Published on June 03, 2022

Local woman calls expert care provided by Essentia a "precious gift"

Pam-Foss-newsPam Foss first noticed that her shoulders were bothering her when she was driving. The pain came out of nowhere and she initially thought it was the result of gripping the wheel too tightly as a reaction to icy roads. But when weeks went by and the ice had thawed, her pain persisted.

She recalls that the pain made her feel frustrated as she not only had a difficult time participating in some of her favorite hobbies, like gardening, but she also couldn’t hold her infant grandchild for extended periods of time. As a new grandmother, Foss longed for the special bonding moments that came with holding the littlest member of her family.

This longing led her to seek care at Essentia Health.

Following an MRI at Essentia, Foss learned that both of her shoulders had deteriorated and would need to be replaced. Shoulder replacement is an ideal option to relieve arthritis-related pain and stiffness when other treatments fail. This procedure has been successful at reducing pain and restoring range of motion and mobility.

The condition of Foss’ shoulders was so poor that Essentia Health orthopedic surgeon Prasad Sawardeker had to proceed with reverse-shoulder replacements, an advanced alternative to the traditional shoulder replacement.

Sawardeker explains, “In a traditional shoulder-replacement surgery, the damaged humeral head (the ball) is replaced with a metal ball, and the glenoid cavity (socket) is replaced with a smooth plastic cup. A reverse-shoulder replacement is a design in which the positions of the ball and socket are switched: A metal ball is placed where the patient’s own natural socket was and a plastic socket is placed on the head of the humeral head.”

Sawardeker says the reverse-shoulder surgery is intended to be the best option for patients with rotator cuff damage in addition to severe arthritis.

“In a healthy shoulder, rotator cuff muscles provide motion, function and stability,” he said. “Conventional replacement surgery still relies on these muscles. Reverse-total shoulder replacement instead relies on the deltoid muscle to overcome the deficient rotator cuff. This reverse design has more stability and does not need the rotator cuff tendons to hold it in place.”

Surgery on Foss’ left shoulder was performed in 2019, with her right shoulder surgery occurring at the beginning of 2020. Looking back at her experience with Sawardeker, Foss says, “Dr. Sawardeker is a wonderful surgeon and the kindest person. When he did my surgeries, he took time out of his day to provide my husband with updates. He always found time to get me in to see him, even when he was full. He really does go the extra mile.”

Foss also had high praise for orthopedic physician assistant Ryan Kessel, who was able to stitch her up so well that her scars are barely noticeable.

“Ryan does a wonderful job,” Foss said. “He was always making me laugh and keeping the environment lighthearted.”

Foss was thrilled with her surgery and entire experience with her orthopedics team at Essentia.

“Both Dr. Sawardeker and Ryan are very professional and compassionate people,” Foss said. “They keep your fears at bay. They let you know you are going to come out better on the other side.”

And come out on the better side she did.

With her surgeries behind her, Foss has been focused on returning to her regular routine. That includes gardening and spending quality time with family. Now a grandmother of two young ones, she calls her newfound ability to hold and play with her grandchildren a “precious gift” that was made entirely possible by the expert care she received from her orthopedics team at Essentia Health.

“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t get my shoulders done. I am glad this was something they could fix and it’s not something I have to live with for the rest of my life. I’m happy hearted,” Foss says.