When a HealthAlliance Hospital pharmacist unexpectedly injured his shoulder, he knew exactly where to go.
By Richard Klin
For weekend warrior Christian Harmuth, a routine play brought a dramatic end to a softball game at Kingston Point Park in July 2017. An avid golfer and hiker, Harmuth fielded a ball, threw it in, “immediately heard a loud pop” and couldn’t lift his arm.
While the injury was unexpected, his first stop was not. He headed immediately to the Emergency Department at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), where he worked as a pharmacist at the time.
While “it was strange to experience it from the patient’s perspective,” Harmuth was impressed with the swiftness of care. “After only waiting 10 minutes, I was taken to Fast Track (where non-life threatening injuries are treated), and cared for almost immediately,” he recalls. “The emergency staff did a great job explaining everything they were doing and the tests I was having done.” Harmuth was in and out in about 90 minutes.
The Emergency Department referred Harmuth for an orthopedic consultation. When an MRI confirmed a torn labrum and bicep tendon, Harmuth consulted with Stephen Maurer, MD, Chairman of Surgery and Medical Director of Orthopedics at HealthAlliance.
Dr. Maurer specializes in sports medicine and injuries to the shoulder —expertise honed through his experience as an assistant team physician to Los Angeles sports teams, including the Dodgers, Lakers and Kings.
Harmuth felt especially comfortable with Dr. Maurer; he had turned to him a decade earlier for surgery of a torn rotator cuff and labrum in the same shoulder. Dr. Maurer and Harmuth agreed to begin with the least-invasive option, physical therapy.
For two months, Harmuth had therapy at HealthAlliance. While the treatment did help quite a bit, ultimately it could not resolve the injury.
When they decided to move forward with surgery, Dr. Maurer presented the least-invasive procedure. “Certain things can be operated on arthroscopically,” says Dr. Maurer, “but in this case, the ideal approach was a hybrid — arthroscopic for the labral repair and open surgery for the bicep tendon portion of the procedure.”
Dr. Maurer shared his plan, thoroughly reviewing how long surgery would take, how he’d repair the injuries and recovery time. This open line of communication highlights Dr. Maurer’s approach. “I want to be sure that the patient is onboard and comfortable with the plan, and I wait to operate until I know this,” he says.
Relief was a priority for Harmuth, but there was one glitch – albeit a positive one: He was about to get married. So, following a January wedding and a honeymoon, Harmuth had the surgery.
Again, communication was key to the patient experience. Dr. Maurer reviewed the surgery plan, as well as post-operative instructions. In addition, “the nurses were great with keeping my wife up to date and even offered to call her once I was out of surgery so she didn’t have to sit in the waiting room.”
Harmuth continues to make progress each day with a regimen of outpatient intensive physical therapy at HealthAlliance and a dose of patience. “At first I thought I’d never recover, but then I started to see visible progress after each visit and began to really enjoy it. I almost have full range of motion back and have started resistance training at physical therapy,” says Harmuth, who hopes to complete therapy this summer.
Citing the complete care available at HealthAlliance, Dr. Maurer notes “the physical therapy component is as important as the surgical. It’s an integral part of treatment. At HealthAlliance, both disciplines work together to achieve the best outcome.”
Orthopedic Services at WMCHealth
Westchester Medical Center 914.789.2700
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital 914.789.2700
MidHudson Regional Hospital 845.431.8274
Good Samaritan Hospital 845.368.5884
St. Anthony Community Hospital 845.987.5400
HealthAlliance Hospitals 845.334.3130
Photos By John Halpern