Patient Story: After orthopedic shoulder surgery, Tom, 61, is back to handstands
Tom Kratky, 61, was a gymnast in college who prides himself on being fit. He enjoys working out, playing tennis, and riding his skateboard. He's generally an active person – until a little over a year ago, he started experiencing significant pain in his shoulder.
"I couldn't do a pushup and my tennis game was getting worse and worse," he recounted. After trying physical therapy, he was still in pain. His discomfort increased over time, and he finally decided to see a doctor. A friend of his referred Tom to Dr. Corinne VanBeek, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder and elbow surgery and is the director of surgery for Stamford Health Medical Group in Stamford, Connecticut.
VanBeek recommended Tom undergo a diagnostic MRI, which revealed he had two significant tears in the tendons in his shoulder. Together, Tom and VanBeek determined that surgery would be the best solution.
"Dr. VanBeek prepared me well for the surgery and recovery. She stressed that recovery doesn't happen quickly – it's a slow process and it would be six months before I could start working out again," Tom said.
The outpatient surgery went smoothly. Tom said he felt fine for the first 20 hours and then some pain started to set in, but he was up and walking the day of the operation. He wore a sling for about a month. During that initial recovery phase, the biggest source of discomfort for Tom was sleeping.
Eager to regain his strength, Tom started physical therapy to understand what he could and couldn't do. He wanted to challenge himself but didn't want to push his limit. After about six months, he was still working on improving his range of motion and building back muscle.
Today, over a year after surgery, Tom is feeling 100%, he said.
"I can ride a skateboard while doing a handstand," he boasted. "I feel great! I was fully prepared for the process of undergoing shoulder surgery and what the recovery would be like. Everything went so well and there was great communication throughout the entire process."
Tom is back to doing pushups and playing tennis, too.
"Before surgery, I said to Dr. VanBeek, ‘What's the worst that could happen?' And I've been very pleasantly surprised with the whole experience," Tom shared.