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For years, Chesterfield County Sheriff J.D. Dixon began each day with debilitating
shoulder pain that disrupted his sleep and limited his mobility. His condition
worsened to the point that simple tasks proved impossible, such as reaching his
arm back to pull on his coat.
“My injury took place over the course of a few years,” said Sheriff Dixon. “I cannot pinpoint exactly when it happened, but I do think that it resulted from all of the sports I have played throughout my life.”
Sheriff Dixon knew that he needed to have his shoulder checked out, but he continued to postpone the inevitable.
However, fate brought him to an orthopedic office with his daughter, Jasmine, after she incurred a softball injury at school.
Amanda Ozolins, the McLeod Athletic Trainer for Cheraw High School, arranged an appointment for Jasmine with McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Thomas DiStefano, a local physician she strongly recommends for athletic injuries. Sheriff Dixon accompanied his daughter on her visit.
“I have to give Amanda credit for connecting us with an excellent orthopedic surgeon,” said Sheriff Dixon. “Dr. DiStefano’s caring and patient demeanor toward my daughter during her visit won me over, so I decided to speak up about my shoulder before we left.”
Sheriff Dixon left the orthopedic office that day with a new patient appointment, as well as a solution to his pain.
In the middle of an election campaign, Sheriff Dixon held off his appointment with Dr. DiStefano for another six months.
In September of 2018, he returned to McLeod Orthopaedics Cheraw for his appointment. After a physical examination, Dr. DiStefano sent Sheriff Dixon across the street to McLeod Health Cheraw for an MRI. The results confirmed the doctor’s suspicion -- Sheriff Dixon had a complete rotator cuff tear.
“As we get older, the rotator cuff thins out, which can lead to a partial or complete tear. After 45 years of age and older, rotator cuff injuries become more common,” explained Dr. DiStefano. “Most patients with this injury report the same symptoms as Sheriff Dixon, namely pain on the outside of the shoulder that radiates down to the elbow, difficulty lifting their arms above shoulder height or inability sleeping on their side.
“Patients usually decide to see an orthopedic specialist once the pain interrupts their sleep.”
Dr. DiStefano explained that with most cases, orthopedic specialists first try conservative treatments involving medication and physical therapy before recommending surgery. “However, my shoulder showed extensive damage that had taken place over time. Surgery was really the only option for relief at this point,” explained Sheriff Dixon.
“I am a big, tough guy, but I admit in the days leading up to surgery my nerves were shot. Knowing I needed the surgery did little to reduce my anxiety,” said Sheriff Dixon. “Fortunately, Dr. DiStefano gave me his personal cell phone number if I had any questions, and I know I put it to good use. No matter how many questions I had for him, he always called or texted me back promptly and assured me that everything would be fine.”
Sheriff Dixon underwent arthro scopy surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff in November 2018 at McLeod Health Cheraw. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that involves a tiny camera called an arthroscope.
The arthroscope is inserted through a small incision in the skin and is connected to a video monitor in the operating room allowing the orthopedic surgeon to examine the tissues inside and around the shoulder joint. The amount of stiffness a patient experiences and the amount of muscle pulled away is significantly less with arthroscopic surgery.
“Through every step of this journey, Dr. DiStefano gave me the tools that I needed for success and stayed in contact with me, which I greatly appreciated,” said Sheriff Dixon. Information and communication are critical to healing and recovery.
According to Sheriff Dixon, Dr. DiStefano also lined him up with a physical therapist for two months following his surgery. “However, I progressed so well, I went back to work early before I even finished all of my therapy sessions. It’s been ten months since my surgery, and I feel better now than I have in years.
“I have recommended Dr. DiStefano to at least six of my friends already, and I will continue to share my story with whoever will listen.”