One arm handicap

This is what I wrote to The family the day after the op

The arm and shoulder are held high in air all the time.
Going The arm and shoulder are held high in air all the time.
Going to the loo is a challenge. I keep forgetting to get loo paper which is on the left before I sit down. Putting on pants is very difficult. Try it.

Just dozing off nicely when a nurse arrived to take me X-ray. Impressive. The prothese is like a corkscrew or bed spring.

Ten days later I can confirm that pulling my pants up is still a problem. I lurk in the corridor in search of someone -staff or fellow patient (female) to help.


Pain relief – or not

It’s quite scary waking up to find you are quite immobile. I live in a hefty corset with my left arm stretched out and up in front of me. Initially I could not budge from my lying position: flat on my back with the left side wedged up with a giant triangular cushion.

Luckily I was sufficiently drugged during the evening to be in not too much pain. But as the night advanced it became, as the French say, ‘insupportable’. I gritted my teeth, trying to display some strength of mind over matter. Eventually the grit turned into tears and I rang for help. The nurse was kind, reproved me for not ringing earlier, gave me some morphine and said it would have worked better had I not waited. She was right. It was not just my shoulder which hurt, but all my arthritic back, which did not like being trapped in one position. A night I try to forget.

The following night I was determined not to make the same mistake and rang as soon as the pain increased. An aide appeared and said the nurse would be there shortly. Eighty minutes later she arrived to find me in tears again. The aide had not passed on the message and she was only there because she wanted to check up on me. She muttered about poor standards of training these days and reassured me it would be better the third night when the drains taking blood out of the shoulder would be removed.

She was right. The pain was less and has remained at manageable levels, thanks to morphine. In fact my main problems now are not really the shoulder, but all the aches and pains pre-existing the op, exacerbated by this immobility.

What this experience shows is that the disadvantage of being on one’s own is that there is no passing nurse seeing you are having problems. It is up to the patient to be assertive.

Day of the op

Clearly this was written much later!

Oh dear. I was told that the morning is reserved for less important shoulder ops and mine would be in the afternoon, wch meant waiting.
All the usual rituals – another disinfectant shower, dressing up in the usual ridiculous paper gown and panties… And finally it was time to go down to the operating floor.
There I saw more clearly that this was a production line. My bed was parked beside three others and we lay semi awake for what turned out in my case to be an hour.
I awoke feeling I was choking, struggling for breath. Very panicky. Two hours in recovery room and then back to my room

Clinique St Jean

After a delightful lunch, Charles and Pierre drove me to the Clinique in Montpellier.
I have become used now to the incredible formality of French health administration and the fact that here you, the patient, are keeper of all records and responsible for decisions on medical treatment needed.
I opened my bag and presented my weighty pile of X-rays, blood report, heart report, endless forms I had filled, including consent form, and all the details of my mutuelle (the more or less compulsory complementary private insurance – in my case. Following the custom of my mother I had prepared a sheet with the answer to all the questions I thought they might ask: dob, marriage, children, height, weight, childhood illnesses, the ever growing list of medication….. The only thing I did not know was my blood group. Much to my relief nobody seemed to care.
Eventually I arrived in my chamber particuliere – the cost met by my mutuelle.
Then followed the usual pr-op routines: visits by the surgeon (whom I do not warm to) and the anesthetist (who is charming) and the first of the disinfectant showers.

Days before hospital

As if life was not hectic enough – buying seven weeks worth of dog food for Poppy, packing cases, checking the heating was off, redirecting post…… – I had to remove all the contents of my kitchen and store them in the study, in preparation for my new Ikea kitchen, to be installed in my absence. And there were several very pleasant exchanges with Jacjy, the guy who is designing and building by natural pool (water circulating through plants and waterfalls rather than using chemicals). He worked hard to prepare the foundations before my departure, so that I could understand what he would be doing. All quite mad on my part, financially, but very exciting.

At the same time I was rushing around Ganges and Le Vigan getting X-rays, blood tests and heart checkup. I discovered days before entry that I should have a carte groupe sanguin – an official card giving my blood group – and I have no idea what it is! The local laboratory said it would take ten days, the surgeons secretary muttered in helpfully that if all my papers were not in order I risked having the op postponed till end February. But then finally, thank goodness, the anesthetics department said it was not necessary. Phew!

Then it was time to take Poppy to her holiday home, chez Hans and Margaret. Without them I would be lost.


Three of the four grandchildren were suffering from a nasty virus. Now I have it. Day three and I’m feeling sorry for myself.

2 November I’m suddenly much better – hooray! That was an exceptionally vicious attack; I have been unable to do anything for ten days.

Right knee replacement in 2014?

Finally got round to showing my GP the knee xrays done at the same time as my shoulder ones.  The GP whistled and said there was not much that could be done about my knee problems other than replacing it.  Hey ho.

right knee

Bionic woman

Shoulder, knee or hip?  Which won the race to be the next to be replaced.  Answer: shoulder – though it was a close run finish.


I saw THE hand/arm/elbow man in Montpellier, this evening (appointment at 8.30pm, seen at 9.45pm).  He said instantly that my shoulder was completely riddled with arthritic holes and growths (not that I can see any of this in the X-rays).

The surgeon confirmed what all the other doctors have been saying: the shoulder needs replacing.  (I won’t know what sort of replacement till after some scans in October.) Provisional operation date: Monday 18 Novembre.  I’ll be in hospital for up to a week, and then four-five weeks in a maison de reeducation.  He insists on one in Montpellier, rather than our local place, Les Chataigniers.

So it looks as if I might be eating hospital food this Christmas. And I’ll have to break the news to my fellow musicians.  It affects our Christmas concert.

And who knows, next year it might be a knee …. ……