• Fire Chief who underwent rotator cuff repair

Fire Chief Back to Doing What He Loves Best Following Rotator Cuff Repair

Every year, nearly two million Americans seek medical care for torn rotator cuffs, a common cause of shoulder pain that results in weakness and disability.

Jon Bruce, who’s Chief of the Crestwood Fire Department, was injured while battling a large blaze in Robbins in December 2014.

“A wall collapsed on some Midlothian firefighters, and I was trying to help lift the wall off of them,” the Crestwood father of three explains. While successful in his attempts to save his colleagues, he didn’t walk away unscathed. His left shoulder took the brunt of his heroic actions. “Honestly, it felt like someone had stabbed me in the shoulder,” he explains.

Jon rested for a couple of days, but when the pain persisted, he was referred to orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist Venkat Seshadri, M.D. Initially, he tried physical therapy and medications, but when his injury showed no improvement, Dr. Seshadri scheduled him for minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair at the Ingalls Advanced Orthopedic Institute last April.

“The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing strength and stability,” Dr. Seshadri explains. “Rotator cuff tears increase with age, and not all tears are painful. But some can be, especially if a trauma causes them. There may be a snapping sensation and immediate weakness in the upper arm.”

Symptoms become worse when reaching backwards to fasten a seatbelt or reaching into a kitchen cabinet for a stack of plates. Overhead activities like pitching, throwing, or playing tennis make it even worse.

While medication, physical therapy and modified activities relieve the pain in about 50 percent of patients with rotator cuff tears, individuals with severe pain or more serious tears need surgery. In Jon’s case, Dr. Seshadri recommended minimally invasive arthroscopic repair.

During the procedure, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, which the surgeon uses to guide miniature surgical instruments. Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, the surgeon uses very tiny cuts rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery, to reattach the torn tendon to the humeral head of the shoulder. Most are done on an outpatient basis.

Afterwards, rehabilitation plays a vital role in recovery and returning to daily activities. For Jon, that consisted of several months of physical therapy at Ingalls Care Center in Crestwood and light duty work at the firehouse. Last November, the husband and father of two returned to active firefighting duty, his passion since the age of 18.

“I was so frustrated right after my injury,” he adds. “I spent a lot of time doing paperwork, computer stuff and training hours. As chief, I want to be out there with my guys. Thanks to Dr. Seshadri, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

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