My shoulder surgery – Scoobys experience with the medical system

I have really good insurance and live in a country (the USA) where medical care is top notch for those in the middle class. I can go to the same surgeons who work on major league baseball pitchers with salaries 100X what mine is. Pretty cool that I have access to the same surgeons that someone earning 10 million a year does! Am I happy with our medical system? No! In some ways its fantastic, I got amazing care – no expense was spared. But it was still expensive, about $13,000 of which I had to pay about $3,000. I am fortunate enough that I can afford that $3000 but many folks cant. Not only that but the insurance system makes some ridiculous choices, they pay for the $13000 surgery but wont pay a penny for my physical therapy! In my view the physical therapy is as important or more important than the surgery itself! Here’s the kicker, the surgery did not fix my problem! I spent $3000 and and am no better off. Am I unhappy? No, I’m very happy!

Many people have unreasonable expectations of doctors and the medical system. A human body is not like a Toyota Prius, you can’t connect it up to the diagnostic computer and have it tell you what part needs replacing. Medicine is a not an exact science. Doctors use diagnostic tests to assist them in determining what is wrong but the tests are not perfect nor are they decisive, they still require substantial interpretation. Its tough for folks to admit this but often there is no substitute for cutting the body open and taking a peek to see whats wrong and in that case, this is exactly what happened.

On my first appointment, the doctor ordered a MRI ($2500) to help see what was wrong with my shoulder. It was clear that I had massive inflammation and it appeared that it was caused by impingement from bone spurs. A cortisone shot to the inflamed area immediately caused relief and assured us that the inflammation was the cause of the problem. The relief was short lived so the next step was to remove the (suspected) cause of the inflammation, the bone spurs. I took the MRI to another doctor at another facility without telling him what the first doctor said and got exactly the same recommendation – remove the bone spurs.

Well, once the surgeon got the scope in there an looked around, it was clear to him that there was nothing mechanically wrong with my shoulder. In fact, he said I have the shoulders of a teenager – perfect rotator cuff, bursa, and bone surfaces. My problem is massive inflammation of unknown cause. Fortunately I had an experienced surgeon who didnt feel a need to “give me my money’s worth” and needlessly grind bone away when it was clear that it wouldnt help. A really skilled surgeon isnt afraid to do nothing.

So am I upset that I wasted $3000 and still didnt get my shoulder fixed? No! I’m happy my surgeon was such a pro that he knew that the right thing to do was to snap a few pictures and go home rather than needlessly grinding away bone! The scope allowed my doctor to look inside my shoulder with minimal impact and now we have valuable information that can help treat my problem. What I have learned is that its very easy to “worship” fancy, expensive tests like the MRI but they can be wrong and lead you astray like any other test can.

OK, funny surger story. Here I am right after I regained consciousness from surgery, I have very little recollection of this photo because I am drugged out of my mind but turns out it was quite funny. 24hrs after this photo was taken I got a follow up call from my ER nurse asking how things were going – any pain, any infection, etc. After she was sure I was OK, she asked if I got my puppy – I paused then bust up laughing! It all came back to me in a flash. About 5min before this photo was taken and I had just awakened from surgery. Nurse Ann, a very proper British nurse, asked me if I wanted anything expecting I might ask for a blanket to keep warm, a pillow to prop me up, or a sip of water. Turns out that my response made the entire recovery room bust up laughing – I said that I wanted a puppy! Guess those heavy narcotics got the truth out of me as I really do want a dog. We lost our dear cat about 4 months ago and I have a serious case of dog-on-the-brain :) I was so caught off guard that I forgot to ask nurse Ann what kind of puppy I asked for.

So $3000 poorer, my shoulder is still not fixed nor do I have a puppy! I will continue to work with the doctors to figure out how to solve my inflammation problem so I can get back to my upper body workouts. In the meantime I will do hardcore leg workouts, ab workouts and keep reducing my bodyfat. Lookout Tom Platz, trees-tump legs here I come!!!! :)

26 thoughts on “My shoulder surgery – Scoobys experience with the medical system”

  1. Thanks for posting this, I just got back from the orthopedic doctors office. I have the same problem, inflammation, in my shoulder, that cleared up after a cortisone shot a few months ago is back. Another shot did not fix the problem. He previously told me the cause was bone spurs (as seen through X-rays) Now he wants to do an MRI to see if removing the spurs is necessary.
    But I'm not convinced since cortisone + PT completely fixed the problem the first time.

  2. Wow.. did the doctor say anything about the cartilage?
    It's good that your bones are healthy but (as im sure you already know) your articular cartilage might have worn away from so many years of bodybuilding. Or maybe there is a problem with the synovial fluid?

    Well, I really hope you get better soon! It's hard seeing you in an arm cast :(

    Richard (UK)

  3. So nice to hear that they respected the state of your shoulder and did not operate on it, since it wouldn't change anything…

    Get well and keep looking for the solution, I got some kind of inflammation in my left shoulder, so I know what you are going through, but I can still use my shoulder fairly well, but not lift heavy weights without a lot of pain… And it has been like this for over 2 years and the doctors only advice is to get an operation, but then my doctor advice me not to do it, because people are often worse off than before, sounds kind of stupid, but maybe thats an advice of a doctor who knows our medical system pays all expenses =)

    Happy puppy thoughts and get well thoughts ;)

  4. Well I'm both glad and sad to here all of this.. If you lived in Denmark, all of the surgery would have been free!! That's a very nice comfort if you're broke.. We still pay about 50 % in taxes, but are the happiest people in the world hehe

  5. Too bad that they couldn't fix the shoulder! Hopefully the next step can be something that'll make a difference, though…

  6. lol scooby, i was brushing my teeth reading this and had to run to the bath room to spit out so i didnt shoot all over the computer and my desk! lol

  7. Glad you were cared for so well! Hope your recovery is swift. Now please spring for Pavel Tasoline's book super joints and do the shoulder work! You will not regret it. It was required reading from my therapist after having shoulder work. Good luck and thanks for your inspration!

  8. scooby your such an insperation! you are my hero! your shoulder will soon be healed and you will be back on track but now its time for time to let it do wat it does best. take care man

  9. Glad to hear you are doing well scooby, and your perfect shoulders are a great example of the life style you live!

  10. nothing beats the healthcare here in the UK :) I had to have an operation on both my heels when I was 13, it would have cost over $20,000 and I had the best surgeon available in the area, all of this cost me nothing. But I'm really glad that it wasn't as bad as first thought Scoob, get well soon! you're such an inspiration :)

  11. You are my bodybuilding hero and like a teaching master to us all. I wish you the best and hope they fix the issue. The medical system is really sad in our country and can screw people over big time. Best of luck to you always, my fitness master!

  12. My grandmother was forced to have a private surgery (on her hip) in 2001 and paid £7,000 (about $14,000 at the time). The surgeon did all his private operations at the end of a working week and we assume due to tiredness cut a nerve which has confined her to crutches ever since. At no point have we been offered an apology or financial restiution.

  13. Man, don't go the Platz route, his legs were freakishly out of proportion. But awesome nonetheless. LOL

    Hope you can find a solution to your shoulder problems.

  14. Well, my shoulder is healing from the scoping but my problem is not solved. After the scoping heals, I will have the same shoulder pain as I did before and still will not be able to workout out or raise my hand over my head.

  15. So your shoulder still hasn't healed? Or is it healing?

    Hope you recover real soon, Scooby, and get back to doing some upper body workouts!

    Your videos are the kick in the ass everyone needs, screw those pre-workout supplements!

    Funny story with the puppy though!

    Get well soon, Scooby, and thanks for everything!

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