Richard Stevens had no special reason to think he’d ever need surgery to replace his shoulder joint. Though he played lacrosse and worked construction jobs in college, he had never suffered a traumatic shoulder injury worse than a dislocation and had never even torn his rotator cuff.
Over a lifetime of being physically active, however, he gradually started to see signs that his shoulder was not 100 percent healthy. And as time went on, the symptoms became worse. Pain kept him from sleeping comfortably on his left side. He found himself favoring his right side. He could feel his shoulder “catch” and hear it pop.
For years, he had worked with Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) orthopedic surgeon Tomas Pevny, MD, to pursue conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medications. By fall of 2016, however, he realized that the time was right for a permanent fix.
“The shoulder was often sore. Driving really aggravated it. Even putting on a shirt or a jacket was difficult,” he said. “It was just more pain than I wanted to live with.”
A lesson in good timing
His decision came at a fortuitous time, as it coincided with the arrival at AVH of Namdar Kazemi, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder care. When Dr. Pevny recommended that Richard meet with the new surgeon, he agreed – and was impressed.
“Dr. Kazemi was very disciplined about explaining everything to me, setting my expectations, and telling what I’d need to do in order to have a great recovery,” Richard said. “And he did it in a way that motivated me, that made me want to follow his instructions.”
Other factors were important, too. Richard had a strong support network and a care team he trusted; he was prepared mentally and physically to more forward; and he admits that his shoulder had “gotten to the point where it was so annoying that I probably would have decided to do it anyway.”
Dr. Kazemi performed the surgery in early January, and all went well. After two days in the hospital, Richard went home with his arm in a sling. He began physical therapy a few days later, starting with two sessions a week and then increasing to three as he tackled more advanced stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises.
‘Smooth as silk’
“Amazing,” Richard said of the results. “Before surgery, my shoulder moved like a ratchet. When I started moving it after the surgery, my first sensation was that it was completely smooth, as smooth as silk. At this point, I’m a couple of weeks ahead of where I expected to be, my range of motion is pretty good, and I don’t have any pain. The whole experience has exceeded my expectations.”
“Up here, referrals are very important. If you need a knee replacement, you ask 10 people,” Richard added. “Since my surgery, I’ve had three or four people tell me they have the same kind of shoulder issues I had, and I’ve been sending them to Dr. Kazemi and Aspen Valley Hospital.”