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Olive

Age at interview: 76
Brief Outline: For three years Olive experienced shoulder pain and received a number of treatments which either provided short-term relief or did not work. Towards the end of the three years, she was in such severe pain that she was put on opiates. Her husband wrote to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, an NHS hospital explaining her situation and asking for help. He was fearful for her emotional and physical wellbeing. Within weeks of seeing the specialist, Olive had her surgery. Since then, things have much improved and she has regained a lot of her arm and shoulder mobility.
Background: Olive is married with two adult children. Ethnic background: Welsh.

More about me...

The pain in Olive’s her right shoulder started about three years before having subacromial decompression surgery. The pain gradually got worse and initially, the advice she got from her GP was to take painkillers. Eventually, she was sent to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, an NHS hospital for a cortisone injection which provided pain relief for about three months. She went back to experiencing severe pain which her GP tried to manage with ever stronger types of painkillers, but these did not work. Afterwards, she was sent to have two more cortisone injections but they didn’t work either. Before considering a referral to see a specialist, Olive’s practice sent her to physiotherapy - but because the pain was severe - there wasn’t much the physiotherapist could do, besides gentle exercises. In addition to painkillers, she had her shoulder strapped.

This situation of severe pain and failed treatments went on for a long time and had a negative impact on the quality of Olive’s everyday life - the pain got so severe that she was unable to sleep; she was unable to do domestic chores such as sweeping, cleaning; she couldn’t do any gardening and found it difficult to dress herself. She says that the situation was making her feel very depressed.

Olive’s condition deteriorated even further when, while out shopping during the Christmas period in 2013, a lift door closed without warning and struck a blow to her injured arm. After that incident the pain worsened even more and strapping and painkillers, including opiates did not work. 

In a letter, written by Olive’s husband to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, an NHS hospital explaining his wife’s situation and asking for help he wrote: ‘In short, severe pain over a 24 hour period seven days a week and a feeling of utter exhaustion.’ In another passage, he expressed his fear for his wife’s mental health and physical wellbeing. Following her husband’s letter, her GP also wrote to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, an NHS hospital asking for an appointment for her to be seen at the shoulder clinic.

For Olive, it was a relief to see the consultant and be told what was wrong with her and heard that he could do something for her. Within weeks, she got a letter with the date for her surgery. Overall, she says that since her surgery things have much improved. Soon after her surgery, she began to do her rehabilitation exercises and has gained much mobility in her shoulder and arm, and emotionally, she no longer feels down and tearful as she did before her surgery. Sometimes her shoulder aches but nothing like it was before her operation.

Regarding information, Olive prefers written leaflets and booklets rather than watching a video on a computer. The consultant invited her to watch the Technology Enhanced Patient Information (TEPI) site in hospital and was given the internet address to watch it again in her own time but it was her husband who later visited the site at home and passed on the information to his wife.
 

Olive’s memory isn’t very good and she isn’t ‘terribly good’ with computers. She prefers leaflets.

Olive’s memory isn’t very good and she isn’t ‘terribly good’ with computers. She prefers leaflets.

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Did you see that information again at home?

I didn’t but [my husband] looked through it and he spoke to me about certain things but I forget now to be honest. 

So why, would you have preferred leaflets or booklets rather than information on the website?

I think really yes, it would have been easier for me to have a leaflet.

Why? 

Because I’m not terribly good with the computers and that [laughs]. Sort of getting it up on the computer would be no good. [My husband] would have to do all that and.... Quick, you know, I had a quick sort of, I must have had a quick read through it because he had it up on the computer you know, but my, but it’s, it doesn’t stay there very long, you know because my memory’s not too good at holding things. Memory, sort of remembering things, you know. 

Okay, so you would have preferred it in a printed format?

Yeah, probably I would have looked at it more then, than just on the computer you know, which is

Okay. What did you think about the information that was, that you read on, on the site? 

On the site? Well very interesting, you know and all the different exercises. I was amazed with some of the exercises to do, you know. I didn’t think there would be so many sort of exercises to do with the arm, you know.
 

Olive would have liked to have been referred sooner. When the injections wore off, she felt that the doctors couldn’t do anything to help her.

Olive would have liked to have been referred sooner. When the injections wore off, she felt that the doctors couldn’t do anything to help her.

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I would have liked them [doctors] to have sent me to the hospital sooner, to get, to see what was the problem, you know. I know they sent me to have an x-ray on the shoulder but that didn’t help at all and then it was, oh dear, long, long time afterwards, me going back and forth.

When I didn’t go back for a long time, I thought, ‘Oh well, I’m taking these tablets,’ you know all the time. I thought they couldn’t be bothered and [my husband] was angry. He said, “No, you’re going back up to see them. You can’t be like this, be in such pain”, he said, “It’s making you ill.” 

So we went back up and saw them. So then after some time I had a letter from the Nuffield [NHS hospital] to say to go down to see them and that’s when I had the first injection there, you see. And then for months and months afterwards, once the injection wore off, it [pain] came back again, you know. I put up with it for a long time and went back up to see...

Long time, meaning weeks?

No, no, no. Months and months I thought, ‘Oh dear’ you know. And then we went back up and saw them again and went back down for the second time for an injection. That worked for a few months and then it stopped and the pain came back and I thought’ ‘Well, they’re not, they can’t do anything for me,’ you know. That’s what I thought, ‘I’ve got to suffer this pain. They can’t do anything for me, so it’s not working.’ 

And in the end, [my husband] said, “Well you’ve got to come up again and see [doctor’s name] again. Go and see what she’s got, see if she can refer you back again to the hospital.
 

Olive can see no disadvantages to having shoulder surgery. She felt ‘hopeless’ before it and recommends those eligible to ‘go for it’.

Olive can see no disadvantages to having shoulder surgery. She felt ‘hopeless’ before it and recommends those eligible to ‘go for it’.

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So in your opinion or in your experience, what were the advantages and disadvantages of having surgery? Are there any disadvantages of having this surgery?

As far as I’m concerned, no. I’d say no disadvantages at all [laughs].

Okay, so for you it has 

Yes, it just helps me, you know to have the operation.

Okay. Is there any advice you would like to give to other people recovering from this kind of surgery. Any advice based on your experience? I mean, I don’t know, taking it easy, don’t be afraid etc.?

Yeah, I mean I’d say, “Don’t be afraid. Go for it.” Because before the operation I was hopeless, absolutely hopeless, and after the operation I felt so much better. I’d never say, “No, don’t have the operation. Go for it.”
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