The "not so happy camper" at home the first night from surgery.
(You can see the blood in the tubing from the pain pump malfunction)

I had arthrospopic shoulder surgery on February 17, 2005. The surgery was a success, but the post-op pain treatment was a dissaster, despite preventative measures. Consequently I was in severe pain for 48 hours before the medications were stabilized. (Ever seen that movie where the man is shot five times in the shoulder, then the bad guys slam him up against the wall, then they slug him in the shoulder, then when he falls on the ground they all kick him in the shoulder? Well, that's pretty much what it felt like !)

I sent an email out to everyone letting them know the surgery was successful, but what had happened with the "pain management" (the letter is below, if you would like to read it, you can click

  • HERE
  • I received over 120 emails and countless phone calls, all of encouragement!

    Thank you all.

    Thought you might want to read a sampling.

    Rusty Frank
    February 22, 2005

    A much happier camper, fixed up, cleaned up, and wearing clothes. Here with a super nurse, Jaime. Yeah for the nice ones!

    Here are some emails I receive post operative:

    Is it too late to send a supportive email?

    Shoulder surgery sucks... It is always much more painful than anticipated. But someone once said that "pain, fear and cold are the three things that really make you feel alive." I would have preferred for you to be cold, as I could have brought over a blanket.

    Sorry that the medical system was a bureaucracy, hope that you continue to mend well.

    No response necessary.

    Jason Gabelsberg

    Oh my gosh Rusty.... You have been through so much and you are such a trooper. I feel for you and the pain and dilemmas you went through. I agree with you... What happened to the good ole days when the doctors would come and visit, especially when a pump is not functioning right. You hang in and I hope you know that there is empirical data proving that when a community prays for one, good things happen. You have more than just a community rallying for you with love and support, so you'll be back in no time.

    Much love, and hugs,


    Does this mean you have to miss baseball practice this afternoon???

    Glad everything went well.


    love, Rita

    Hi Rusty,

    So glad you're doing o.k. and that surgery went well--I know you'll be back on your feet ahead of schedule! I hope the surgery proves to be a complete success and gives you pain-free dancing so you can keep dancing into your 90's like Frankie Manning!

    Take care,


    Hey Rusty!!

    Glad you're doing ok. I wish i could have done something to help you out. sorry about all the pain. I know a little bit about that but probably not as much as you. Holy cow!! That's crazy. I am glad that you are ok and in good spirits though. doesn't feel good know that you got it all over with? That's how I look at it. But then again, I'm not on bed rest with my arm in a sling. Good attitude though. I look forward to seeing you this week though and I look forward to see you grow healthier and healthier. You know, it's kind of funny. I have been taking some workshops at Herb's the last week or so and He talked about when guys like Nick Williams and Tip and Holly and a lot of other great dancers got started and he said that a lot of popular people in the scene started off taking lessons from you. Isn't that cool? It amazed me. That's really cool. It's no wonder because you are one of the best and certainly one THE coolest swing teacher out there. But it was cool to kind of hear how the revival of the swing scene in LA came about and it sounds like you were a huge part of that. That's cool. So thanks for all you've done Rusty. I'll see you in a few days. Rest up and get better.

    your friend,


    Dear Rusty,

    I'm glad the surgery was successful, but sorry you had to go through the pain management debacle afterwards. I left the Kaiser system after 25 years because of their orthopedic dept's mismanagement of my broken right wrist.

    Onward and upward for you and your healing!!!! warmest wishes,


    A Woman's Prayer


    Dear Rusty,

    My best wishes for a speedy recovery. You have done so much for so many, and I'm so sorry that you have been experiencing such excruciating pain - I can only hope that with the right dosage of medication that you will be able to lead a pain-free life again.

    Hope you have a wonderful birthday on Friday - I'll be thinking of you!

    Best, Debbie

    Writing under fire, that's what it is! All of us are concerned and appreciate being kept informed.

    Nothing is as slam dunk as first presented - and there are those of us who do not react normally to *anything.*

    Do what you are supposed to do - particularly on these early days. Being a trooper is great for dancing and shows - but this is long-term, so behave yourself.



    Dear Rusty,

    I sincerly hope you will find a good health as soon as possible.

    Eric From Paris...

