Oct 052011
Party Party Party!!

So, let’s see.  This week has been pretty interesting, I think. Though, we didn’t travel or get a new car.  The main events were a party for David’s workmate, Matthias, and my MRI and the aftermath.  I guess it makes sense to start with the partay!

Party at a Pool Hall

David’s work moved to new offices in Offenburg this week.  That meant a significantly longer commute for some of the employees, and one or two opted out as a result.  David’s closest work bud, Matthias, was unfortunately among this group.  He had been with the company for 2 years and he is well-liked, so they threw him a going-away shindig at a local pub on Thursday.  Despite the fact that I was fighting a cold and it was a school night, David thought it would be a great idea if we both went.  And, frankly, I was seriously craving some social contact, so I wasn’t too tough to convince!  Though, my Inner Shy threatened to put up a bit of a ruckus early on, I shouted it down effectively and got myself tidied up and partified!

The party started at 8, so, for the first time ever, we hugged the kids, told them to put themselves to bed at an appropriate time, and headed out the door without a sitter of any kind.  Felt sort of good, really :)

We found the bar easily enough.  It is definitely what I would call a dive, but a pretty nice dive.  They have a few gambling machines in a corner, electronic darts and a row of billiards tables off to the side.  A tiny white fluffball of a dog ran up to us as we walked through the parking lot, wiggling her entire body in greeting.  Her extremely, er, European, older male owner shooed her into the bar.  Ok, not exactly like most billiards halls in the states, I think!  The dog and owner spent the evening with friends in the gambling part of the establishment.  We met up with David’s co-workers near the bar and hung around the electronic darts board.  I could tell right away that this is the sort of party where people would be doing serious drinking.  Mostly because some of the folks were already a few sheets to the wind, and many others were talking about doing serious drinking!  David ordered a Diet Coke and I got what we eventually determine was a Panache- basically beer with a dash of lemon soda.  Almost everyone else was drinking beer- With the more inebriated folks adding in a little weed and/or shots on the side.  At least 1/2 the crowd smoked cigarettes, but the air flow made that less of a problem than I might have thought.    

The rest of the evening was divided between two activities- chatting happily with a few of David’s co-workers, and watching an overlapping subset get quite drunk and stoned.  It has been a very long time since I was a party with late 20-somethings intent on chemical alteration.  To their credit, the Europeans were all pretty polite and responsible with their sloshitude, from what I could tell.  Well, most of them.  There was one rather unpleasant ex-employee who had come up from Swizzerland for the occasion and felt the need to make a show of his inebriation.  Otherwise, things were loose, but mostly mellow.

I spent much of the evening discussing US politics with a petite French man named Christophe who had spent several years living in Quebec.  As a father of three, he is definitely outside the main demographic of the group.  I spent a little time discussing life with one of the few other females present, a Spanish/French woman who had spent time in America and Portugal and Argentina, if I am remembering correctly.  I also chatted a fair bit with another of David’s closer work-buds, Cay.  He has led a pretty interesting life even for the Spellbound crowd, with time in a Welsh boarding school, the German army and at Oxford for college.  He also won big points from me by going out of his way to make sure I understood things.  Actually, I was impressed by most of the multi-national crew.  These are well-traveled, smart folks with interesting lives and I enjoyed hearing their perspectives.

As a going-away gift, they gave Matthias a poster with a portrait of himself in a virtual environment they had made for a game.  Pretty nice gift, really.  He was well into the “I love ya, man” stage by the time we left- though, to be fair, David says that even sober he is usually pretty close to the “I love ya, man” stage, so it wasn’t a far trip 😉

We said our goodbyes around 11, just as the company president arrived with David’s recruiter, Vladimir, in tow.  At that point, David suspected few people would drag into work the next day.  But, apparently most of them did show on time.  The day was devoted to packing and moving, though, so not too much heavy thinking involved! 

In the minus column, the late night gave my burgeoning cold a chance to take hold.  I have been sick ever since.  But, I think it was worth it.  I needed to social outlet, and it was fascinating to hang with these folks for a while!

