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Four Shoulder Surgeries and a Lesson to Remember

This photo was taken after Patrick conducted my Schumann Concerto,

(performed with the TENS unit).

“In this world, you will have trouble. Take heart! I have overcome the world.” If there could be one Bible verse that is closest to my heart, John 16:33 is it.

No way around it, God promises that we will have trouble. What do we do with the trouble in the midst of it? Volumes are written on this subject, so I’ll leave it there and share a trouble I endured.

God made me a musician and the cello is my vehicle. Thank God, we can know He exists and gives us salvation through Jesus Christ. We can know our hearts and desires and life’s passion. But we cannot know what will happen in the next moment.

A split second in the mid-nineties brought my cello playing to a halt. Patrick, our four boys, and I were on vacation with some friends in Loon Lake, Maine. I had thought I secured the rope on the canoe to the pier and grasped the rail to climb out. Wrong! The canoe spun around, wrenching my right shoulder out of the socket. It popped back in, not much to worry about.

Home from vacation and our primary care physician said I should be fine in 6 weeks. The MRI did not show a rotator cuff tear. I had rounds of physical therapy and weeks of wearing a sling, the rest-it approach. My arm would not reach out or up without considerable pain. This rather restricts the bow arm.

Nine months later, I was in a major car accident (still wearing the sling). My right side was twisted and slammed into the steering wheel. Angels were on patrol as it could have cost my life. More physical therapy, slings, shots, meds, visits to orthopedists and to a performing arts medicine clinic.

Three years later in 1999, the orthopedist advised surgery in which he did find tears to repair. More therapy, slings. No real improvement. Four years later, he operated again with the same outcome. (I do thank him for sincerely trying.)

MasterWorks moved our family to Indiana in 2004. In 2006, ten years after the initial injury, a pain management doctor in Indiana suggested I try using a TENS unit while I played. Miracle! It was beyond exciting! I could hook up four electrodes to my back and shoulder, turn up the dial, and play! The Mendelssohn D Minor Piano Trio was my first performance, at MasterWorks England. You should have seen my smile, the smiles of my friends, the hugs of my husband! Hallelujah!

Patrick would attest that I can be one determined lady. Another surgeon tried more repair in 2008, and more therapy. My favorite therapist was working with me and mentioned ‘”I believe someone should be able to fix this shoulder. Try Dr. Anthony Romeo in Chicago” (now in NYC). Shoulder Surgery No. 4 in 2009. He’s the man! Months after healing from the procedure, I realized I no longer needed the TENS unit. This was the end of a 13-year journey! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Why am I writing this blog? Not to prove my trouble or show my doggedness. Not to give Dr. Romeo more business.

This has been on my heart to write because people (myself included) get so caught up in our lives, we forget to be grateful for what we have. In the years I could not play, the grief was terrible; my heart and soul longed to play. Other musicians might grumble about rehearsals, or strings, or reeds, or stand partners, or busy-ness, or not enough gigs, etc. And I wanted to scream at them. Or if they weren’t grumblers, they took the fact that they were musicians for granted. We are so blessed to be musicians!

I felt as if I were invisible in the world in which I longed to live. In that grief, I wanted to shout “Do you know what you have?” “Look around you! Listen to the music! You are a part of this! God has poured music in your souls and you can pour it back to God and forth to others!”

I write this now because I have found myself grumbling about things in my current music situation. For God’s sake, I am making music with my cello. I am able to play.

How many musicians never recover from their injuries? I am very blessed! How soon we forget our lessons!

Jesus promises us peace within the trouble. We will only have peace when we see Him within the trouble. Seeing Him is seeing his blessings. If we focus on what we don’t have, we miss what we have. This is a lesson I pray I will learn.

Jesus speaks: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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