Becoming Bionic

On July 10th I added a fourth surgery scar to my often broken body, the first three (each knee and an appendix) had been to remove parts that had become troublesome. This time around it was to add something, no not a brain, an artificial shoulder ligament that will hopefully offer me back the quality of life I’ve missed for a year. Time will tell on that one, it’s early days yet.

Whilst taking part in Ironman UK on July 19th 2014 I crashed my bike, lost some skin and badly damaged my shoulder. I suffered a grade 3 fracture of the AC joint and experienced pain that made a kick in the testicles seem like fun. The x-ray above shows what I lived with for almost a year, the collarbone should be attached but as you can clearly see it wasn’t. Sometimes this injury can heal itself by going back into place, mine didn’t. The first surgeon that I saw said that I would just have to live with it but that if I was an England fast bowler he would operate tomorrow. You can imagine what I thought of him. Look at that x-ray again, why should I live with that? Everyday pain and a loss of lifestyle that I loved. 

My brilliant physio James took one look at me and said I needed an operation on account of the fact he could move my collarbone with his hands. So I went for a second opinion and after asking around the same surgeon was recommended again and again.  I got an appointment and on examining me he could see my discomfort and  agreed that I needed an operation to fix me.

The procedure was originally scheduled for February but was cancelled at the last minute due to my dangerously low thyroid levels, but I got there in the end. I didn’t actually believe it was going to happen until I stood in Writington hospital tying up my very fetching surgical gown. I was soon at the point where I closed my eyes as a mask was placed over my face taking me into dreamland for a couple of hours while I was cut open, sawed and drilled and improved.

The surgeon made a 6 inch cut along the left “bra strap line”, peeled back the deltoid muscle, sawed 1cm of collarbone away, drilled through it in two places, inserted hollow screws and then looped a new artificial LARS ligament through the screws in a pretzel shape to give me a bionic shoulder. See below.

When I came round I felt great, a bit woozy but no pain. That would be the nerve block, when than wore off I certainly knew about it. I was sent home with my arm in a sling, it would remain in it for at least six weeks, and a carrier bag of painkillers.

It’s now four weeks since my op and my mobility is improving thanks to physio but it’s going to be slow progress. I’m limited in what I can do and have literally no strength on the left hand side of my body. I have good days and bad pain wise, I’m tired a lot but I’m trying to stay positive. The surgeon assures me it was a success but that the healing process is taking longer than expected, I may need the sling for upto 12 weeks now. I’m learning new levels of patience.

I’ve been doing my exercises and walking lots, over 50 miles a week to try and keep fit and to stop me from going insane. At the moment because of the pain I can’t ever imagine getting my left arm into the aerobar position (it just doesn’t bend that way yet, james assures me it will) and as for swimming front crawl that seems like a distant dream…but one I’m hanging on to.

I’m officially fixed but still feel very broken, it’s strange. I’m excited, frustrated, pained and positive. But that’s to be expected as any if you old enough to remember him, Steve Austin, didn’t find it easy becoming bionic.


12 responses to “Becoming Bionic

  1. Hang in there! Best wishes for this next phase of recovery!

  2. good blog that Andy …. keep fighting mate !

  3. In similar circumstances, I crashed my bike at IM 70.3 Norway in July and broke my collarbone. After the surgery it still wasn’t right and I thought I had a grade 2 AC injury but it has settled down and I seem to have escaped that dubious pleasure. Apparently it’s rare to mess them both up, you tend to do one or the other! I hope the surgery works out and keep up the blogging, your books really inspired me!

  4. I feel your frustration and mine is much less serious than yours. Did my first full distance (Cotswold 226) at the beginning of July (still haven’t worked out whether it’s reading your books, Chrissie Wellington’s Bio or a combination of both that caused me to even attempt such a thing at the age of 55 when two years ago I couldn’t run or swim) and then a week later stacked it big style on a downhill mtb run and snapped my collar bone in two …. that’s Challenge Weymouth out of the window along with almost £400 … No sign of mending yet and have to go back in a month for a further check up ….. I’m bored to hell – you must have the patience of a saint …. get better quick ….

  5. Hi Andy, I dislocated my shoulder last week causing me to miss two triathlons this month. I always think there are people worse off – you have just confirmed that to me! I hope your recovery continues to be successful.

  6. Bionic Ironwolf

    As you know Andy, I’ve been bionic longer than you! Just keep on doing what you’re doing and be patient – at least you should be able to get back to what you love doing. I was sidelined on doc’s orders for over 6 months after my op and have been wrestling for a long time with the recommendation to not run again. When you feel down, just remember, I’ve got your back!

  7. Keep your chin up Steve 😉 You’ll be fighting fit soon enough!

  8. Have you ever heard of The Bowen Technique? It a fantastic soft tissue treatment and has a very high success rate for helping the body recover after trauma such as operations. It is a very gentle treatment that works on the connective tissue or fascia help realine this tissue and the surrounding area. I definitely recommend it! I fractured my ankle in three places, metal work etc etc and the treatment helped me tremendously. To find a therapist near you search and click find a therapist. P.s. I liked it so much I trained to become one!! P.p.s I am not on commission 🙂 just happy to pass on the knowledge.

  9. Wow what a story and what a brave man you are , I wish the best recovery and know u will come back stronger than ever …once an iron man always an iron man xx

  10. Ray Aka IronSmigs

    Hi Andy great to see you at Outlaw, really made my day, only really knew it was you by the sling haha, best wishes for a rapid recovery ,I owe my Ironman journey to you and those books. Thinking of changing my moniker to IronSmigs😃 now

  11. Best of luck with your recovery – I look forward to reading about your come-back 🙂

  12. Now Andy – no man should downplay the pain imparted by a kick in the gentleman’s area. That being said, my wife works in ortho surgery and refers to it as ‘Black and Decker’ surgery (which she loves, she’s a sadist……..well she married me).

    You need a goal to focus your mind on – what’s on the horizon?


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