Penny’s Story: Rotator Cuff Surgery Has Her Active Again

Penny Wolff has always been interested in her health and active in physical fitness.

It was no surprise, then, that the Kettering resident started looking for answers when pain invaded her arm and shoulder.

The issue began during her twice-a-week workout with a trainer.

“I have a great trainer, but my body is getting older. When I was doing one of my hangings from the bar exercises, I would feel something gradually. Eventually, I felt this tug in my shoulder,” Wolff recalled.

She tried to ignore the pain but during an annual OB/GYN check her blood pressure registered at around 200. She attributed the reading to the ache in her arm and was advised to see her family doctor.

He said the issue probably was bursitis, gave her a shot and suggested physical therapy.

Wolff underwent physical therapy at Miami Valley Hospital South, but when the shoulder didn’t get any better, returned to her family doctor, who ordered an MRI, along with X-rays. The scans confirmed a pull or tear of the rotator cuff.

She was off to see Michael Herbenick, MD, an orthopedic specialist, who said she could have another shot, do more physical therapy, or undergo surgery.

“After a little more physical therapy, I decided, ‘You know, this is kind of crazy. It is still bothering me and, if I have to go through the rest of my life like this, I don’t want to,’” Wolff said.

In mid-July 2020, she underwent rotator cuff surgery at Miami Valley Hospital South.

“I immediately, when I could, started physical therapy again,” she said. This also helped with nerve tingling on the left side of her neck identified by cervical X-rays ordered by Jennifer Rodriguez, PA-L, also part of the orthopedics team.

Once she completed physical therapy, Wolff signed up to work with athletic trainers at the hospital instead of returning to the rec center where she had trained prior to the pandemic.

She drives from Kettering to Centerville “religiously” twice a week for the sessions, she said.

Rotator cuff tears are common injuries can prevent people from carrying out daily tasks and cause sleepless nights, Dr. Herbenick said.

People struggling with persistent shoulder pain for more than a few weeks should be evaluated, he said. Many times, physical therapy, medications, or cortisone injections can be helpful.

“When these options do not help patients, minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures can restore patients’ anatomy, allow for a better healing environment, and get people back to their lives pain free,” Dr. Herbenick said. The recovery time in rotator cuff repairs usually is three to six months. At times, with certain tears, it can take up to a year.

“Patients, like Penny, who are motivated to participate in physical therapy and follow post-operative rehabilitation protocols clearly do the best after surgery,” Dr. Herbenick said.

Wolff has been pleased with her ongoing care at Miami Valley Hospital South.

“With the continuum of care I received, it was a nice place to go, even through the pandemic,” she said. “The people are friendly, and the trainers are so much fun.”

Raised in a medical family, she respects those in the medical field and saw the mutual respect in her care.

“I have always felt total communication and transparency with the people who have worked with me,” Wolff said. “They don’t talk as if you don’t understand, they don’t talk down to you. They are respectful and always ask, ‘Do you have any questions? What is on your mind?’”

Wolff, who retired in 2015, is a full-time volunteer for several organizations. “I like to keep busy,” she said, adding she follows the motto on a sign next door to one of her sons’ home: “Keep Moving” – Albert Einstein.