Alice Walter acknowledged that if she had to do it over again, she wouldn’t wait so long. Hindsight tells her she could have returned to her daily activities much sooner.
After 18 months of living with the discomfort of a nasty shoulder injury, Walter underwent surgery. Dr. Abelardo Sotelo, orthopedic surgeon at St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center, performed the outpatient procedure.
Dr. Sotelo has noticed an increased demand for shoulder surgeries and is expanding his practice to accommodate.
Today, Walter is performing most, but not quite all of her activities. The 79-year-old Great Bend woman is still tending to her gardening and housekeeping, and devoting volunteer time to Meals on Wheels and her church.
However, she is not mowing the grass, which she misses. And she is not weed-eating, which she doesn’t miss. “And I don’t do windows anymore,” she laughed.
“I shouldn’t have waited to have the surgery,” Walter said. “I would recommend people get this done sooner rather than later. If you put it off too long, they might not be able to repair it.”
Walter sustained the injury during a March 2011 traffic accident on 10th Street near Harrison. She had the surgery in October 2012.
“You could say I messed around with it for 18 months,” Walter said. “I did occupational therapy here at St. Rose and it definitely helped. But it couldn’t solve the problem.”
Dr. Sotelo noted that Walter had “one of the worst rotator cuff tears I have ever seen. It was a massive tear with retraction, which means it was stretching like a rubber band.”
Rotator cuff tears are often the result of arthritis, and involve the acromioclavicular (AC) joint between the collarbone and the main shoulder bone. This is especially true after age 60.
“It is like sandpaper rubbing and it keeps you from raising your arm,” Dr. Sotelo explained.
Participation in sporting events also can cause a tear.
Other common shoulder problems include bursitis and tendonitis, which can often be treated with pain-management techniques such as steroid injections. They don’t require surgery.
“Dislocations also are common and sometimes recur,” Dr. Sotelo commented. “If it happens more than twice, surgery is indicated.”
In addition, there are three grades of shoulder separation. The first two require immobilizing the shoulder but the third often leads to the operating room.
“But for rotator cuff tears,” Dr. Sotelo noted, “surgery is the only solution. I never push surgery on people. I just tell them it will make them feel better and if they don’t have surgery it will get worse. Then you decide.”
When Dr. Sotelo suffered a rotator cuff tear, “I had the surgery right away. I knew there was no option.”
Since Walter’s surgery and follow-up therapy at St. Rose’s Rehab Services, she is taking any opportunity to recommend the therapists and the surgeon.
“I will praise them all over the place,” she said. “The rehab therapists are compassionate and knowledgeable, and Dr. Sotelo is very professional and has a great bedside manner.”
Dr. Sotelo performs one-day surgeries at St. Rose and joint-replacement procedures at Clara Barton Hospital in Hoisington.