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Heating Pad Better than Shoulder Pain Pump

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Wiscasset, MEBasil rues the day he agreed to have a shoulder pain pump inserted after his second shoulder surgery. And he regrets having the next two pain pumps.

“I had to sign a paper saying that I would accept the pain pump,” Basil explains. “I never asked about it because I trust doctors—my surgeon said it would be the right thing to do, so that was fine with me. After surgery the next day I went to rehab and went every day for the next few weeks. But it got worse; I couldn’t even move my shoulder. My doctor said I had a virus—it was a frozen shoulder. So he fixed it again, and again with the pain pump.”

Basil, a plumber, suffered a work-related injury back in 2001. He was cutting pipe and the cutter fell. “I would have been better off if I'd dropped the cutter, but I held onto it,” he says. “My muscle separated from the bone and wow, that was painful.” But not as painful as it is today.

Basil also believes that he would have been better off using a heating pad instead of the multiple surgeries that followed. His first shoulder surgery was right after the accident. Nobody talked to him about the pain pump, but a few years ago he saw an ad on TV. By that time he had already been given three shoulder pain pumps: shoulder pain pump lawsuits allege that cartilage can be destroyed with just one pain pump.

Just before his sixth (!) shoulder pain surgery (all on the same shoulder), Basil talked to his surgeon. “I liked the pain pump because it didn’t hurt when I woke from the surgery,” says Basil. “I asked Dr. Katz just before surgery if I was getting a pain pump and he said, ‘We don’t do that anymore.’ I was medicated at the time so I didn’t pursue his answer any further."

Over the past few years Basil read a lot about the pain pump. “From what I understand, if it is inserted into the shoulder correctly, it doesn’t cause damage,” he says. “I don’t know if it was ever put in right because the surgeon who did the first three surgeries is in Florida and my surgeon in Maine has moved. But if the shoulder pain pump manufacturers knew the damage their device can cause and they kept it on the market simply for profit, then that was the wrong thing to do. And if they didn’t know, I find that really amazing. I don’t know anything that can be put on the market without knowing it could have these consequences.”

Basil likely doesn’t have any cartilage left in his shoulder. In 2003, after four surgeries, his surgeon in Florida inserted a “patch from a cow” into his shoulder that is supposed to turn into cartilage. “My surgeon said that my rotator cuff was OK but something in my shoulder wasn’t right,” Basil explains. “Unfortunately my body rejected this patch.

"My surgeon showed me pictures of my shoulder—from a camera, not an x-ray. The patch looks like little potatoes hanging off a vine in my shoulder. So he went back in and cleaned out that patch—making it my sixth surgery. Then he said there was nothing more that anyone could do. So now I have to live with my shoulder the way it is.

"I can move my shoulder but I cannot reach past about 35 degrees. I can lift straight up but can’t even hold a cup of coffee out. Over the years I have learned about things I can and cannot do—I’ve learned how to compensate. But my left shoulder is now damaged from putting more emphasis on my left arm. So now my left rotator cuff is torn but it only bothers me if it rains or I overwork it. I certainly won’t be getting surgery or a pain pump on that shoulder.

"And another thing: I spent more time in hospital over those years than I did at home. I can’t imagine how much these surgeries cost. I had to put $27,000 into an account for any future surgeries on my shoulder. My insurance company said it is a state law and I can never touch that money—I can will it to my kids though. All because of this shoulder pain pump.”

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