Smooth Sailing

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Renaissance man finds relief with shoulder replacement procedures at Inova Alexandria Hospital

For Jerry Namken, PhD, having both shoulders replaced was a dream come true. Having suffered from severe pain and loss of motion in his shoulders, the 65-year-old retired agricultural economist and former cowboy suffered from painful arthritis that made it difficult to do the activities he enjoys.

“I’ve been pretty rough on my body my whole life from all of the sports I played, rodeoing and then working as a cowboy,” Jerry says. “For more than a decade, I worked on ranches from Texas to Montana and rode bulls and bucking horses from Mexico up to Wyoming and Montana. With every jump the bull or horse took, I pulled or hammered something. And it wasn’t only the riding. If you’re working on ranches, you’re always digging post holes, nailing, hauling equipment, turning wrenches, cutting trees, building corrals, or handling cattle and operating equipment. It all takes a toll on your body.”

Five years ago, when his right shoulder acted up, Jerry sought the help of an orthopedic specialist. After trying cortisone shots, the pain only grew worse.

“It got so bad, I couldn’t lift my arms. All the things I enjoyed doing — working in the garden, swimming, working in the woodshop, turning a wrench, splitting firewood in the wintertime, pushing a lawn mower — all of that was so painful I knew I had to have surgery. I just couldn’t see getting old with that much pain in my life.”

A friend referred Jerry to Dr. Jeffrey Lovallo, orthopedic surgeon and Surgical Director at Inova Alexandria Hospital. As soon as they met, Jerry knew he was in good hands.

“Dr. Lovallo is a wonderful doctor. And he has put together such a great team around him,” Jerry says. “They are fantastic and well above the ordinary in terms of their interpersonal skills, their knowledge, and range and depth of their experience.”

The operation allowed Jerry full range of motion, and for the first time in years, he was free of pain. “I felt like I hit the lottery in terms of a successful recuperation,” he says.

The first thing he noticed was the pain from the arthritis had disappeared. Within two weeks of the surgery, he was raising his arm over his head and able to reach behind him to put on a car seatbelt. He could hammer, saw, and throw a baseball and football again.

Last June, Jerry had his left shoulder replaced, and once again he’s back to doing the things he loves to do.

“Before the operations, I couldn’t use my arms in the water as it was so painful at the shoulder,” says Jerry. “Now I’m back to swimming and doing laps, and really enjoying time at the beach.”

Recognized Expertise in Shoulder Replacement

The Joint Commission recently awarded Inova Alexandria Hospital’s (IAH’s) Shoulder Replacement Program a Gold Seal of Approval — a testament to the hospital’s commitment to provide the highest level of quality and safety. IAH is the first in the Washington, DC, area and the second in the state of Virginia to receive this prestigious award.

“What sets our program apart is if someone comes in they can be assured they will receive excellent patient care and receive premier shoulder replacement,” says Surgical Director Jeffrey Lovallo, MD.

“One of the reasons we started on this journey is Dr. Lovallo’s outcomes are wonderful,” notes Leanne Repko, Program Manager, Shoulder Replacement Program. “He is one of the more renowned orthopedic surgeons in the area for this particular procedure.”

Repko attributes the award to the hospital’s successful outcomes, the result of a committed clinical care team, including an IAH joint navigator, a focus on patient education, and low surgical-site infection rate.

“We’re really passionate about this program and what it can mean to the Alexandria community,” says Repko. “We know we were providing great care for our patients. The Joint Commission Seal of Approval helped us to make it official.”

Leading the Way

The Shoulder Replacement Program treats a wide range of shoulder problems, both common and complex. Patients with osteoarthritis and intact rotator cuff tendons are considered to be prime candidates for shoulder replacement, a procedure that involves substituting the eroded joint surface with a metal ball attached to a stem and a plastic socket. New techniques make it possible for more conditions to be treated with the procedure.

“There have been tremendous advancements in recent years,” says Dr. Lovallo. “In addition to performing commonplace shoulder procedures, we do reverse shoulder replacement for people with a nonfunctioning rotator cuff or previous failed surgeries.”

Reverse total shoulder replacement involves switching the ball and socket so that patients use their deltoid muscles rather than their rotator cuffs to raise their arms. The procedure can also be used to treat severe shoulder fractures.

Learn more

Learn more about shoulder replacement surgery at Inova on our website.

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