Holey Shoulder

For over a year now, possibly two, my dad has had a lump on his left shoulder. It started out small, but eventually got to the size of a golf ball. It was painless, but he finally had a doctor look at it, several actually. Most determined that it was a “wound”, some subdermal tear in the muscle of his worn away rotator cuff that was leaking fluid. They didn't advise surgery, and the best they could do was drain it with a syringe. This proved to be a temporary solution, and each time the swelling came back larger, like a water balloon inflating.

It got to the size of a softball at it's largest, and about three weeks ago he developed a red spot on it. My mom is fairly certain he burned himself by leaving a heating pad on there too long, but he stubbornly denies it. Eventually, that red patch of skin withered, and last week at my mom's request, I took some photos to document the mess. The lump has now been replaced with a crater, and I initially thought he had some bone jutting out. It's kind of like he has a pudding cup on his shoulder, and portions of the pudding have burned creating a film. If that sounds disgusting, imagine the photos, which I will not be posting.

So, earlier this week, he finally went back to his doctor. He was frustrated from previous experiences of being bounced around from doctor to doctor, never getting any answers. Perhaps surgery isn't advisable at his age, but I don't think any of us are completely clear on what the thing was. One thing is certain, which his doctor confirmed at a glance; it's now an infected wound. He prescribed some strong antibiotics, and sent him to a specialist, whom he met with on Thursday.

I could tell my dad was nervous about it, even hesitant, as the first doctor thought he “might need a new shoulder”. I reassured him, told him that kind of thing was common and easy with today's medical technology, a statement made with zero basis in actual knowledge on my part. I just wanted to make sure he kept his appointment and got the thing taken care of before the infection spread and got more serious.

When I came home on Thursday night, they still didn't have any definite answers. The specialist also glanced at the wound before replacing the bandage my dad had over it, and confirmed that it was infected. He wasn't sure if shoulder surgery was needed, but did say another specialist needed to see it, and my dad would likely need to go to a hospital if it got worse, and get antibiotics through an IV. I'm starting to get annoyed that they keep bouncing him around while the problem persists and mutates. “I don't want to go to the hospital; maybe I'll just forget the whole thing...” he muttered in disgust.

I turned to my mom, not getting much more in the way of answers. Sometimes, a lack of clear direction from a doctor comes from the fact that my dad doesn't hear very well, and is too embarrassed or stubborn to ask people to repeat themselves. But my mom was with him, and apparently this specialist was in and out of the room, too busy to spend much time other than to give them the card of yet another doctor. For now, my dad is going to continue with the antibiotics and keep an eye on the thing, and try to get an appointment with the next specialist by Monday at the earliest. “You should just go to Dr. House,” my mom told him, “He'd figure it out for you.”

If it comes to a few days in the hospital while the wound heals properly, it will drive my dad crazy. But, it will also force him to sit still, and not carry ladders, work on friends' cars, rake leaves, or other things he does while I'm at work and my mom is running errands. “It's not raking leaves!” he insisted when my mom suggested that was one of the things that exacerbated the situation. If the initial problem was a worn rotator cuff leaking fluid, I can totally see how the raking motion would cause more bone abrasion. I'm glad my dad stays active, and still has a fire under him. It's part of the reason he's still going after nearly 80 years. But he needs to remember that even in his prime, when he had his own baseball team, he had to give an injury the proper time to heal. Maybe he never did have that kind of patience. All I can do is keep pushing him to stay after the doctors until they fix this thing, research the situation online, and rake up as many leaves as I can over the weekend.

Don’t get old, kids; don’t get old...


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