On Friday, July 28th, following an MRI Arthrogram, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear; specifically, “Left superior labral tear extending along the posterior superior quadrant.”
I’m going to need surgery which is going to leave me with one arm for months, unable to drive, work, or support myself in anyway.
Since 2001, I’ve made handcrafted jewelry, with my signature being wire wrapped tree of life pendants. I opened my etsy shop in 2006 and PhoenixFire Designs became my full time job nearly 6 years ago now in 2011.
I also expanded into doing art shows and craft fairs in person as an artist vendor in 2012 and do dozens of physically taxing shows a year.
Making jewelry for a living is an amazing gift. But it’s a lot of repetitive work and it’s not easy on my neck and shoulders. It’s been a struggle to find the balance between creating and not overdoing it.
The Start of Shoulder Pain
Last fall, I started having intense pain in my left arm. No falls, no acute injury, but I couldn’t lift my arm, I had weakness and radiating, burning, pain down the upper arm to my elbow. This went on for a few weeks and gradually got better. Initially, I just thought I overdid it.
But this pain and weakness kept recurring – and got worse and worse until it got to a point where I couldn’t put dishes away or close the hatch of my SUV with that arm. I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor in May 2017.
The initial diagnosis was “rotator cuff tendinitis with shoulder impingement” and I went to do physical therapy 2x/week. I diligently did my pt (including homework) for a month, and saw the ortho again.
He felt we made some progress but wanted me to try another month. So I did, competing 8 weeks of intense work, working on range of motion, strengthening shoulder/back/biceps muscles, and postural awareness.
At the end of 8 weeks however, I still had constant pain and continued weakness so he sent me for an MRI Arthrogram. A 3″ long 22 gauge needle was inserted into my left shoulder and 12ml of contrast was injected ahead of an MRI.
Friday, July 28th I got my diagnosis: “Left superior labral tear extending along the posterior superior quadrant”
As we have already tried cortisone injection and physical therapy and it did not significantly improve my pain and quality of life, surgery to repair it is the next required step.
SLAP Tear Surgery & Recovery Challenges
SLAP tear surgery is a difficult and extremely life altering recovery. I will essentially be one-armed overnight. I will be in a sling 100% immobilized for between 3-6 weeks. It will be a minimum of 3 months (to as much as 6 months) of down time. I won’t be able to drive, I won’t be able to work, I won’t be able to use my arm in any capacity.
The problem is that I work for myself. If I cannot make jewelry or physically participate as a vendor in shows, I have zero income. A minimum of three months without income is impossible for me to survive on my own.
I need to build a nest egg to live off of; supplement to my complete and utter shutdown of wages.
Additionally, there are a lot of things I will need prior to surgery, including purchasing a recliner since apparently it will be the only thing I can sleep in for the first month at least. I will also need to buy things like front closure bras, and other adaptability items to help manage daily life one-armed.
(I have made an amazon surgery wish list compiling items I will need as well.)
Please note that I DO have health insurance. But I am facing:
- Surgery copays
- Doctor visit copays
- Purchasing recliner (mandatory for sleeping in)
- Purchasing supplies to manage recovery limitations
- Paying for Mandatory Post Op Physical Therapy
- Paying for transportation to and from PT (won’t be able to drive)
- General cost of living expenses that don’t go away (rent, power, car payment, food, etc.)
- Any additional unknown/unexpected costs
I am not going to lie. I’m terrified. This sounds like an awful experience and everything I read says it’s going to hurt and be miserable. Relearning how to use my arm again will be hard work. And it’s going to be MONTHS before I have any semblance of normal life again. (Heck, initially, I won’t even be able to dress myself, shower, or anything simple like that!)
Facing the financial panic on top of it is even more terrifying. I need surgery to get better, but I can’t do surgery if it means I can’t pay rent.
My friends and family suggested I start a Go Fund Me to let people provide support and to help raise awareness. Any donations, shares, links, signal boosts are appreciated. Also, anything from my surgery wish list would be amazingly helpful too.
Thank you to everyone who read this far and I truly appreciate all the love and support from all of you.