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Jessica Bernstein

New Paltz, NY
  • Jessica Bernstein in the photo 1
  • Jessica Bernstein in the photo 2
  • Jessica Bernstein in the photo 3

An accident and injury to my left shoulder as a teen left me with severe arthritis and major rotator cuff arthropathy. Six previous arthroscopic rotator cuff and labrum repairs had only been temporary solutions; I struggled with weakness, pain and chronic re-injuries for over 30 years. Despite this ongoing discomfort, I lived a very active lifestyle, participating in a lot of sports and outdoor activities, including hiking, long-distance cycling, yoga, and my passion, skydiving. In 2014, after recovering from my final arthroscopic procedure, I participated in the Women's Skydiving World Record Formation in Perris, CA. A month after returning from that triumph, I fell while hiking, and tore my rotator cuff for the last time. I was in excruciating pain, and couldn't lift my arm past 90 degrees. My regular surgeon said that there was no rotator cuff left to repair, and referred me to HSS for a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement. After evaluating me, Dr. Gulotta said that although at 45 I was much younger than was ideal for the procedure, the severity of the injury and damage made it really the only option. He warned me that although I would definitely have less pain, I would likely lose quite a bit of range of motion, and my functioning might be impaired. I decided to go ahead with the surgery despite the risks, though I was afraid I'd never skydive again.

That was last April. In the 11 months since then, with a lot of hard work, and religious adherence to my PT routine, I have regained almost all of my strength, and much of my range of motion. Although I do occasionally have to adjust or adapt, as far as daily living goes, I have basically full and normal functioning of my left arm. Even better, I have virtually no pain. I can do everything I need to around the house, from shoveling snow to hauling 40 lbs. bags of wood pellets. I have returned to all of my normal activities, and can even do some things - like a side-arm balance in yoga - which I was never able to do prior to the replacement, with my injured shoulder. And finally, this past week, on a trip to Key West, I was able to return to the sky again; I was overjoyed to discover that I can still fly. Having my wings back means more to me than I can possibly express. I offer my profound thanks and gratitude to Dr. Gulotta, and the wonderful HSS team, who provided me with great care, for giving me back my life.