My experience with orthopedic care began at a young age of 2, due to being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). It was mostly yearly x-rays to monitor my scoliosis and then multiple foot surgeries due to my gait. My expert orthopedic care as a child was at Shriners Hospital where I felt understood and cared for by residents that wanted to learn from complex cases. It wasn’t until college when I dislocated my shoulder playing wheelchair basketball and aged out of the Shriners system that I found how difficult it was to transition to adult ortho care and a good doctor.
I was nervous since my CP and my dad’s HMO was probably not a good combination. A friend recommended a doctor but I was unable to go due to out of network constraints. I took my PCP’s referral and hoped for the best. The first doctor was not willing to spend the time to get to know my background so I asked to see a different doctor when my symptoms continued to worsen. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to my first appointment with Dr. Robert Patek; he was an orthopedic surgeon that specialized in shoulders but not so much with CP. He was willing to learn as we went. My CP spasms complicated the situation, rotator cuff surgery soon turned into failed revisions and lead to a left shoulder fusion. Dr. Patek was there through it all. The fusion allowed me to regain my stability and made my pain disappear allowing me to go to grad school and earn my master’s degree in special education.
My treatment and recovery
Fast forward 7 years down the road when my right, weaker shoulder began to have pain and less mobility. I once again reached out to Dr. Patek, only to discover that he had passed away. I was heartbroken and worried about beginning the search to finding a new doctor once again. With some encouragement from another doctor in the practice, I was referred to a young doctor just joining the practice with a specialization in complicated shoulders. Nervously, I made an appointment to see, Dr. Ari Youderian in the Fall of 2012. From past experience with other doctors, I was not hopeful that he would be at ease with my wheelchair and speech impairment. But, to my surprise Dr. Youderian was able to talk to me as an intelligent adult and my disability was never an issue. He read through my WHOLE file, another tough task for him, to better understand all my prior procedures. We worked together after consulting with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who has expertise with patients with CP to come up with a surgical intervention.
My first surgery with Dr. Youderian was difficult as he learned at my first post op appointment how strong my spasms are. My x-ray revealed that I had torn the bone off the repair and would need a revision. My disappointment was also his disappointment. Some doctors would have given up based on the challenges I presented, rather than continue to try to help ease my pain. But Dr. Youderian continued to work with me to repair my tear. Our relationship strongly developed after this.
After facing further difficulties, instead of giving up on me and telling me I’d have to live with pain, Dr. Youderian took the time to research and brainstorm options for me with his mentor at the Cleveland Clinic. For the next 9 months, he would attempt to find a solution to my now ailing shoulder. We decided together to try a bone block to help stabilize my shoulder. While this will not be a long-term solution, it has allowed me to live pain free for the time being and continue my passion of helping children with more needs than my own. Dr. Youderian has never given up on finding me a solution to allow me to live my life comfortably. Rather than shy away from the challenges my case presented he invested in me and took the extra step to pursue successful options for me. I continue to see Dr. Youderian for treatment when necessary.
Although all of these stories have a successful ending, mine also is successful. As a person with orthopedic problems getting more significant as I age, it is important to have a doctor who tries to understand my situation, is there when you need them and has a patient centered care philosophy. I have found this and am thankful for Dr. Ari Youderian.