my life. This injury has literally turned my life upside down. Stranger Things anyone? But really, there isn’t a single aspect of my life that this has not affected. I feel like the best way to describe it is consistently inconsistent. Everyday is different, and some days are better than others. But let’s be real, it always hurts and it always sucks.
This situation has taught me so many things, patience being at the forefront.
-Constantly waiting on authorizations when you’re dealing with chronic pain is simply infuriating.
-Having a true desire to just feel utter stillness. There is a constant vibration radiating through my body, so even when I’m just sitting down relaxing, I literally feel like I’m getting a workout.
To put it simply, it is just exhausting.
Think about the little things… putting pants on, they can’t be too tight because it is just NOT worth the workout that comes with trying to get those on one handed. Notice my love of hats? Yeahhh... there is a reason for that. I’ve almost chopped my hair off at least a dozen times. I personally love having straight across bangs. One arm life does not quite merit that style. General everyday tasks just ALL become far more difficult, and typically with more steps that it would general entail.
What about the big things? I was right handed before this injury. It took years for me to instinctively utilize my left arm for everything. For example, for so long I would say drop something, and I would still attempt, feebly as it was, to catch it with my right arm. Clearly, that never worked even slightly. What I had to do was retrain my brain to function differently. I can confidently say that I am now left handed, but boy oh boy, its all still a work in progress. My handwriting looks like that of a 6th grader. Hey, it used to be comprable to a 2nd grader! Progress is progress.
Again, patience is always at the forefront.
I’m a very stubborn person, and I like things a certain way. It took me so long to learn to just let go, and let God. I’m honestly the person that would rather do most things myself, because I know how I will do it. Control freak, hi. But again, life is not perfecttttt. So stop making things bigger than they to be. Whats funny is this. The hardest time for me to ask for help is when I'm in the kitchen!! I looooove to cook and bake. They make so many amazing tools that make my life so much easier. Automatic can openers, automatic wiiiiine openers (best gift ever), and hubby even made me a cutting board with a nail in it!! So I can stick whatever I’m cutting on that to hold it in place while I cut with my left hand. Cool right? Innovation is everything!! Gotta get creative sometimes.
I just want to remind you that if you’re dealing with something difficult, His word says:
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Oh how I desire the rest that He alone can give.
Isaiah 41:10 “..fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I will not back down. I will stand my ground. I will remain strong and not succumb to the weakness. The devil and his demons will not prevail against the Lord Almighty.
He says it over and over again in His word, we are never alone in our struggles. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to admit that things are hard, or that you’re just having a bad day. Life is not perfect, it was never made to be. It is important to be able to discuss how you’re feeling when you are dealing with something heavy. We were never intended to be alone. I’m very fortunate to have a husband that cares, he is my strength so often when I do become discouraged. Between hubby, my family and close friends, I am covered full circle. I just know I would not be the same person if I was fighting this struggle alone.
Have questions? Comments? Do you know someone affected by Dystonia? Leave a comment!
I'd love to talk and spread support and awareness for this debilitating movement disorder.
Don’t ever lose your joy.