    Dear Rusty:

    I didn't know about your surgery. I hope you are okkay,darlin'.

    Betty Wood ( Big Apple 1936)


    I am glad you are home and recovering. I am still in Iraq, been the best part of 2 years.

    Thanks, Dave

    Hi Rusty,

    I'm glad to hear that they finally got the pain meds thing fixed. My 96 yr old dad is also a Kaiser patient, so I know the frustration you have been going thru. (when Hanneke and I got married back in 1972, one of the very first things we did was to get OUT of Kaiser!).

    -Pete Jacobs, Wartime Radio Revue


    How difficult it must had been to go through excruciating pain for three days. I am really happy for you that your parents were there. I knew you previously had a serious injury, but did not have any idea that you were on pain medication. You move like no one else do with grace, vigor, style and showmanship, not to mention exuberance and joy, it is a wonder and a miracle. You have much to teach us about dance and an outlook. I hope you recover quickly, but don't push yourself! With much respect,


    I'm sorry to hear about your pain. I hope youv'e seen the end of pain.



    This was a pretty good story. I'm sorry you had to go through such pain, but I'm glad that you are now feeling better. You'll be happy to know that Gio did a great job on Sunday. You're lucky to have him to cover for you when you need him.


    Good Lord!

    I was never even told you were injured to start with! How is a bloke supposed to rush to LA when he doesnt know about something? Sweet Maria! Why was I not informed? I am glad to hear that you are OK, and there is now a combined care/love/birthday parcel on its way, with a big letter to tell you what has been happening in the last few months... In a little snippet of news,

    Feel Better, I am thinking of you!

    Robert Goldsmith

    Australia xx


    Wow. what an ordeal. It is too bad that you had such an adverse experience, but I am glad that you are doing better and have everything back on track. Please remember that you have a friend that is a Pharmacist and may have been able to advise you earlier on. Feel free to call ME at any time.


    hi Rusty,

    I know what you're going through. I remember my doc telling bob to try and do exercises with my arm the day after surgery. well, that was absurd- and it was excruciating. I was so scared by the time i got to physical therapy, I started crying when I walked in. Just get a good physical therapist and do the exercises as best you can. At first it seems impossible, but it gradually all comes back. Take whatever pain meds you need and use lots of ice.

    I'm so sorry you have to go through this. You've been through enough. But, if I can get get through it, you'll have no problem. TRUST ME- YOU WILL BE FINE!!!!!

    Hang in there, doll.



    Hi Rusty:

    I'm so gladd that all went well with your surgery. My prayers are with you for the continued speedy recovery, without further pain.

    See you on the dance floor soon.


    Your friend, Marilyn Warren

    Hi Rusty!

    I just received word that you've undergone yet another surgery. Prayers sent your way.

    It must've been a very challenging time for you. I will be untruthful if I tell you "I know how you feel", because I don't know how you feel. I know you are in pain and that is of a general external understanding. But how you really feel inside, is only felt by you alone. It is unique to you.

    I'm reminded of a story of a widow who lost her husband of fifty-some years. At his funeral, friends and relatives lined up to pay their respects to their dearly departed. Everyone would say a few words of good intent, with attempts to console the widow's pain, and that is good! She would simply smile and sort of acknowledge their presence. Then an old gentleman neighbor came to see her. The elderly man sat down beside her , without uttering a word, he begun to weep. That very instanr, the widow begun to weep as well. He understood what it was like to feel losing a loved one and yet he allowed that sacred space for her to be in God's Presence, by acknowledging our fragile nature of being creations of a Creator. Even well intended words will fall short of capturing the true meaning of our existence. That embrace of total dependence on God. God giveth life, He also taketh it. Life is a gift.

    I have been blessed to be given an opportunity to meet beautiful people like yourself and Jessica Densmore, Tammy Hall, June, Gabriela, Prof. Robert, Peter Flahiff, to simply name a few. People with a great passion for life!

    You are instrumental in providing space for such a community to thrive. Your gift of teaching what is passionate in your heart, has truly blessed a multitude! You have a welcoming heart.

    I remember a plaque of some sort, from one of my very first mentoring assignments in South Central LA. The plaque read "A hundred years from now, it will not matter, how much money or fame or power we have, but what will matter most, is if we have touched one life." So true.