As a side note, we got home to two snoozing kids, both in jammies and tucked away in bed.  DD says they stayed up about 1/2 hour past normal, but both got in bed by 9.  Good Job offspring!

Next up…..

The Shoulder Saga

So, I know you all have been following along with the fascinating saga of my shoulder.  But, just in case it hasn’t stuck in your mind as much as it has in mine, here is a quick recap:

In early May, just before we got our car, I saw the bus we were trying to catch had already arrived at the bus station.  Not realizing that the buses wait to leave until their assigned time, I thought we were about to miss it.  So, I sent the kids ahead and dashed after them.  As I ran, I missed the curb and took a flying belly flopping skid onto the pavement.  I was like a penguin sliding on the ice, only the ice was pavement and my arm more jammed than slid.  The contents of my purse flew everywhere, and a very kind Frenchman with strong arms picked me up and set me upright.  I think it was his son who gathered up my things and returned them to me.  I was stunned for a moment, but, realizing the kids were on the bus without me, I brushed myself off and limped to the bus- which proceeded to sit for 5 minutes before taking off.  At home I realized the folly of tiny refrigerators and freezers- there was not enough ice to use to ice down my arm.  It took us 2 days to track down frozen peas- Sanja eventually brought some as a gift.  Very cute.  My shoulder hurt a lot, but I figured it would just heal and didn’t worry much.  We didn’t yet know how to use our insurance and I figured it was just one more hassle.

2 months later, it still hurt and we knew how to use our insurance.  So, we got me a referral to an orthopedist.  At this point, I realized that I couldn’t lift my arm to the side or above my shoulder in front.  2 months of physio therapy helped, but not enough.  Range of motion was improved, but only a little.  The doctor decided we needed a look inside.  1 more month to get the MRI set up.  Which brings us to 1 week ago!


Sort of looks like it is sticking its tongue out at you!

This was my first MRI so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I guess there isn’t a full story to tell in the MRI itself, but I will share a couple of quick observations:

  1. If a German office asks you to bring a piece of paperwork, bring it.  We lost our referral slip and while they accepted a faxed copy as authorization, we had to run over to my ortho’s office before it closed in order to get an original copy for the MRI place.
  2. Anywhere in the US where they would give you a modesty gown for a medical procedure, expect to go nekkid in Germany.  They just don’t much see the need to cover up… At least not up top!
  3. That little tube is really quite small.  I imagine some of the larger Germans I have seen simply would not fit. 
  4. MRIs are LOUD.  I mean, REALLY LOUD.  They gave me insulated headphones playing music (jazz first, then some sort of tribal drums).  But, whenever the machine was on, it was impossible to hear anything else.  It sounded like I was sequentially being moved through a spaceship battle, a forklift, and then a tractor engine.  It made me wonder if a bit of WD40 and a couple heavy duty ballbearings might not be a good holiday gift for the staff!
  5. Sitting still for 20 minutes is really hard.  Even though they strapped my injured shoulder into position, I was down to the wire in my ability to hold position by the end.   
  6. None of this futzy-dutzy “we know what it says but we won’t tell you” crapolla here.  The radiologist called us in 5 minutes after my procedure and told us that I had clearly ruptured my tendon and that I would need surgery.  He did say that he wasn’t the one who needed to tell me that I would need surgery.  But, he had no question about it at all.  I got the impression that he liked getting to talk with people.  Reading films all day has to be a bit lonely! 

Monday was the anniversary of German Reunification (a national holiday), so the soonest time I could get in to see Dr. Meiworm was Tuesday.  I gotta tell you, that was easily THE busiest I have ever seen a doctor’s office.  Lines of mostly elderly people out the door.  I am not sure what they were all doing there.  Various therapies and such, I think, because I don’t imagine they could possibly have all been there to see the doctors.  There are three doctors in the practice and given that Meiworm spent the better part of an hour with us, it seems unlikely his partners could have shuffled them all through!  In any case, it was largely a moot point for us because we got there before the rush and then the doctor made sure we got what we needed after that.

Getting technical for a bit, sorry!

