Peter’s Story (Bilateral Shoulder Replacement Surgery)

His golf swing is stronger than ever

PeterR_shoulderLiving with chronic arthritis brings challenges. It’s extremely painful and with a diagnosis of arthritis in both shoulders, any movement can be excruciating. “My shoulders would just throb,” says Peter Ragusa, owner of Gofer Ice Cream of Greenwich, CT. “Scooping ice-cream, taking care of customers and even just relaxing and watching my favorite show on TV, left me with shoulder pain that was at times unbearable.”

Over the counter pain relievers would temporarily lessen Peter’s pain, but the relief was always short lived. Seeking a solution, Peter talked to several different doctors about his condition and his options. Most said the pain was something he was going to live with for life. That’s until his primary care doctor recommended Dr. Corinne VanBeek, a board-certified shoulder and elbow surgeon with Stamford Health.

Peter met with Dr. VanBeek. She evaluated his condition and suggested that Peter consider reverse shoulder replacement [link to orthopedic page] surgery. Because his condition was so severe, Dr. VanBeek recommended this type of surgery to help Peter get back to full arm and shoulder functioning. She explained that standard shoulder replacement surgery tends not to work as well on patients diagnosed with tears in the tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint (rotator cuff tears) and shoulder arthritis. This is because the socket of a torn rotator cuff tends to loosen which risks abnormal movement with the implant.

During a reverse shoulder replacement surgery, the ball and socket parts of the shoulder joints switch sides. This means their natural position is reversed and the ability to move the arm comes from the deltoid muscle rather than the normal rotator cuff.

Before shoulder surgery, Peter says his days weren’t too glamorous. He suffered from constant pain, couldn’t lift his hands away from his body or lift his hands above his shoulders. Joyce, his wife of 51 years, helped him get dressed every day.

Dr. VanBeek talked to Peter and his wife Joyce about what to expect. “Most importantly she didn’t rush me – she gave me time to think about the surgery,” says Peter. “I knew I had to do something. I was nervous, but I knew I didn’t want to be on medicine for life.”

Life began to change in January 2017 when Peter had the first of his two shoulder replacement surgeries. During the fall of 2017, Dr. VanBeek performed the reverse replacement on the other shoulder. “She is the best of the best and was by our side every step of the way,” says Peter speaking about Dr. VanBeek. In between the shoulder replacement surgeries, Peter also had knee replacement surgery to address chronic arthritis in his knee. And in early 2019, Peter had his other knee replacement surgery.

Today, Peter says it’s a night and day difference in the way he feels. “The surgery is my new anti-inflammatory medicine,” says Peter. “I’m a golfer and now I get to golf again. I can hold both arms straight up in the air.”

Peter was in a sling for six weeks, day and night during his rehabilitation. The shoulder had to remain stable and Peter couldn’t reach behind his back. “It was difficult to get dressed, but Joyce helped me every day. She drove me to all my appointments including rehabilitation.

Joyce says Peter was “a good patient.” She also credits Dr. VanBeek for explaining everything and providing her with information, so she knew what to expect as a caregiver. Joyce says “Dr. VanBeek is a not only a lovely person and excellent surgeon, but she always welcomed questions. We had lots of laughter and she made what was a difficult situation as enjoyable as it possibly could be.”

“You have to have a great deal of confidence in a surgeon when you’re undergoing surgery as difficult as mine,” says Peter. “Everything worked out because of Dr. VanBeek, my rehabilitation team and my wonderful wife.”