Rotator Cuff Repair Lets a Bird Dog – and His Human Hunt Again

Mika Gronqvist, 58, first visited the United States in 1980, as an 18-year-old exchange student from Finland. He was placed with a physician and his family in metro Detroit, who introduced him to what became some of his greatest joys: bird and deer hunting, fishing, and best of all – visits to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which reminded him of the woods and outdoors of his home in Finland. Sixteen years later, in 1996, he and his family immigrated to the US and began the early days of their new lives here in Algonac, MI.

While pursuing a career in optometry in metro Detroit, he continued to foster a love of the outdoors, bird hunting, and the U.P. After 22 years, with his daughters attending universities in Marquette, he and his wife made the move from the Lower Peninsula to the Marquette area, where Mika was able to indulge his passion for the outdoors on a daily basis. He loves riding snowmobiles, hunting with his German Shorthair Pointer, Nellie, and riding 4x4s on his land and trails just outside Marquette.

The Injury

That is, until an accident in March 2020, while plowing snow with his 4×4, led to an injured right shoulder. Another accident, a slip-and-fall in May 2020, halted all activities requiring the use of his right arm. He had nearly no range of motion in his right shoulder and arm. Nellie, snowmobiles, 4×4’s, and all hunting were now sidelined. Mika is right-handed, and could not hold a hunting rifle, or any object, in his right arm at that point.

UP Health System – Bell Responds

Thanks to the care, compassion, expertise, and hard work of the UP Health System – Bell staff, where he sought treatment in June 2020, Nellie and Mika are now back to doing what they love most. Mika credits his full recovery to his primary care provider, Jeremy Steele, PA-C, Bell Family Medicine; Dr. Jason Doppelt, Orthopedic Surgery; Ryan Artley, PT, DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy; and Sheena Zaborowske, RN, a Registered Nurse at Bell, who helped Mika through every step of the surgery, post-op, and even with regular follow-ups in early recovery.

Mika initially saw Dr. Steele in June, and while the insurance process required physical therapy first, Dr. Steele was in close contact with Ryan Artley to alert him to the apparent severity of Mika’s injury. He had one visit with Artley in July and was immediately referred for an MRI. Mika’s shoulder could not be manipulated without significant pain and “clunking” in the joint. An MRI confirmed a rotator cuff tear, showing that two of the four tendon anchors were completely ruptured. Surgery repair was scheduled in August 2020, with Dr. Doppelt. Everyone on the healthcare team in contact with Mika worked together to expedite the best possible treatment for his shoulder.

Mika’s Recovery

Recovery after a rotator cuff repair is a gradual process. Typical recovery involves wearing a sling on the affected arm for the first 6 weeks. The patient is not allowed to use their shoulder at all in order to protect the repair. From the day after surgery until the 6-week mark, the patient is only allowed to do “passive range of motion.” The therapist is allowed to move the shoulder but the patient is not able to. Due to the extent of the repair, Mika had additional range-of-motion restrictions. He was not able to externally rotate his shoulder more than 30 degrees for the first 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks from the date of surgery up to 12 weeks, the patient can use their own muscles to move their shoulder. They spend 6 weeks progressing to try to regain quality and full movement of their repaired shoulder. At 12 weeks after surgery, they can begin gentle strengthening and progress this as tolerated. Mika started physical therapy 2 weeks after his surgery and his therapy continued for 16 weeks. He was instructed to work on specific exercises at home and became very good at them, which was why he had great carryover from one session to the next, reducing his overall time in therapy. He was a model patient.

Before surgery, Mika could not raise his arm beyond waist height. Now he has full range-of-motion in his shoulder with decent strength. “Yesterday I bought dog food. I was able to grab a 45-pound bag of dog food and hold it with my right arm. There was no pain in my shoulder at all. From not being able to use the arm at all, now I can do everything, and I am pain-free. I’m doing really great!

Back Hunting with Nellie

According to Mika, “My lowest point in the entire process was staying ahead of my pain and returning to work soon after. Sleeping at night was rough, and I couldn’t get comfortable. When I was able to begin stretching – even though there were days it hurt – and the success I felt being able to lift those first 1-pound weights that was the high point. It made me see there was hope to get the use of my right arm back! I began to see it would be possible to return to all the sports I lovehunting, fishing, snowmobiles, and playing with my dog Nellie.”

The orthopedic and rehabilitation specialists at UP Health System – Bell help patients recover and improve their quality of life with a comprehensive rehabilitative approach. As Mika has demonstrated, a successful recovery can happen when the patient is an active participant in their care. To learn more about the orthopedic program at UP Health System – Bell, visit www.BellHospital.org/our-services/orthopedics, and for further information on UP Health System | Bell Rehab Services, visit www.BellHospital.org/our-services/rehabilitation.

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