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Overcoming the Obstacles

When Jim Carrier ventured to a Navy SEAL base in Virginia Beach to join his military buddies on the base’s obstacle course, he looked forward to putting himself through the grueling regimen of obstacles and exercises. Having been made an honorary SEAL himself for his work honoring veterans, active duty military, and their families, Jim enjoyed following their lead by pushing himself to the limit.

But when he began to do a set of pushups and felt a searing pain rip through his shoulder, he realized his trip was about to come to a premature end.

“It felt like a torn piece of paper, and I tried to work through the pain and do some additional pushups,” Carrier says. “But pushups wouldn’t work after that.”

For a week, he returned to his day job as a partner in an equities investment firm, taking ibuprofen and waiting for the pain to subside. It didn’t. So he decided to visit Hospital for Special Surgery, near his office in Manhattan, to see what could be done. A short meeting with HSS orthopedic surgeon Struan H. Coleman, MD began with a brief interview in which Carrier described what he’d felt when it had happened.

“Three minutes later,” he says, “he’d diagnosed the problem, and it turned out he was 100% right.”

An MRI of Jim’s shoulder revealed two problems: a tear of the labrum surrounding the socket of the shoulder as well as impingement (forceful friction) of the rotator cuff by a bone spur. At that time, the decision was made to perform surgery to address both the torn labrum and the bone spur.

During the surgery, it was clear that Jim had experienced a traumatic event that caused his labrum to tear. “We were able to fix the labrum and, at the same time, shave down the bone spur,” Dr. Coleman explains. “Performing both of these procedures gives Jim the best chance for a full recovery.”

After his release from the Hospital, Carrier began his rehabilitation process, which included six weeks of healing and more passive movements of the shoulder. For an active guy like Jim, it was tough being sidelined. During this time, Carrier reached out to Coleman for advice along the way.

“He’s the kind of guy where, if you have a question about your recovery and you email him, he’ll respond as quickly as a friend would respond,” Carrier remarks. “It’s unheard of for a guy at his level of medicine to communicate like that.”

Jim Carrier climbing an obstacle course wallAs his rehabilitation progressed, Carrier noticed that he was bouncing back from his injury quicker than he’d ever thought possible. Returning to the Navy SEAL base eight months after surgery, he hit the physical training circuit and put his shoulder through all the motions, doing pushups, pull-ups, and even climbing the obstacle course wall.

"Mr. Carrier’s peak physical condition before and after surgery played a large part in his successful return to strenuous exercise," says Dr. Coleman, adding that motivation and discipline are critical in the rehabilitation process for every patient.

"The average patient can learn a lot from reading about patients like Jim,” Dr. Coleman explains, “because you can see that keeping a regular fitness or exercise routine is very helpful -- even if you should have an injury, it should help you recover better and faster."

For his part, Carrier is effusive in his praise for the role Dr. Coleman and HSS played in his recovery. "Hospital For Special Surgery is like the Special Forces of orthopedic surgery," he says, "and my experience with Dr. Coleman was a huge victory, to say the least."

Photo of Jim Carrier