A retired bus driver, John was used to using his arms and shoulders to turn the wheels of the buses.
So, imagine his surprise when something as simple as playing with his dogs, led to rotator cuff surgery.
“I knew something was wrong,” John recalls. “I went to the chiropractor and it didn’t get any better. I couldn’t use my left arm at all.”
He and his teenage son also were working on a 1967 Mercury Cougar, and the injury limited what he could do on the project. Suffering from pain and the inability to lift his arm, John called the office of Dr. David Cortese, an orthopedic surgeon at Lompoc Health – Orthopedic Center.
“I was just helpless on my left side,” John says.
After evaluating his patient, Dr. Cortese determined John needed surgery to repair a large tear in his rotator cuff, the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. Dr. Cortese spoke with John about how extensive the surgery might be, depending on the amount of damage that was discovered in the operating room.
“Shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints of patients seen by orthopedic surgeons and one that I have extensive experience treating as a fellowship-trained arthroscopist and sports medicine specialist,” Dr. Cortese explains. “Possible explanations of shoulder pain include inflammation of the rotator cuff or biceps, tendons or subacromial bursa, subacromial impingement, glenohumeral or acromioclavicular arthritis, rotator cuff or labral tears, or fractures.”
John’s injury was in his left shoulder.
“The pain was pretty good,” John recalls. “When I talked to him, he told me when he was in the (military) service, he’d run across a lot of these injuries. That encouraged me. I liked that he knew what he was talking about.”
The surgery was scheduled and was an out-patient procedure. Dr. Cortese informed John of everything he might expect.
“Treatment recommendations vary from activity modification, oral medication, injections, physical therapy or surgery,” Dr. Cortese said. “We can often perform surgical procedures arthroscopically, using small incisions and a camera to operate deep in the shoulder under the skin and deltoid muscle.”
John said the surgery ended up being longer than Dr. Cortese expected.
“He cleaned out under everything,” John said. “He came out and talked to me after surgery. He showed me the pictures of it, before and after.”
Because of John’s age, Dr. Cortese expressed concern that it may take a bit longer to heal. But because John doesn’t smoke or drink, and walks regularly, the healing process overall went well.
“It was rough going for a while,” John says. “The sling took getting used to.”
John preferred not to go forward with outpatient physical therapy but instead started his own healing routines.
“He gave me exercises,” John said. “I do some weights.”
Now, he says he has no pain.
“I’m really pleased,” John says. “I’m recommending him to everyone. He was really wonderful.”
Dr. Cortese gives his patient high marks.
“His arthroscopic procedure was performed as an outpatient and his recovery has been excellent, despite my reservations about his desire to do his post-operative rehabilitation without guidance from a licensed physical therapist,” Dr. Cortese said. “He wore a sling on his left arm for six weeks and did a light exercise program of range of motion exercises before progressing to resisted strengthening exercises. I am pleased that by six months after surgery, he recovered full range of motion and had minimal pain that did not require medication to manage. He continues to work on strengthening the muscles about his shoulder. Great work, John!”