Dennis Schermerhorn

Surf’s up for this recovering shoulder surgery patient!

Think about surfing, and Wisconsin waters probably do not come to mind. But Dennis Schermerhorn, of Sturgeon Bay, said he is actually one of many people who surf Lake Michigan.

While he loves surfing and other sports, he also associates them (as well as work-related activities over the years) with his badly torn rotator cuffs. He had shoulder surgery (on his right side) by Dr. Steven Davis, an orthopedic surgeon, in September 2007 at Door County Memorial Hospital/Ministry Health Care.

He was pursuing his beloved sport when the need for surgery on the left side in September 2009 became apparent. “I was surfing and made the final tear in my shoulder which was extremely painful. And I knew I had to do something,” said Schermerhorn, 55.

What he did was see Dr. Davis—again. For Schermerhorn, the decision to return to Davis was easy. He mentioned that he’s very impressed with the doctor and delighted with the care he received from DCMH/MHC’s nurses, surgery team and Rehab Services. Today, he is able to move with ease, lift items over his head and pursue sports.

“It was the best surgical experience, and I not only had it once but I had it done twice (both shoulders)” he said. “I can surf and ski. I can do things pain-free. Everything,” said Schermerhorn, who recommends Davis to other people in need of shoulder surgery. Schermerhorn initially was referred to Davis by his primary care physician, Dr. Phillip Arnold of North Shore Medical Clinic.

“Everybody thinks when they hear rotator cuff surgery that they have to go to Green Bay, but we have one of the ‘big guns’ in the area here—Dr. Davis,” Schermerhorn said.

Schermerhorn said Davis performed two different types of surgeries on his shoulders: the right side was a mini-open repair with arthroscopy. The surgeon makes an incision smaller than that in an open repair and also uses arthroscopy to see the tear and assess and treat damages within the joint, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

The second and most recent procedure in September was an arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff on the left side. This technique uses multiple small incisions and arthroscopic technology to visualize and repair the rotator cuff, AAOS explained.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the ball of the shoulder joint. The muscles provide rotation, elevate the arm and give stability to the shoulder joint. Pain, loss of motion and weakness may occur when one of the rotator cuff tendons tear; the tendons generally tear off at their insertion onto the humeral head or ball of the shoulder joint, AAOS said.

“I had a final tear from the ball, and that’s what did it on the left side. And it put me in the last level—the last bit of muscle tissue was being torn,” Schermerhorn said of his left shoulder.

He said the recovery time was about the same as his first procedure, but there was less pain associated with the most recent arthroscopic surgery.

“Dr. Davis is extremely competent and concerned about making things right.

He is clear and he doesn’t try to do what he can’t do. He felt comfortable doing the surgery, and I said, ‘let’s go with it,’” Schermerhorm said.

“And the other thing is the great care I got from Door County Memorial—from the nursing staff to surgical staff. And another good aspect is the physical rehab”. Rehab Services therapists discern their patients’ goals. For people recovering from shoulder surgery, for example, the priorities are usually regaining full range of motion and decreasing pain, according to Bill Herbst, physical therapist and athletic trainer. “And after that, we work on strengthening the shoulder and getting them back to specific functional activities that they want to perform in their job and in the house. And if they are involved in activities—whether it’s golf or basketball or tennis--we focus on what they need to do to participate,” Herbst said.

In early sessions, patients may be laying down as therapists stretch their shoulders. Later, patients may work on pulleys or other machines that help them to develop a range of motion with the arm. Eventually, in a strengthening phase, resistance bands, weighted pulleys or dumbbells are employed. “We supervise them and help them progress when it’s appropriate and make corrections if their technique is incorrect and give them feedback,” Herbst said.

Schermerhorn said he saw the staff at Rehab Services twice a week for about five weeks. He worked to stretch resistance bands with his arms overhead and progressed to lifting free weights over his head. “You are trying to build muscle strength back up. The left side is taking longer, because of the nature of the tear. Dr. Davis told me it was the worst he ever did surgery on,” Schermerhorn said. ”And my right shoulder is that of a 25-year-old. It was a great experience, an overall great experience.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Steven Davis, orthopedic surgeon, call North Shore Medical Clinic, 800/522-8919 or 920/746-0510 or visit


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