On a Roll After Shoulder Surgery

Ruben Perez

August 10, 2020

A few years ago, Ruben Perez, M.D., a primary care doctor in Union City, New Jersey, set out on a quest to lose weight and improve his health. And he succeeded—losing more than 100 pounds through diet and exercise over the course of four years. His favorite form of exercise became long-distance cycling. He would meet up with fellow cyclists on weekends for 80- to 100-mile rides.

But during a downhill run in New York’s Bear Mountain State Park on Jan. 11, 2020, Dr. Perez lost control of his bike, crashed and went down in the middle of the road.

Dazed and in excruciating pain, he was rushed to a local hospital in Nyack, New York, where he underwent X-rays and a CT scan. His diagnosis: a badly fractured scapula, the bone that forms the shoulder blade. He would need to have it surgically repaired.

Once he was discharged from the hospital, Dr. Perez put a call in to orthopedic surgeon Siddhant Mehta, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Mehta had recently introduced himself to Dr. Perez as part of a series of visits to area primary care providers.

Dr. Mehta responded quickly to Dr. Perez’s call and saw him in the Emergency Department at Palisades Medical Center the same day, where he evaluated the injury and the scans taken in New York. As an orthopedist who specializes in shoulder and elbow injuries, Dr. Mehta knew the surgery would be a challenge.

“Dr. Perez had a complex and rare injury,” Dr. Mehta explains. “The scapula was essentially in four different pieces.” Three of the pieces involved the socket where the large arm bone was supposed to fit, and the fourth piece was along the scapular body, or shoulder blade. “There are many ways to fracture the scapula, but when the socket is damaged and displaced, it usually requires surgery to heal properly.”

“My father’s shoulder was demolished,” says Jacqueline Perez, Dr. Perez’s daughter. “He was scheduled for surgery on January 14, and he was so confident that Dr. Mehta would do a great job.”

The surgery lasted nearly six hours, during which time Dr. Mehta secured the fractured bones with plates and screws. Dr. Perez was discharged from the hospital after two days.

“He had a very quick recovery,” says Dr. Mehta. It was important to immobilize the shoulder in a sling. Despite that, Dr. Perez pushed himself, going into his office to see patients the Monday following his surgery.

Once he got the go-ahead from Dr. Mehta, Dr. Perez began doing range-of-motion exercises at home. He used a small pulley device with a rope that he hooked over a door. He would hold each end of the rope, pull down with his uninjured left arm and slowly raise his right arm. To improve lifting to the side, Dr. Perez stood with his right shoulder blade braced against a wall and, holding a lightweight rod, slowly lifted his hand outward from his hip and up. As he gained mobility, he was then able to transition to light weight-bearing exercises.

Even though Jacqueline thought her dad was a little fanatical for pushing himself so hard, he was anxious to get back on his bike. “He was actually hiding it from me,” she says, “but he was back at it after about three or four weeks.”

“Dr. Mehta was always available and so confident,” Dr. Perez says, adding that he followed Dr. Mehta’s advice every step of the way. “I had to show everyone what good work he had done, so I was very compliant.”

In the end, both doctors are pleased—Dr. Perez, especially. “I am back to 105 percent,” he says. He has even persuaded Dr. Mehta to take up cycling to maintain health and fitness. They are looking forward to some great rides together.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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