Not much gets Nancy Carter down. She’s been cooking meals for the homeless at her church, The Light Ministries in Antioch, ever since she retired from a career running restaurants. Chopping and cooking – it’s been her life. Until suddenly she couldn’t do it anymore.
“Cooking pots aren’t light. If you’re stubborn and you don’t ask anybody for help, well, you’re ruining your own little body,” she says. “But strong women, you know, we think we can do everything.”
The pain in her right shoulder got so bad that she couldn’t lift her arm to brush her hair, much less lift a pot. Cortisone injections no longer helped. The X-ray showed bone on bone in her shoulder joint.
“It was hard to drive, it was hard to shop,” she recalls. “I couldn’t lift anything and I couldn’t stir anything. And if I can’t do what I like to do, well then, it’s useless.
”Her orthopedist, Adam Brooks, M.D., told her about reverse shoulder replacements, often recommended for people who’ve had rotator cuff tears due to sports or heavy lifting. She was a little leery at first, but relaxed after Dr. Brooks explained how it worked.
In a traditional shoulder replacement, the surgeon attaches a metal ball to the top of the upper arm bone, and fits a plastic cup into the shoulder socket to create a new joint. The body’s rotator cuff muscles help hold the new ball and socket in place.
When those rotator cuff muscles don’t function well because they’ve torn over time, the socket and metal ball are switched. The metal ball is fitted to the shoulder socket and the plastic cup is fixed to the top of the upper arm bone. This allows the deltoid muscle in the shoulder to move and position the arm.
On the morning of her surgery she checked into Sutter Delta Medical Center and checked out the next day. “I was amazed that I did not have that much pain after the surgery,” she says. “I took some Tylenol but didn’t need any stronger pain medicine. The pain just wasn’t that bad.”
Full recovery took time, of course. One niece stayed with her for the first two weeks, and all her nieces in her close family helped her out for a couple of months. Within three to four months, she was moving her arm well. And a year after surgery, she felt confident enough to go back to The Light Ministries kitchen.
“What they can do with today’s medicine is amazing,” she says. “This gave me the opportunity to start over, and it feels good. The one mistake I made was waiting. I should have done this a year earlier.”
Clinical results may vary.