Published on August 05, 2019

Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery: Claudio's Story

This masonry professional and artisanal winemaker raises a new shoulder to being pain free.

Man raising right shoulder under treeWhen 15 years of shoulder pain began to severely impact his quality of life, Claudio knew something needed to change.

Claudio Frattaroli of South Salem, NY depended on the strength of his shoulders all his life. As owner of a small, family-run masonry business and an avid winemaker in his free time, he was always creating, building and lifting.

“I’m the stereotypical stubborn Italian who thought it was easier to ignore 15 years of pain than have shoulder surgery,” Claudio admits. The pain had started off as shoulder soreness from overuse and progressed over the years. “The threat of not being able to work would eat at me. But, I kid you not, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was pretty bad for ten years, and the last five years were unbearable. I couldn’t work to full capacity or think intelligently.”

In early 2018, Claudio was “at the tip of the iceberg” with pain. One afternoon, he was lifting crates of wine grapes at the beginning of harvest season in October. One dump of the grapes into the de-stemming machine, and “bam!” he describes. “It was excruciating. I thought, ‘this is it. I need to get it over with and do something about this once and for all.’”

Claudio began to seek out treatment from different orthopedic surgeons in the area. He remembers the surgeons asking when he was planning on retiring. He looked them in the eye and said, “I hate to tell you—I’m not planning on retiring until I’m on my last leg.”

Claudio visits Dr. VanBeek for the first time.

Dr. Corinne VanBeek, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Shoulder and Elbow Specialist, reassured Claudio he could continue with the work he loves but that it would take some time and patience.

Claudio went for an initial visit with Dr. VanBeek and he was immediately impressed with her scope of knowledge and enthusiasm for her field. Right then and there, Dr. VanBeek agreed that reverse shoulder replacement surgery was inevitable. “The cartilage was worn down to nothing,” Claudio recalls.

Dr. VanBeek explained to Claudio that he had advanced "bone on bone" arthritis in his shoulder joint with rotator cuff tearing, tissue deterioration and dysfunction. "Over time and with over use, arthritis progresses and the protective cartilage that lines the bones in our joints degenerates and the space between the bones narrows," Dr. VanBeek elaborates. "In these circumstances, we use a reverse shoulder replacement, which differs from an anatomic (standard) total shoulder replacement in the relation of the ball and socket. This decision depends on various factors."

Claudio was pleased with the level of care he received in the weeks leading up to his reverse shoulder replacement surgery and beyond. Everyone in the perioperative or “POP” (pre-surgery testing) program was encouraging and helpful,” he confirms. “The day of my surgery, the hospital staff really made me feel better and kept me in a positive mood.”

In the weeks after his reverse shoulder replacement surgery in December of 2018, Claudio pursued three months of physical therapy at Chelsea Piers CT. Chris Heymann—Physical Therapist specializing in sports medicine, injury prevention, pre-operative, and post-operative care—tailored a specific plan toward his lifestyle.

Chris explains, “Each surgery comes with different precautions, so you want to push the patient so they progress but have to be careful about doing too much, too soon.” Chris didn’t want Claudio reaching behind his back or pushing up off his right shoulder too early on. He advised Claudio to listen to his body. “The human body is smarter than we give it credit for.” Chris and Claudio gradually weaned away from focusing on range of motion to later strengthening until he felt confident enough to achieve his goals.

After reverse shoulder replacement surgery and physical therapy, Claudio describes himself as having become a different person. “Dr. VanBeek saved my life. Physical therapy made a difference. I’m a lot stronger now than I was ten years ago. I can hold my granddaughter--- I’m back at work. I’m the same troublemaker I always was.”

For those experiencing the same level of shoulder pain and on the fence about having shoulder surgery, Claudio advises, “Do not be afraid of the surgery—be strong in everything you do and decide.”