    Thanks for using your gifts for God's glory! You are a gift to us. God be praised!

    God's love, gilbert

    Oh, Lawdy, Lawdy, Rusty. What an ordeal! I wish I had volunteered my honey-bun Ken (arthritis specialist) to call when you couldn't get your doctors. If you have another problem and can't reach anybody else, please call him. He doctors better than he dances; but, thanks to you and Gio, he's getting pretty good at the latter. Mo


    So glad to hear you are through the worst of it! Aileen asked me to pass on her wishes for a speedy recovery.

    See you soon and take good care... Dawna

    Oh Rusty, I'm so glad to hear that overall, all went well. I can't tell you how much I've been thinking about you recently.

    I'm soooo incredibly sorry that you're going through so much pain. I can't imagine what it's like.

    If there is anything you need (even silly, mundane things that are just harder to do with just one arm/hand), I would be happy to help out in whatever way I can. I'm not close by, but I am available almost any time during the day you might need something -- and it's only about a 40 minute drive to where you are. Please give me a call if I can help.

    Thinking of you and praying for quick healing.

    Hugs and Love, Margie, Frank and Alexander

    Oh my God, Rusty, you poor thing. What a sad state of affairs with medical care these days. I am so sorry you had to go through that ordeal. Rest up and do whatever you need to take care of yourself!

    Best wishes,


    I am sory you have gone through so much pain and discomfort. I am glad the worst is behind you!!! Rest up.

    Lindi Pacifici

    Wow Rusty,

    I am sooo sorry about all that's went on with you.

    Hope to see you soon, Tamie

    Hi Rusty,

    How good to hear from you and to know that the worst is over. "Just out-patient surgery" is a misnomer. Pretty soon they'll be giving us head transplants in "just out-patient." Gio's level 1 class was excellent! He taught the basic charleston very well, and everyone was doing it by classend. In fact, we did the fast-rotate-keep-dancing with the charleston, and it was great fun. It only took me an hour to cool off. Oye-veh indeed. We look forward to seeing you back soon. Enjoy those movies.

    Judy English & Bill Crudup, aka crudlish


    Sorry to hear that the post-surgery stuff went so badly. Mine was relatively painless until they took me out of the sling and told me to start moving my arm again. It hurt so bad I thought I was tearing up all the doctor's good work. In any case we wish you speedy recovery.

    Tomasito & Melissa


    I am so sorry that what should have been a simple surgery turned into such an ordeal for you. You've already endured more than enough pain for one life time! Glad your mom and dad were there to comfort and support you and we look forward to seeing you on the dance floor. JB

    Jan Bowler

    Ohmigod, your poor thing! Sending loving, healing thoughts!!

    xoxo, Robina

    Rusty, hope the rest of the healing process proceeds quickly and smoothly.

    Terry, United Kingdom

    Rusty, thanks for your note to let me know about your surgery. I was wondering how you were doing. I'm very glad your surgery went well & I'm glad Maxwell won't get the Rhythm club after all.

    So just relax and do what the doctors tell you to do & you should heal just fine.

    Anyway, hang in there & we'll see you Wednesday.

    Jon Moody

    That's good news Miss. Thanks for the update. Now: NO DANCING !

    Love ya.

    Pops. (Stompy Jones)

    Hi Rusty,

    Congratulations! That must be a great relief to have that all behind you. Now comes the important part. The success of most shoulder surgeries, no matter what the actual procedure, is >80% dependent on patient effort and cooperation more than surgical technique. If encouragement is needed let me be of service.

    Best wishes,

    Rich Phair

    I'm glad you're O.K. Thanks for being such a giving person.

    Margaret Tan

    Hi Rusty,

    we hope you will recover soon!

    Reinhard :. Satin Ballroom


    Glad your news is good. This was probably a "piece of cake" compared to everything you went thru with your neck. It was so sweet to see your parents at the Rhythm Club. You are very blessed to have them here to care for you. Take care of yourself (hope you're on some good drugs) :)

    See you Wednesday,



    I hope you're enjoying your recovery time and healing speedily!

    See you next week.


    p.s. Do you have a cast we can scribble on?


    I am so glad to hear from you. Thought about you all day yesterday. And I just love the relationship I imagine you have with your lovely parents--you're totally the girl, totally their daughter, and you, thrilled to have them taking care of you! Rest up and take it easy. We'll need you healthy and whole for a long time to come (especially judging how long it's taking me to "glide" on the dance floor!).

