Jean's Story

Shoulder replacement surgery helped improve life for this 88-year-old

Patient Stories
Jean Plewa, shoulder replacement patient

At age 88, Jean Plewa wanted a solution to the pain and limited mobility that plagued her from an arthritic shoulder. She tried physical therapy and medications, but nothing helped. It was difficult for her to get dressed because she couldn’t raise her arm, and the pain interfered with her sleep.

“I was living with pain and on so much medication,” she says. “I needed a different answer.” 

Jean’s son-in-law recommended Arif Saleem, MD, a shoulder and elbow surgeon with Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, and she decided it was worth the 90-minute drive to Aurora. “My son-in-law said Dr. Saleem would give me an honest answer,” she says.

Choosing the best option

When Jean met Saleem, the surgeon said he could help her and recommended a reverse shoulder replacement. 

“We make decisions regarding surgery on an individual basis,” Saleem explains. “After we discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with each patient, we decide together what is best for them.”

A reverse replacement is an innovative procedure for problems that previously had limited options. It provides needed stability to the joint and replaces the arthritic joint surface, which makes it a perfect solution for patients like Jean who have shoulder arthritis due to a chronic rotator cuff tear, Saleem says.

“Patients typically regain functional use of the arm and have little to no pain,” he says. 

Jean felt comfortable and confident with Saleem but was apprehensive about having surgery at her age.

Alleviating fears

Saleem, his team and the staff at Rush Copley Medical Center were quick to reassure her.

“They alleviated my fears of being older and under anesthesia,” she says. “The anesthesiologist explained everything so I felt comfortable. The nursing staff was also very compassionate.”

Jean’s surgery was a success. She followed it up with four months of physical therapy at Castle Orthopaedics and has resumed her normal activities. 

“Dr. Saleem and his team tackled my problem and gave me pain relief,” she says. 

Good results and more

Jean appreciates the care she received, the professionalism of her health care team and the time they spent with her. “I never felt rushed,” she says. “They explained how things were going to go and really cared about answering my questions.” She had an excellent rapport with Saleem and says she received the same courtesy and respect from the entire staff. 

But she’s especially pleased with the results of her surgery. Jean lives an active life in a senior community. Since her surgery, she has had no physical restrictions. 

"Jean is an extremely motivated woman and was in fairly good health for her age,” Saleem says. “Her quality of life was severely affected by the pain in her shoulder, despite trying several nonsurgical options. She was eager to proceed.”

‘Good as new’

Saleem takes extra precautions when managing older patients whose bones are more brittle and, thus, more prone to fractures. He also takes additional steps to avoid wound complications, which are more likely on older patients who have thinner skin. 

Jean exercises three to four times a week, working out in the pool or with weights. She intends to stay well and mobile so she can continue knitting, crocheting and doing other crafts she enjoys, using both of her arms. 

“I’m a different person,” Jean says. “When you’re in pain continually, your personality changes. Now I’m more cheerful and nicer to be around.

“I’m as good as new, practically,” she says. “I’m 88 and feeling great!”

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