My story began on October 24, 2018 when I was thrown to the pavement in a cycling accident, landing on my left shoulder. X-rays of the shoulder at the Huntsville Hospital ER showed that the shoulder was not broken.
Two weeks later, still unable to raise my arm, I had an MRI. It showed that I had full thickness tears of both the infraspinatus and supraspinatus tendons. (In layman’s terms they were both ripped entirely off the bone.) These are two of the four tendons that make up the rotator cuff of the shoulder.
To complicate matters, my husband and I were scheduled to leave November 24th on a 9-week vacation overseas. On November 12th I met with an orthopedic surgeon in Huntsville to discuss the results of the MRI. He told me that the injury would require surgery to reattach the tendons. (My first thought… What the HECK am I supposed to do now?) He agreed to delay the surgery until my return.
The week before the surgery (scheduled for February 8th) I researched and spoke with three physical therapy businesses close to my home. I chose Austin Physical Therapy here in Huntsville primarily because the owner, Jay Austin, told me that he follows PT protocols set forth by Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic in Birmingham. I was aware of their outstanding reputation.
The surgery on February 8th was unsuccessful. Both tendons had fully retracted and there was significant muscle atrophy (irreparable rotator cuff tears). The surgeon mentioned that the ONLY other option to restore shoulder function would be a reverse total shoulder replacement. Yikes…I had researched this and was not interested! (I am an active 61 year old.) I began physical therapy with Jay Austin shortly following the surgery. Mr. Austin is well connected with Andrews Sports Medicine. (Dr. Jeffrey Dugas had performed a successful, first-of-its-kind knee surgery on one of his employees.)
Mr. Austin HIGHLY recommended that I see Dr. Dugas at Andrews Sports Medicine for a second opinion. He contacted Dr. Dugas himself and Dr. Dugas agreed to review my records, which I promptly mailed to him. After the records review he referred me to orthopedic surgeon Dr. B. Wayne McGough, also an orthopaedic surgeon at Andrews Sports Medicine.
My first appointment with Dr. McGough was on April 1, 2019. I was immediately comfortable with both him and Katie Ivey, his PA. My first impression was that he was a very confident surgeon without the arrogance that often accompanies it. He was very personable and patient to explain my options and answer my questions thoroughly.
After discussing a reverse total shoulder replacement as an option, he proceeded to inform me of a NEW procedure called a superior capsule reconstruction (SCR) that surgeons around the country are having good results with. Dr. McGough indicated that I was a good candidate for an SCR. (Not all people with massive irreparable rotator cuff tears meet the criteria). He also said that if I did not get the desired results with an SCR that it did not rule out a reverse total shoulder replacement as an option at a later date. Dr. McGough did not try to push me to have either surgery.
My SCR was performed on June 7, 2019. Dr. McGough indicated that the rehab would move at a slower pace than rehab following a rotator cuff repair surgery. I was a very focused and diligent physical therapy patient under the skillful eye of Jay Austin in Huntsville. Several months into rehab I was able to raise my arm over my head for the first time since my cycling accident 12+ months before. There was much rejoicing at the PT clinic!!
At the present time (January 9, 2020) I am still doing strengthening exercises at home. Although my range-of-motion has been restored, I am still working on being able to hold weight at arm’s length. I am confident that I will regain some strength there, but realistically don’t expect to return to God’s perfect design of a FULLY functioning shoulder. Also, I am living pain free!
I am SO very grateful to God, my skillful surgeon Dr. McGough and my physical therapist Jay Austin for giving me my arm back! Thank you and THANK YOU!!
I appreciate you taking the time to read my story. I hope you find it encouraging. My motto is
“Let’s Go!” and I am!
1) The SCR gives certain people with massive irreparable rotator cuff tears new hope for regaining full range-of-motion short of joint replacement. It is a technically-demanding surgery, yet is minimally-invasive. (I have 7 small scars). It involves the anchoring of donor tissue which helps restore the biomechanics of the shoulder so that the arm can be raised using the large deltoid muscle instead of the tendons which are no longer attached.
2) I HIGHLY recommend the purchase of an Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy Machine with shoulder pad for use immediately post-op and following PT sessions at home. It was money very well spent! I am convinced that with my swelling/inflammation controlled, I had much less discomfort and I healed faster.