Miss Understood: Surgery is a Big Deal

By Arlene Grau, Columnist

A few weeks ago I had my first scheduled surgery, a synovectomy of the right wrist, to repair some of the damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis to my wrist joint.

I've had numerous surgeries in the past, but none before were the result of my auto immune diseases. I was first diagnosed 7 years ago, at the age of 22.  

It wasn't until I met with my orthopedic surgeon that I realized this may be the first of many surgeries I may need. I just didn't expect to need one when I was still in my 20's.

I guess you could say that there are many misconceptions when it comes to what pain sufferers have to endure and what the timeline is for everything because no two people are alike.

When I told people about the procedure I would be having, some of them were compassionate and offered help if I needed it during recovery. Others assumed I would be on my feet and back to normal within the first week. I only knew what I was being told by my surgeon -- and to me it was a big deal.

The type of surgery itself isn't dangerous, but I was more concerned with the fact that I would only have the use of my left arm while I recovered. Not only that, I had a nerve block to help me deal with the pain. This meant that for the first week I wouldn't be able to feel my right arm and I would have no control over it.



I had asked several friends for help with dinner, since I was unable to cook, and to my surprise the people who were the busiest and I hadn't seen in some time came to my aid.

Still, I felt like most people thought the surgery wasn’t very invasive and I probably had very small incisions, which meant I shouldn't be in much pain. Maybe they thought I was trying to milk my situation and get sympathy, but that was never the case.

I decided to post a picture of my wrist after my first cast was removed, something I regularly do when I have procedures done, because I want people to understand what I go through and get it through their heads that I'm not making up the fact that I'm in pain all the time.

It's easy for others to say, "Don't worry about what they think" or "Turn the other cheek." But it's hard to do when you're constantly being judged. The worst part is that at times it's by the people you love the most.

To say that surgery for someone who has chronic pain is no big deal is far from the truth. My fibromyalgia is a magnet for pain and as soon as I woke up from surgery, I began to scream in agony. Yes, the nerve block numbed the pain in my arm, but the rest of my body went crazy.

I felt like I had been in a terrible accident. Any type of procedure or even a regular checkup is painful when it involves another person pressing on the areas where you feel the most amount of pain.

To assume everyone heals the same way is ignorant. Some people would rather believe that though, because it excuses them from having to show compassion towards those of us who suffer on a day-to-day basis.

Arlene Grau lives in southern California with her family. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.