Shoulder Surgery means Bells Ring Again for QC Man

Don Wood

For more than three decades, Don Wood, 58, East Moline, has practiced the art of playing his beloved handbells in churches and concerts throughout the Quad City area.

“I love making music, and the handbells are such relaxing instruments to play, especially when working together with a great handbell choir,” he says.

Don is a founding member of the River Bend Bronze, a QC handbell choir that performs monthly concerts throughout eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

“The group is first-rate,” says Don. “We practice every week and perform about 10 to 15 concerts a year.”

In addition to River Bend, he also directs a church handbell choir and plays in two other handbell choirs! Constantly lifting bells that can weigh up to 10 pounds each is not easy and requires upper body strength.

For Don, this past year proved to be an even greater challenge, when shoulder pain not only affected his handbell performances, but also kept him from playing his favorite sport of racquetball.

“At one point, I had to stop playing racquetball at the Y, and I was ringing my handbell one-handed because it hurt so bad. There is a certain technique to ringing the bells that involves your entire shoulder and arm. The pain really affected the way I played and also the way they sounded.”

Dr. Shawn Wynn, ORA Orthopedics
Dr. Shawn Wynn, ORA Orthopedics

Following an MRI, ORA Orthopedics’ shoulder surgeon, Dr. Shawn Wynn, determined Don’s rotator cuff was severely torn and required surgery.

“He had a massive rotator cuff tear in the right shoulder. I see this type of injury often. It’s very common in active people, especially those who depend upon their shoulders for work or for the activities they enjoy.

“Don talked about his passion for handbells, so it was important that he would be able to play again without pain.”

Dr. Wynn explains that the rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that starts in the chest and turns into tendons that attach to the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons are responsible for the shoulder’s stability, strength, and motion.

“Patients with torn rotator cuffs experience significant shoulder pain, weakness, and limited use of their arm because the injury is actually a physical separation of the tendon from the upper arm bone.

“In Don’s case, because his cuff tendon had completely torn off the bone, surgery was the best option to restore function.”

Dr. Wynn performed an arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair Don’s rotator cuff. He stitched the torn tendon and re-attached it to the bone with small anchors made of a material that will eventually dissolve as the bone re-grows.

He says advancements in outpatient arthroscopic shoulder surgery have meant smaller incisions, less swelling, fewer scars, and a quicker recovery than in the past.

“The incision portals for the arthroscope are less than 1 cm long — significantly smaller than traditional open surgical incisions, resulting in reduced pain and muscle damage.”

The procedure usually takes about an hour, depending on each patient’s case.

“Dr. Wynn did a wonderful job,” says Don.

“The outpatient surgery went well, and I was home the same day. He advised me to take my time in physical therapy and not play again too quickly or my shoulder could tear again. Six months later, my shoulder feels so much better. I am playing the handbells, and hope to play racquetball soon.”

Don says his ringing technique is returning, but mastering the bells can take a lifetime. Thanks to successful shoulder surgery at ORA Orthopedics, it’s a goal he can now attain.