In 2003, Laura (not her real name) was involved in a motor vehicle accident and required a minor shoulder surgery. She had a [shoulder pain pump] inserted and 72 hours later, Laura removed it, as per instructions. "The labrum repair was progressing and I was relatively pain-free for several months," she says. She went to rehab, did all the right things. (Laura is a physical therapist.) But her shoulder was becoming painful when she elevated her arm.
"Then about two years ago, it really flared up," says Laura. " First, I felt an extreme ache and it graduated to sharp, shooting pains in my shoulder. Gradually but steadily, I began to lose mobility."
Laura went back to her original doctor and she was placed on a steadily increasing dosage of anti-inflammatory pills, cortisone shots and pain killers. But nothing worked.
He referred Laura to a different orthopedic surgeon—who is, coincidentally, doing research on shoulder pain pumps.
"For a healthy woman of my age, he feels strongly that this condition came from the pump," she says. " I have now been diagnosed with osteo-arthritis. It is constantly nagging. I can't hug or lift my kids and I haven't worked for months--as a physical therapist, my job is to help geriatric patients. Of course I can no longer do this."
To make matters worse, the driver who hit Laura had no insurance; she was covered for medical bills through her insurance company but has no coverage for loss of work. Laura was out of work for three months following the original surgery and because she is a contract worker, out of work means out of pay. And she has a family to support.
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"As for the prognosis: I will never be completely back to normal but I should make a good recovery and should be mostly functional and pain-free for the next 20 years—maybe. I should be fully recovered to my maximum potential in one year--whatever that will be."
Not a very reassuring future for Laura, and all because of a defective shoulder pain pump.