Friday, September 05, 2008

Disabled List

The images above were taken yesterday during our son Courtland's surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The labrum is a lip-like ring of cartilage that helps hold the arm in the shoulder socket.

Courtland damaged his during a high school baseball game in the spring during an at bat (at least he got a hit, and a big one at that). At first, we thought it was a simple dislocation and he continued playing in that game as well as the next. But it was clear that something was wrong. We went to the doctor and had it diagnosed. Not overly serious, but not good either. With the doctor's blessing, he continued to play baseball all summer long, but was only allowed to pitch and play in the field. His batting for the year was through until we got the surgery. He ended up having a very good summer (here's a link to a nice story about him and his team), but he really missed getting in his licks at the plate.

The photos above are one of two pages of scope-shots taken by the surgeon during the procedure. They're a little hard to see unless you click on the photo to bring it to full size. The scenes are magnified 6.5 times. The top two rows show different angles of the shoulder. It's in the third row where you really start to see the damage and how it was repaired. Row three, column one shows the labrum torn away from the shoulder socket. Same row, second column shows the tool used by the surgeon to start anchoring the sutures, and the fourth row shows the sutures being pulled through to lace the labrum back to the scapula.

Post-op was an interesting experience for us, too. Courtland is a high school senior and isn't the most talkative kid around. But as he came out of the anesthesia, he was amusingly chatty. It was kind of nice to have him open up.

His left arm is now immobilized in a sling that he'll have to wear for at least three weeks. He's now learning how to get through the day using just one arm and it's been an education for all of us to realize how inconvenient that can be. Just putting on a shirt or pulling up pants has required more strategy than you might think.

If all goes well, the sling will come off after three weeks. Then he'll begin some simple isometric exercises as he begins to rehab. Following that comes physical therapy to build up strength in the shoulder. Our target is for him to start throwing a baseball again in mid to late December. We hope he'll be able to start swinging a bat again sometime in January. That puts him on pace to be ready for his senior baseball season in the spring.

It's pretty amazing to me that they've got the ability to diagnose something like this. And maybe even more so, to go in and knit the thing back together. But I'm grateful that they can.

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