Colonia Teacher Is Back in the Classroom Pain Free With New Shoulder Surgery

October 11, 2021

Eugene Fioravanti, a 57-year-old teacher from Colonia, New Jersey, lives an active life. He loves to golf, body surf and powerlift. But all of that activity throughout his life took a toll. Over the years, he experienced shoulder pain that eventually became almost unbearable. He was unable to do simple things like household chores or tying his shoes.

“It wasn’t one thing,” says Eugene. “It was cumulative wear-and-tear over the years. I used to throw newspapers every day for 23 years. I was diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear back in the early 2000s, and I just never wanted to take the time off to get surgery. So basically I ‘grinned and beared’ it for 20 years.”

Unexpected Opportunity

When COVID-19 hit, Eugene saw it as an opportunity to get the surgery he has needed all these years. Eugene’s teaching went virtual, and working from home made the recovery process much easier. Eugene connected with Michael T. Lu, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Raritan Bay Medical Center, who offered a relatively new type of surgery to fix Eugene’s shoulder.

“For Eugene, we did what’s called superior capsular reconstruction, or SCR,” says Dr. Lu. “Instead of repairing his rotator cuff tendon to the bone, like we would traditionally, we arthroscopically implant a piece of tissue into his shoulder to substitute for his rotator cuff.”

Dr. Lu explains the surgery like this: When you patch a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee, if the hole is small, you can sew it back together and it will work fine. However, with a larger hole, you need a patch to fill the space. In the case of surgery, a tissue graft plays the role of the patch and fills in the damaged rotator cuff, essentially replicating the missing tissue.

“SCR can be a good option for managing massive rotator cuff tears that cannot be repaired with more traditional techniques,” Dr. Lu says. “Studies have shown reliable improvements in pain, function and satisfaction for these difficult problems.”

‘Blown Away by the Results’

In Eugene’s case, this couldn’t have been truer. “I was blown away by the results,” he says. He completed eight weeks of physical therapy and improved the entire time. However, it wasn’t until a few months later during a vacation that he realized how much his life was changed by the surgery.

“Six months to the day, I was down in Myrtle Beach on vacation, and I was swimming in the ocean,” he says. “I could ride the waves again. That prompted me to call Dr. Lu and say thank you. I have my life back now—it really means that much to me.”

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