Hobson’s Choice

Mrs. Lion wrote about my MRI and visit with the Sports Medicine doctor. I have a torn rotator cuff in my shoulder. I got the injury last fall when I fell after eating dinner on a business trip. The pain isn’t constant. It varies by day and time of day. I have almost full use of my arm and shoulder. After physical therapy, almost all range of motion and strength is restored. At this point only narcotic pain meds are effective to fight the pain when it is bad.

After the MRI, it was clear that I have only two options: Live with the condition as it is, or get reattachment surgery. The surgery doesn’t require a hospital stay. But it does keep my arm in a sling for ten weeks. After that, a long course of physical therapy is needed to get me back to where I am now. After the surgery there is severe pain that requires narcotic pain relief.

I’m a space cadet when I take powerful pain meds. I think Mrs. Lion would have a hard time wanting to be with me if I had to take them for ten weeks. Worse, I can’t drive for at least that much time. I drive 25 miles each day to work. I can work from home some days, but I do have to show my face at least a few days a week. An Uber will cost about $50 each way. We can’t afford another $300 a week to get me to and from work.

Mrs. Lion has offered to transport me to and from work. She works 20 miles in the opposite direction. So, to take me to work she will have to drive 25 miles to my office, then 45 to hers. This is repeated at the end of the work day. I know she will do it, but I think it will wear her out and perhaps make me less attractive as her partner. Between the drugs, no help at home, and chauffeuring me to and from work, that’s just too much.

My other choice is to do nothing. I will have to live with the pain and take what little relief I get from Tylenol. I can’t take NCAID’s so that is my only non-narcotic choice. I don’t know whether the injury can tear further over time. I will ask my doctor about that this week. I made an appointment to get his views. Assuming the injury is unlikely to get worse, I have Hobson’s choice: I can get the difficult surgery or do nothing.

I know Mrs. Lion will support me if I decide to get the surgery. But her support could cause her to resent me and change our relationship forever. I will have to endure a long period of disability and pain. I like to sleep on my side. I won’t be able to do that after the. surgery. I should have a bed that elevates. We don’t have one and getting one is out of our budget.

It looks like the only choice I can make right now is to do nothing. Deep down inside I think this isn’t right. I worry that the tear could get worse until it is inoperable and the pain constant. I could lose the use of my arm. The decision to fix it our not isn’t mine alone. If I get surgery, it will affect Mrs. Lion too. I won’t do anything that could damage our relationship.

So there you have it; a real, live Hobson’s choice. It’s a life decision that transcends male chastity or domestic discipline. I debated whether or not to write this post. It doesn’t have anything to do with the blog’s topics. But it goes to the root of the very human subjects we write about: us. I have an appointment with our family doctor on Wednesday. I asked him to reserve enough time to discuss all the implications of this decision with me. I think I will invite Mrs. Lion to join me. This may be about my shoulder, but in reality it is about much more.


  1. Author

    As hard as it is, get the surgery. I have been thru this kind of problem & it brought me & my wife closer in the end.

    1. Author

      I agree! I think you paint a pretty bad picture of your recovery. It may be tough in the first week or so, but you’ll start to do better almost immediately. By three or four weeks in you likely won’t even need pain meds.

      1. Author

        If that’s how it will work out for me, it removes one worry. The loss of the use of one arm is what worries me the most.

  2. Author

    I had rotator cuff surgery 3 years ago. It worked out well for me, but it took 18 months to get back to normal after the operation. I went on Long-Term Disability and stayed home from work for a month. Wife would drive me to work in AM. Then i would often get a ride home from a friend or co-worker.

    1. Author

      If I do it, the most time I can be absent is two weeks. I can work from home some of the time. I might have to travel transcontinental at some point. I will see what they think at work.

  3. Author

    I have had both shoulder worked on one twice. I had what is call frozen shoulder a bit different then a tear mine need scar tissues removed. I would recommend getting it done as you age the pain would increase and the movement would decrease. As for a ride to work see if someone in your office could meet you some where so Mrs L would not have that much of a ride. I know it’s hard to admit your getting older and sometimes things wear out or break easy. I know you will do what’s best for you.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your experience. If it will get worse over time, then I will have to get the surgery. I’m much more worried about the recovery than the surgery.

  4. Author

    I have had that surgery as well. Mine tore at the gym power lifting with some local cops. (stupid) They were in there 20’s and 30’s I was 50. It hurt but not enough to stop until I tore the long head of my bicep as well as the rotor cuff. The surgery was a success but the rehab took almost 12 months. It’s a slow process Lion. I sleep on my side as well and that was tough. Learning to do things with my left hand was awesome too. Think going to the toilet, cooking and doing paperwork. I wished someone would have told me all of that before. If I had a do over I would have stopped lifting after the rotor tear and started some rehab. That was an option. Maybe you could try rehab for 4-6 weeks and see if it helps. I see surgery as the last option. Good luck!!

    1. Author

      I agree. I have had rehab and restored almost all motion with only a very small loss of strength. All that’s left is the pain. I’m not sure it is severe enough to warrant the recovery process you describe. I can’t figure out how I could get my pants down and back on as well as pee with just my left hand. We are still consulting with doctors.

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