My Reverse Shoulder Replacement

To explain why I chose to undergo such an extreme procedure, you need to know the woeful tale of BOTH my shoulders…

In 2015, I began having pain in my RIGHT shoulder and went to Dr. Joel Gonzales at Orthopedic Associates who sent me for an MRI.  After viewing the scan, he told me my rotator cuff was completely torn and recommended corrective surgery.  Because of a daunting six-month recovery period (exacerbated by the fact I’m right-handed) and no guarantee of long-term relief, I opted to try physical therapy instead.  I went to Physio Pro and was helped by Nate Lilley, the owner, who is a multi-Certified Therapist and did an amazing job of healing me with an intense step-by-step regimen and lots of encouragement.  I faithfully completed all the follow-up exercises and eventually managed to build up enough muscle around my blown rotator cuff to compensate for it and “cheat” the problem.

To this day, knock on wood, I am free of pain and have full movement in my right shoulder.

I mention this because I want anybody with rotator cuff issues to know physical therapy really does work in many cases, it’s worth a try.  It also explains why I thought I could achieve the same results when my LEFT shoulder started giving me trouble…

But from the start my left shoulder was different!  The MRI showed it was impacting the tendon in my arm, which caused a severe radiating pain all the way down to my fingers, triggered crippling arthritis in my hand on top of the shoulder ache.  I was working on a number of remodels as an Interior Designer and I once again dreaded the idea of an operation; for the interruption in my schedule, as well as the risk that comes with any surgery.  However, this time the physical therapy failed miserably. The pain was only getting worse and worse, and more worryingly, so was my dependence on Advil and Vicodin.  It got to where I needed 8 to 12 pills just to get through the day.  It gave me a sad new understanding of the opioid epidemic we’re seeing these days.  (During this time, I also tried a topical Marijuana cream – which did help some, but not enough)  However, the biggest threat to my health were the nights.  No matter what, I could not get a decent night’s sleep.  Every morning I woke up dead tired, feeling like a zombie.  My work, and just my overall quality of life, suffered.  I could feel myself deteriorating fast.

Something drastic had to be done!

This time Dr. Gonzales sent me to Dr. Leslie Vidal, a renowned Orthopedic Surgeon who has helped a myriad of athletes with major impairments and has perfected this particular procedure, the reverse shoulder replacement.  I was told she was the best and that certainly proved to be true.   She has totally saved me from a life of agony and inability to perform so many of the things I love to do.  Not to mention a future of addiction, complicating health issues, etc.

I’m not going to lie, the first month or so after the surgery was not easy; but slowly, day by day, I worked my way back.  My son, Frank, was right there taking care of me through this difficult period.  He put up with my peevishness at not healing fast enough and my general impatience.  He helped me every step of the way, driving, shopping, cooking or getting take-out, putting me to bed at night…but made me laugh when he said “I draw the line at two things: I won’t put on your make-up or wipe your ass!”.  That kind of brought my sense of humor back and we started to really enjoy the downtime together, ended up watching a lot of old movies.  So yes, you do need someone to help you those first six weeks at least.  You cannot heal properly or function well alone.

Now I am back skiing and look forward to being able to swim this summer.  More importantly, I’m able to perform all the little everyday chores around the house you never even think about but which, it turns out, require a full working shoulder!  It is truly miraculous and I’m so grateful.

Please check out me showing off my “bionic” joint and its tell-tale dimple –

And here is a video I found that gives a more detailed explanation of the procedure:

The bottom line is nobody should have to live their life in pain!  That’s not life at all.  And it’s not something you have to accept with age either.  So…  Do what you need to do, get the help you require, and take the risk – it’s worth it!



  1. Margie Rivers says:

    I’m so glad your doing so well Kari! You look great! Can’t believe your in your 80’s! 💕

    1. Kari Mugavero says:

      Thanks Margie for checking out my blog and your nice comments!! As far as looking good I can certainly return the compliment. After all you’ve been through I just love seeing the recent pictures of you and Mike. It is a new day and you rock!!

  2. Christy Zarlengo says:

    So glad you are doing well, Kari. You guys always had the best sense of humor, probably helped!

    1. Kari Mugavero says:

      Oh Christy it is so nice to hear from you and that you are reading my blog! I always take note of your posts and actually signed up for your bee petition earlier. Keep staying in touch. I admire all that you have accomplished. Best!!

      1. Sharon Hall says:

        Hi Kari
        On April 6 I had a reverse shoulder replacement.. I’m 76 and a former bodybuilder.. it’s certainly a process to rehab this arm! I’m looking forward to full recovery
        Thanks so much for your blog

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