    Linda M

    OH GOOD! I was honestly just thinking about you and was going to drop you a line. I'm so glad everything went fine. Now it's just a matter of recovery.

    I enjoyed dancing with your dad the other night. He's a real sweetie and obviously loves his Rusty very much. I hope you're enjoying the company of your parents while they're there. Both my parents are gone now, but I especially miss my dad. He taught me how to play baseball and all things nautical (he was a Navy man)!

    Love, your pal, Sal

    Great to hear-

    we wondered how you were doing with the surgery. Was it arthroscopic surgery? I had a complete arthroplasty done of my left shoulder (end of humerus bone broke off) back in '94 due to a truck running me over (while I walked) in '93- so I can feel for what you're going thru- you will be dancing one handed for awhile...but then you were dancing with your halo equipment too- nothing keeps you down! Good luck on the recovery.

    Maryla Storm

    Not doing so well... the pain pump had come detatched, and my blood had gone into the tubing.
    You can also see a few of the incisions.

    Letter from Rusty February 21, 2005

    Back to Top

    Dear Friends,

    I want to thank all of you who sent emails of support to me for my recent surgery. It REALLY helped. I had intended on answering each of you, but as you can imagine, typing is really tricky with my arm in a sling.

    The surgeon said the shoulder surgery was a complete success. He explained that there was more going on in the shoulder than had showed up on the MRI and X-rays, but he was able to fix everything. It was arthoscopic, and I have seven pretty little incisions. The hospital stay was eleven hours, the surgery just three hours.

    My folks came and stayed with me for four days, which was a real blessing. I never could have handled this without them. Despite the fact that this was an outpatient procedure, it became very complicated once I got home.

    As many of you know, I already have been on pain meds for five years as a result of my neck and cervical cord injury. I was concerned that when I had this surgery the normal meds they give to people wouldn't come close to helping me. So I had my pain management doc meet with my surgeon and they "worked it all out" prior to my surgery. I got a "pain pump" and some higher dose medicine. But when we got home, my mom noticed that the pain pump tubes had come lose and that the tube coming out of my arm had filled with blood. We called Kaiser right away to find out what to do, and no one there was familiar with this pump. A sleepless night ensued. The next morning we rushed over to Kaiser, and they fixed the pump, grumbling how much they hated this pump, and that they had only been using it one month... so on. Anyway, I got all cleaned up and patched up again, and sent home.

    Meanwhile, the pain was beyond anything I had ever experienced (except once before). I knew something wasn't right. So we called and called. No helpful answers and my surgeon and pain management doc were off duty and nowhere to be found (what ever happened to the good ol' days when they would come to your bedside. Another sleepless excrutiatingly painful night.

    Next day, get in the car and go back to Kaiser to get the pump removed (it only lasts three days). Go home. Almost pass out. We kept trying to get ahold of someone at Kaiser to help figure out this pain issue, we were either put on hold interminally, got endlessly transferred and then disconnected, or when we finally got to a department, no one could help. Finally, Saturday at 4:30pm, we get a knowledgeable pharmacist, who explains that if I just take on more pill on top of what I am already taking, that should help. I do, and in twenty minutes, the pain is under control for the first time in 48 hours. He explained exactly what I figured: I was being under medicated!

    I think we all know that the frustration from dealing with the medical bureaucracy is just about as bad as from the surgery.

    But now the worst is behind me now! Hooray! Now just the "normal" pain from post op...

    Thanks to Gio for taking over classes yesterday. My mom and dad "wouldn't let me leave the house." ;)

    Thanks to Dr. Rich, for talking me through a lot of the prep on the surgery. Thanks to Dr. Matt Bernstein for a mid-night call to help figure out what was going on with the pump... And again, a huge thanks to my folks for taking care of their little baby.

    I think I have pooped myself out here, and am now going to crawl back into the house and enjoy an old movie and try to relax this wing of mine.

    Thanks again to everyone for writing. And again, sorry for not being able to answer for now.

    Love, Rusty

    P.S. Just think, next year, I'll be able to have a "fearless" birthday day (not worrying whether or not my arm will pop out of the socket!)