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Mark and Joy McClain
NEED A QUIET PLACE: Recovering from shoulder surgery, Joy McClain is in special need of the peace and quiet at Rest and Restore, the site she and her husband, Mark, maintain as part of a nonprofit ministry. Here they are before her surgery.

Learn to appreciate two arms and hands

Joy’s Reflections: Shoulder surgery can be a humbling experience.

I’m grateful to be on this side of shoulder surgery and so ready to be a two-armed, functioning being. I will confess that my right arm and hand have spoiled me all these years. From now on, I will not complain about all menial, hard or dirty jobs — scout’s honor!

(Hey, I’m holding up the three fingers of my left hand, so not sure if it counts.) In the meantime, however, I’m hanging out with the UltraSling II — otherwise known as my side saddle. I’m certain that if you were to strap one of these things on a quarter horse, it would be the most durable trick saddle.

Its real purpose is to keep the shoulder immobile for six weeks. An appropriate marker as to the despair that created is to recall the groundhog seeing his shadow on the second day of February after the worst winter ever.

I promise the corn rows standing at attention as I went down the road today were all waving their leaves, taunting me with their movable arms. But it’s OK. My wonderful surgeon has assured me that within 12 short months, I’ll be thanking him for his grand work.

The UltraSling comes with a complimentary booster-type pillow that attaches to the body. When fully saddled up, I’ve learned to walk wide around the furniture. I’m packing some serious fabric fasteners, so furniture with fabric is like metal to a magnet.

This modern medical wonder is engineered perfectly to keep healing tendons intact while causing the hand to swell and go to sleep. It allows the neck to ache from bearing the brunt of the weight under the strap while the back can spasm continually. Another convenient feature is the heat-encapsulating effect from absolutely zero air being able to reach my arm. There’s nothing like late-summer humidity to fatten up already stiff, limp sausage fingers.

So simple, so tough!
Perhaps the greatest test of patience has come in the form of lids. Seriously, our days are just a series of encounters with lids. Feeling hungry and thinking some chips and salsa sounded pretty yummy, I thought I would treat myself after the upsetting corn episode.

I couldn’t open and hold the lid on the chest freezer to get out my homemade salsa, so I took a jar out of the pantry. I tried wedging it with a towel against the counter while my left hand squeezed and twisted. I whacked it with a knife to loosen the lid. I tapped it on the table. I held the jar with my legs. Nope. I had a bagged salad instead.

Every tomato in the garden came on after surgery. Every toilet paper roll has taken off across the room, and everything that has two parts has scattered everywhere, challenging Guinness World Records for distance traveled.

I must stay out of the barn. The healing powers one feels there are dangerous. Suddenly, there’s no shoulder to be babied. Tasks and chores eclipse the dull-ache reminder to not overdo.

So I will take my teeth-torn bagged salad and go sit with my shoulder under the ice machine as I dream of days to come: a beautiful place where arms are free, jars pop open, paper rolls stay put and crops don’t mock your weaknesses.

McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

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