As with most of my visits with German doctors, there was no exam.  He sat us down and showed us the films and used a model to help him explain.  Actually, it was funny, when we first arrived he was so intent on getting us the information that he forgot to speak in English and we had to politely stop him and remind him that our German was not good.  He explained that I have a complete, full thickness rupture of the supraspinous tendon, a partial rupture of er, I think the infraspinous tendon, and possibly a partial tear of the bicep tendon  The rupture is the full width of my humerus.  In the picture below, you can see whiteness where the purple arrow is pointing.  That is fluid filling the space where my tendons should be.   Ewww.

That white space is where my tendon is supposed to be.

So, yeah.  Surgery is really my only hope of recovering function and reducing pain.  On the up side, I should be OK in terms of muscle atrophy for now.  Even though the muscle hasn’t been used for 5 months, it still has another 6 or so before it starts turning to fat.  Lovely!  The procedure is done arthroscopically.  They will need to make up to 5 incisions to get in there and do their work.  They will use tiny rivets to attach the tendon to the bone and wires for support.  David was disappointed that these will apparently not set off metal detectors at the airport! I just had a passing thought, as well.  I wonder if I will ever be able to get another MRI?

The weird one, though, is that if the bicep tendon is involved they will do a rather non-intuitive repair.  Apparently too many people wind up with pain if they try to reattach it up at the shoulder, so they cut the tendon up above and then reattach it lower, in the groove of the bone.  He says that this causes no reduction of strength, but that in some cases it can cause the slightly lowered bicep to look a little funny.   Not super-thrilled with my options there, but I do prefer the lack of pain.  Hopefully, it won’t be an issue since they cannot tell for sure with the MRI if the bicep tendon is damaged or not.

We decided to schedule the surgery for the 25th.  The kids both have vacations at the end of October/beginning of November, so David will not have to drive them through that.  Also, it is soon, but there is still a chance that I will be able to get my Drivers license dealt with before going out of commission for six weeks…. Oh yeah, didn’t mention that part.  One night in the hospital followed by 6 weeks of immobilization of my shoulder.  They will give me a cushion to hold my arm out away from my body and a sling to keep it from rotating out more than 90 degrees, since then it tends to re-rupture the tendons!  So, no driving for 6 weeks.  DOH.  I am the main driver for the family, so this is going to be a major issue.  The mornings aren’t so bad, but pick up times are heck!  But, he tells me I should be able to type, still, so that will mean I can both work and Blog!

During immobilization I will have “passive exercise” at the physio, and then once the sling comes off, the real work of rebuilding the muscle and range of motion begins.  3+ months of that.  Goal in the end is to have greatly reduced pain and full range of motion and strength.  But, as he kept cautioning us.  “This is not a new shoulder.  It is a repair.”  I guess I am not supposed to look for 100%.

Other quick updates

DD has become disinterested with the silly German boys, though they persist in trying to entice her to watch their bizarre wrestling rituals.  She has, however, gotten a couple of kids from school to play her favorite online game (League of Legends).  She loves the overbearing French Teacher because she happens to be excellent at teaching French and DD really wants to learn.  She also loves Science and Ethics and she is doing quite well in Math.  Honestly, and I don’t want to jinx it, she seems pretty happy at Hogwarts.  Knock Wood.

DS has a new tutor.  She is freshly arrived from San Fran and says that he has made progress even in the last week.  So, yay.  Today he is having his first German Play Date (no, we are informed by his host, it is not a play date, it is a “chill date”, “no play, Chiiilll”  Hee.).  Overall, I think he is making some progress.  He is establishing himself in the pecking order at school, and learning German as quickly as he can.  With 6 hours of one on one lessons per week, plus complete immersion the rest of the time, he should be fluent before I can talk like a 3 year old!

David’s work just moved to Offenburg this week.  The building is far from finished, but the location is hugely more convenient for us.  So, more stories there as we go!

Apparently we are easily recognizable even here.  One of the office workers taking her break downstairs stopped us yesterday to tell us she had seen David with his work group out at a local restaurant!

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