I awoke from the surgery to see Isabel and the nurse standing over me. "How are you feeling?" said the nurse. I didn't even answer her question, my mind was still groggy from the morphine, but even so I still was able to very quickly focus on one thing.
"How did the surgery go?" I eagerly asked. She smiled and said "It went very well, better than we ever expected. They were able to put the muscle back together, but you aren't out of the woods yet. You have a long recovery ahead." I smiled and thought "that's fine by me, I got plenty of time."
After The Surgery
Isabel and I started talking and she told me that she had spoken to the surgeon, but she didn't remember much of what he said because she was just concerned about whether or not I was ok.
Isabel later told me that I was so out of it from the morphine that I repeatedly told the nurse, "Tell Dr. Corcoran that I am not some big time athlete but this means a lot to me and I really appreciate it."
A nice gesture on my part, but apparently I felt the need to repeat it about 20 times. What can I say, morphine is a hell of a drug and apparently it had quite the effect on me!
Before I left, the nurse gave me instructions on how to care for my surgical wound and also information about my brace. I would have my arm cuffed to my side for the next 6.5 weeks.
But for the first 10 days I could not even move my arm so much as to take a shower! Later, I would have to even cut one side out of all my shirts so I could get into them.
On the way back home I called several of my friends and family to let them know how the surgery went. Apparently I was still groggy because many of them would later tell me they had no idea what I was saying.
After the 90 minute drive home, we had to start packing; or rather Isabel had to start packing our things. We were heading down to my parent's house 3 hours away for the weekend as Isabel's bridal shower was the next day, and we had planned it long in advance.
Going Away For The Weekend
I slept most of the way but remember being in very severe pain as well. I was extremely happy at the same time. At first I tried to take as few pain killers as possible, determined to tough it out. That lasted 3 hours before I finally broke out the ice pack and popped 2 Vicodin.
I had never felt pain like that; the pain from tearing was not nearly as bad as the pain from surgery. I have never been stabbed, but I have to imagine that is about what it would feel like.
The next 3 days were somewhat of a blur. All I did was basically lay on the recliner, ice my pec/shoulder, and watch TV. I would answer a few emails here and there using my phone but it was difficult.
I tried typing but I could only use one hand and it made it very difficult. Considering that 95% of my clients I consult with for contest prep and physique coaching are done online, it made getting business done very difficult for the next week.
Click Image To Enlarge.
All I Did Was Basically Lay On The Recliner,
Ice My Pec/Shoulder, And Watch TV.
Creating A Plan For Recovery
On Monday (4 days after my surgery) I felt good enough that I was able to switch from Vicodin to Ibuprofen. I was also feeling physically like cr@p. Four days of doing nothing but lying on the couch was brutal. I called my doctor to ask him if it was possible for me to do some light exercise.
He said I could do something light so long as I did not jar my upper body. I decided to go into the gym to do a few sets of light leg extensions. It wasn't what I'd call a great workout, but it got some blood flowing and got my spirits up. That night I started making a plan for recovery.
I decided that I was going to keep my diet as tight as possible to slow muscle atrophy and fat gain. I also put together a supplement plan to support my recovery efforts. It consisted of 5-7 servings of Xtend, 5g of creatine, and 6g of HMB per day.
Xtend contains BCAAs which has been suggested to slow protein breakdown. HMB is also a powerful protein breakdown inhibitor. Creatine promotes fluid retention inside the cell which is also anti-catabolic. These three supplements would provide the backbone of my anti-catabolic stack.
My next step was to devise a workout plan. I decided that as soon as I got the go ahead from my doctor, I would start working out my legs 3 times per week.
I had gotten great results from working them out twice a week as compared to once per week previously, and considering there was not much else I could work, I decided I was going to pour myself into really emphasizing my legs since they had always been a weak point.
For the first week, however, I just did light leg extensions 3 times per week. I decided to add light exercises for my non-injured side of my upper body during my recovery since there was research indicating that exercising one side can actually have a crossover effect of maintaining strength on the other side.
Taking The Brace Off
The first 10 days after surgery seemed to crawl by. It was awful not being able to use my right arm. I couldn't answer emails, I really couldn't cook much, and hell I couldn't even bathe myself!
When the 10 days were up I was very excited to see the physician's assistant to get the brace off and have her take off all the gauze and bandages over my incision. She carefully pulled away my bandages and gauze and threw them away. Since my stitches were dissolvable, she thankfully did not have to remove them.
This was the first time I got to see my incision, and I was impressed. Most of it was in my arm pit and could hardly be seen! I was also excited when she told me that I no longer had to keep my lower arm cuffed to my side, only my upper arm, and I could start taking off the brace to bathe.
She warned me, however, that I needed to make sure I never pulled my arm away from my side or I would risk re-tearing my pec. She also told me that I could slowly add in lower body exercises but that I had to be very careful about making sure I didn't contract my pec or jar my upper body.
Click Image To Enlarge.
