I Get It Now

Personal injury Atty. Mike Bottaro talks about his recent experience undergoing shoulder surgery — and learning about something he'd only heard about before.

Several weeks ago, I had surgery on my dominant shoulder. The procedure was outpatient to repair labral and rotator cuff tears and a bone growth over my AC joint. My surgeon, hospital experience, and physical therapist experiences have all been top-notch. 

For the first six weeks, I am (mostly) wearing a sling and restricted to passive exercises. I threw out the pain medication after 13 days. Each day, I sense some improvement and am very optimistic. 

I had an appendectomy when I was in college, but nothing like this before. For the months leading up to the surgery (when we knew something was wrong, but were trying to avoid surgery), I was limited from my normal exercise regimen — that was tough, but nothing like the last several weeks, a time in which not only am I restricted from most exercise, but also restricted from use of my dominant arm.

The experience has really made me stop and think. When you’re a personal injury lawyer, you’re accustomed to hearing your clients tell you about their injuries literally on a daily basis — but “hearing” is not always “feeling.” 

One wiser (old) lawyer once told me that to effectively represent an injured person at trial, you needed to visit them at their house and “crawl around in their skin.” I believed him, but I’m not sure I really “got it” — until recently. 

Many people, after an injury, will continue pushing through with their routine.  Who can afford not to? Often, clients would tell me: “Yes, I can and do continue to work. But when I am active, I really feel it and pay for it the next day.”   

I never really understood that, at least not until the week before my own surgery: I intentionally scheduled my surgery for one week after the opening day of fishing. On opening day, I took my daughter down to Frosty Hollow Pond where we laughed and caught fish. I spent hours casting for her. The next two nights, I woke up with a throbbing shoulder. 

Oh, I get it now. 

Some people, after an injury, experience depression and feelings of lower self esteem. I read that in the journals, at least, but I am not sure I ever really absorbed it — that is, until recently, when my wife was left to pack the heavy suitcases in the car while I looked on sheepishly. Or when I couldn’t pick up my crying two year old son to comfort him. 

Oh, I get it now. 

Some people say: “Cherish your health, live life in the moment.”

I’m not sure I always truly appreciated that one either, but each day, as I get a bit stronger, a bit less fatigued.

And I think I get it now.

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Mary Quirk-Sasa May 20, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Mike, Great blog! It is so true that we often don't "get it" until we personally experience something painful like recovering from an injury. Although I am sorry to hear that it has been difficult for you to be temporarily disabled, what a great lesson this is for gaining a deeper sense of empathy for your clients! Now that you will be able to personally identify with the pain and limitations they are faced with, I am sure that you will do an even better job at representing them.


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