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Stephanie Soter

Danbury, CT
  • Stephanie Soter in the photo 1
  • Stephanie Soter in the photo 2

I first met with Dr. Kelly after a local orthopedist ordered an MRI and diagnosed me with a labral tear and hip impingement. That doctor told me I should go to NYC to find a surgeon that not only specializes in arthroscopic hip surgery but also does a lot of them. He didn’t have a name for me, but a quick internet search told me Dr. Kelly is the one to see. Almost a year later, I was ready for Dr. Kelly to scope my hips. First the left, followed 4 months later with the right. Labral tears can refer pain in different places and one of them is the sacroiliac joint (SIJ), where the pelvis joins the spine. According to Dr. Kelly, most patients with SIJ pain will find it resolves after the hips are corrected. Apparently, I am not one to follow the masses. After 4 months of PT, new MRIs, guided injections and rheumatological evaluations, my SIJ pain was worse than ever and my quality of life was extremely low. Dr. Kelly suggested I consider fusion surgery, but I wasn’t ready to hear that more surgery was the answer. A month later, after meeting with a local spine surgeon who also recommended fusion, I spoke to Dr. Kelly. I told him I was ready, but I needed help finding/deciding on a surgeon because I would prefer to find the “Dr. Kelly” of SIJ fusions. He suggested Dr. Helfet, a trauma surgeon "who knows more about the pelvis than anyone in the world."

I met with Dr. Helfet on a Monday and was in his OR on Wednesday for fixation (not the more invasive fusion) of my right SIJ. Immediately upon waking in the recovery room, I could tell something was different for the better. My SIJ pain went from a constant 8 to ranging from 1-3. Six months later I met with Dr. Helfet to discuss fixating the left side. I had had issues with both SIJs for years, but since the left hip scope, the left SIJ had not been too painful, but that had changed. Dr. Helfet ordered a different set of X-rays and we decided to fuse my pubis symphysis joint (where the pelvis joins in the front) during the same surgery as the left SIJ fixation. By the time Dr. Helfet cleared me to fully weight bear, I knew without a doubt that we made the right decision. It took about 6 more months of PT to retrain my hip muscles after years of them compensating for instability from the labral tears and dysfunctional SI joints, but now my hips and pelvis are virtually pain free.

I spent a fair amount of time on crutches after each surgery and each time my left shoulder got very sore but resolved once I got off crutches. After the 4th surgery, my shoulder kept getting worse instead of improving. A local orthopedist ordered an MRI for me, but I opted to have it done at the new HSS Westchester facility. I was having trouble getting a follow up appointment locally, so I booked an appointment with Dr. Gulotta, an HSS shoulder surgeon, and had him give me the results of the MRI. I was fully expecting Dr. Gulotta to tell me I had tendinitis from all the crutch time and I just needed to have some patience for it to resolve. I was not expecting Dr. Gulotta to tell me I had a full rotator cuff tear which needed surgery. Three weeks later, my shoulder was repaired. Naturally I had some bumps during recovery, but Dr. Gulotta and his PA, Daniela, were outstanding in all they did to quickly get me back on track.

I have to give equal credit to my PT, Stash Rutkowski at Performance PT in Westport, CT. He’s worked with Dr. Kelly for many years and has extensive knowledge in hip rehab. My surgeons got me structurally sound and reduced my pain, but Stash is the one who got me into the pain free zone. Between pre-hab and rehab for 5 surgeries I spent over 26 months in PT; 15 months and the last 3 surgeries were with Stash. My first two PTs ran out of ideas and essentially gave up on me.

My friends and family tease me that HSS should stand for Hospital for Stephanie’s Surgeries, but hopefully I am done with orthopedic surgeries for a long, long time. I could write a book about how kind and caring each HSS person I encountered was. I have many thanks to everyone from the parking attendants who still noticed I had a new car when I hadn’t been there in 6 months to all the nurses that had to restart my IVs in the middle of the night and everyone in between. I am beyond grateful for my incredibly talented surgeons and their extremely compassionate teams (especially Eilish O'Sullivan, Dante Reyes and Eileen McGrew) that always responded to my often emotional concerns, no matter what.

Thank you HSS for getting me back into the game.