I Could Slowly Add In Lower Body Exercises But I Had To Be Very Careful
About Making Sure I Didn't Contract My Pec Or Jar My Upper Body.
Hitting The Gym
Over the next 3 weeks I started to add in different lower body exercises. My basic routine was 3 days per week: 1 heavy day, 1 moderate day, and 1 light day for high reps.
On heavy days I focused on 5-8 reps using single leg press as my exercise of choice. Higher rep work was done on the leg extension. Hamstring work was limited to glute ham raises as I couldn't do any sort of leg curl with my brace in the way.
At first I was very scared and timid about exercising hard at all. As the weeks went by however, I grew more confident and less scared. I saw the doctor again 3.5 weeks after my surgery, and he was very impressed with my progress and said I could get a bit more liberal with my leg workouts.
I started adding in smith machine squats with one arm and these would end up forming the backbone of many of my workouts over the next 3 months. I also dropped $300 on a safety squat bar which allowed me to squat hands free!
So even though I couldn't really workout my upper body much, I was in really good spirits about being able to focus on my legs.
I went into each leg session very cautiously but also with a lot of intensity. I was pouring all my focus into improving my legs and keeping my nutrition right on target.
I decided that I would somehow make this injury into a positive and that I would not let this setback break me. I was completely focused on overcoming this injury and being better for it!
Back For A Checkup
As slow as a watched pot is to boil, 6.5 weeks had finally passed and it was time to visit the surgeon again to see if my brace could be removed. He examined the incision and had me perform some very small basic movements with my arms.
He jotted a few notes down, smirked a bit, and said, "Well we sure got lucky on this one eh?" I replied, "I doubt luck had much to do with it, you should probably give yourself more credit."
He told me that I needed to slowly work on increasing my range of motion with the arm and that it would probably be a few weeks, maybe even a month, before I'd be able to reach my arm over my head.
He also told me that even after I regained full range of motion I should still stick to the one arm smith machine squats for a few months before using both arms. He was worried that if I went heavy on squats and contracted my chest with my injured side I could potentially tear it.
He said, "You are doing great, but you aren't out of the woods yet. All you are held together by is shoe laces and bubble gum (i.e. sutures and medical glue) and it won't be for another few weeks until you have any tissue in there that's worth a d@mn." I told him that was no problem, all I had was time and I knew it would be on my side.
Making Great Progress
When I arrived home, I immediately took some pictures so that I could document my progress. I could tell my legs had gotten bigger, and when I measured them they were a full 1/2" bigger in only 6 weeks!
I was a bit disheartened looking at my shoulder, however, as my right delt, lat, and arm had atrophied quite noticeably from not being able to move for 6.5 weeks. For the most part however, I was ecstatic to be out of the brace and ready to tackle the next challenge.
I met with Dr. Corcoran again two weeks later (8.5 weeks post surgery). I was already well ahead of schedule and was able to extend my arm fully over my head. I think he was pretty shocked at that as he remarked after examining me, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."
I chuckled at his remark and told him he was entirely too modest. Truly he had done a great job. 8.5 weeks post surgery and I already had much of my function in my right arm back. You couldn't even tell I'd had surgery unless you were looking very closely, as there was only a tiny 2" scar left.
He decided to prescribe me an electrical stimulus unit to help "re-educate" the muscle and also to help reduce the atrophy on my right side. Though he was very pleased with my progress, he told me that he wanted to wait 2 more weeks before starting physical therapy.
Since I was heading to Puerto Rico the following week for my wedding to my longtime fiance Isabel Lago and the following week we would be on a cruise for our honeymoon that worked out great! It gave me something to look forward to after the honeymoon.
The Wedding And Honeymoon
Spending a week in Puerto Rico was great. Since Isabel is originally from Puerto Rico she knew some great spots to hit the beach and relax. Of course I also made sure I got a few training sessions in while there.
We also got to spend a lot of time with our friends who came down, which was fantastic, and of course the wedding itself was fantastic. It was the best day of my life. I knew I wanted to marry Isabel 2 weeks after I met her.
There was never any doubt in my mind, and 4 years after we met each other we had finally made it official. We could not have been happier to be there with both families and our best friends.
The Royal Caribbean cruise was amazing, probably the best week of fun I have ever had in my life. We visited Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas, and I think they are absolutely some of the most beautiful places on earth.
The ship itself was amazing and surprisingly had some choices of healthy dishes to eat. It also had a small gym that was relatively well equipped so I was able to get a few workouts in.
The ship had a lot of activities including a Ms. Best biceps contest, a belly flop contest, and a Mr. Sexy Legs contest which of course my wife made me enter. Although I did not win the sexy legs division, I did win the title of "Mr. Athletic Legs".
"I guess all the 3 times per week leg training paid off," I told Isabel. I had so much fun it was hard to leave when the cruise was over. But I was motivated by the fact that I would be going home to start my physical therapy, and I knew that was the next step in my comeback... and I was ready for it.
Click Image To Enlarge.
We Could Not Have Been Happier To Be There
With Both Families And Our Best Friends.