Surgery #1 – Left Scapulothoracic Bursectomy with Partial Scapulectomy for Snapping Scapula and Scapulothoracic Bursitis
Surgery #2 – Left Shoulder Arthroscopy, Debridement, Subacromial Decompression, Capsular Release, Distal Clavicle Excision, Biceps Tenodesis, Platelet Rich Plasma Injection for Frozen Shoulder with Biceps Tendonitis and AC Joint Arthritis
Four long years full of doctors, therapists, surgeries and disappointment
Imagine being an active 16-year-old, enjoying swimming competitively on both club and high school teams. Weekend activities include paddle boarding, barre and yoga, but suddenly, you are unable to move your arm or elbow above shoulder height.
This happened to Mara Harouse, and the four long years that followed were full of doctors, therapists, surgeries and disappointment.
Her first shoulder surgery was a result of swimming so vigorously that she tore her shoulder labrum. A year after, she injured the same shoulder getting off a paddle board in Tampa Bay when the tide forced her to do a full body push up to get off the board and onto the dock safely. A second shoulder repair was the beginning of her long and uncertain journey.
“I had the second shoulder surgery in 2018,” Mara explained. “During the recovery, I knew something was not healing properly; I could feel it during physical therapy.” Later that year, her original surgeon told Mara her shoulder was frozen. This type of condition does not normally affect 18-year-olds. After 6 months of physical therapy, Mara’s shoulder was still frozen and she was experiencing a new problem, a snapping scapula. Mara’s original orthopedic doctor diagnosed her with significant scapulothoracic bursitis and snapping scapula with a persistent frozen shoulder.
Mara’s mother Suzy was determined to help her daughter find the right treatment for her shoulder. “She’s young and should be enjoying school and activities.” Suzy said. By this time, a few years had passed without a resolution. They saw some additional specialists who were unable to help.
Mara was advised Mara to do “sleeper stretches” and core strengthening. “My daughter was a young, healthy, 19-year-old at this point, and no one could offer help!” Suzy said. “Ridiculous!” Mara felt as if several doctors thought her shoulder condition was in her head. “I couldn’t understand how ‘working on my core’ was going to help my shoulder!” Mara was still in pain and still couldn’t lift her arm above shoulder height.
Disappointed, they went back home to their original surgeon. “I did everything,” Mara said. “I’d had multiple surgeries, shoulder injections, a year of physical therapy and I’d seen over a dozen doctors. Nothing helped!”
With nothing left to lose, Mara followed the recommendation of a local doctor and visited Dr. Millett in Vail
Finally, her doctor at home suggested an Orthopaedic colleague in Vail, Colorado who specialized in shoulder surgery at The Steadman Clinic. At this point, Mara was 20 years old and attending college but she was feeling a bit hopeless. Suzy, still determined to see her daughter recover from this shoulder condition, called and made an appointment with Dr. Peter Millett. “We had extremely low expectations,” she admitted, “but I thought, at this point, what did we have to lose?” They then traveled to Vail, Colorado to The Steadman Clinic to see Dr. Millett.
Mara said, “We had talked to Dr. Millett and his staff beforehand. The day of the appointment, Dr. Millett did the exam, looked at all of my films, and then talked to me.” Her tone of voice expressed her amazement. “He listened to me!” Mara relates. “He took the time, like I was his only patient that day, and he heard me!” After her exam, Dr. Millett left the room and Mara and Suzy looked at each other, shrugging. “We didn’t want to get our hopes up,” Mara said. “We just thought, ‘well, we hope this isn’t another wasted trip.’”
Dr. Millett concluded that Mara had developed scapulothoracic bursitis snapping scapula as well as left shoulder stiffness (frozen shoulder). She had undergone multiple surgeries back home prior to her trip to The Steadman Clinic and hadn’t had much improvement. After careful discussion with Mara, a thorough history and exam, review of her studies, Dr. Millett had good news for Mara and Suzy.
“Doctor Millett walked back in the exam room and said: “Yes, I can fix this.” Mara and Suzy continued, “You can’t imagine the relief, joy and hope we suddenly had! It had been four years of being told my condition wasn’t fixable and suddenly someone could help!” They felt like they had experienced a miracle.
Doctor Millett explained to them that Mara had two separate shoulder issues that would require two separate operations. Twelve days later, after a quick trip home, they returned to Vail, Colorado for surgery #1.
The first surgery was to address her snapping scapula and scapulothoracic bursitis. The second surgery was to address her shoulder stiffness from her previous surgeries.
When Mara woke up in the recovery room, she knew right away that her shoulder felt different
“I knew immediately that Dr. Millett had fixed it!” She began physical therapy the same day and has continued her post-surgical protocols. “Mara knows she needs to do her part in physical therapy and is completely willing to do whatever they tell her to do,” her mom said. “We are staying right here in Colorado,” Suzy continued. “No way are we going to do one thing wrong with physical therapy that could mess this up for her again after all she’s been through.”
Mara had the second surgery and did even better, recovering fully in due course! Suzy discussed her complete trust in Dr. Millett’s team. “Every single person on Dr. Millett’s team has been fantastic! From the PA to the PT, to the front office staff, and the concierge; they all work as a team and do a fantastic job.” Mara also shared that Dr. Millett spoke with her PT often, to assess her progress, change up her protocol, and to ensure her recovery was on track. “I’d never had a doctor follow-up with my PT,” she said. “He and his team are visible; they check on me, and they care about my recovery. I’ve never had that happen before.” Dr. Millett was on call, even during the night, if needed. Fortunately, the nurses didn’t need to call him, but the added layer of thoughtfulness and professionalism impressed Suzy and Mara.
This experience and having the care from Dr. Millett and his team has changed Mara in more ways than just having a functional shoulder again. “Dr. Millett has inspired me to become a better person,” she explained. “I now want to go into the medical field and most definitely the Orthopaedic field. I want to be able to help people like me, the way Dr. Millett did.”
Suzy will forever be grateful to Dr. Millett and his team for giving Mara her life back. She jokes that Dr. Millett is so talented he could even put Humpty Dumpty back together again and he would be 100% functional!
- Snapping scapula syndrome and scapulothoracic bursitis are rare conditions caused by bursal inflammation and scarring between the shoulder blade (scapula) and ribs (thorax). They occur infrequently and can easily be misdiagnosed. A frozen shoulder occurs when the joint capsule of the shoulder becomes thickened and scars and restricts motion at the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. Although rare, snapping scapula syndrome and scapulothoracic bursitis do sometimes occur in conjunction with a frozen shoulder due to overload of the scapulothoracic articulation from loss of motion at the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.