Colin get­ting a pi­o­neer­ing new lease on life

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Char­mayne Al­li­son

IF YOU counted the myr­iad ways you use your shoul­der ev­ery day, you could prob­a­bly fill a novel.

From lift­ing food to your mouth or ges­tur­ing dur­ing con­ver­sa­tion, to throw­ing a footy around or hold­ing a loved one close.

Now imag­ine los­ing those abil­i­ties in the blink of an eye.

Your arm glued per­ma­nently to your side, any small move­ment caus­ing bone to grind against bone, send­ing ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain through your body.

For 74-year-old Colin Dean, this was a daily re­al­ity.

Af­ter in­jur­ing his shoul­der in a work­place ac­ci­dent 12 months ago, Colin could barely lift his arm.

Sud­denly, his trea­sured pas­times – gar­den­ing, fish­ing, prospect­ing – were off the ta­ble, while sim­ply driv­ing the car could leave him in agony.

“I got the scan and it was pretty dras­tic. I’d torn the mus­cle right off the bone,” he said.

Strug­gling to work as a self­em­ployed car­pen­ter, des­per­ate to re­turn to how he was be­fore the ac­ci­dent, Colin stum­bled upon top or­thopaedic sur­geon Devin­der Gare­wal.

“A lady I know found Dr Devin­der on­line and the num­ber of peo­ple who wrote in and said what a great sur­geon he is was as­tound­ing,” he said.

Now, the day af­ter the surgery, Colin can’t stop singing the sur­geon’s praises. “This is ab­so­lute magic,” he said. “I haven’t been like this for yonks. I can al­ready move it a bit now and it feels so much bet­ter.

“It’s all thanks to new tech­nol­ogy and of course, Dr Devin­der.

“I’m pretty lucky to be a part of this Aus­tralia-first.”

QUICK, off the top of your head, your top 10 he­roes. Who are they?

While you work that out I’ll tell you one thing I know al­ready – Devin­der Gare­wal et al won’t make the cut.

Prob­a­bly be­cause you have no idea who he is, or they are.

Your list should be com­plete by now; hang on, don’t tell me; let me guess. Per­haps there’ll be an ac­tivist or two, cer­tainly a litany of sport greats or mu­si­cians or ac­tors. Maybe a close friend or fam­ily mem­ber.

Coura­geous and/or in­spir­ing; all of them. Tal­ented, ab­so­lutely.

But if I can stop you just a minute and re­phrase that ques­tion: How of­ten have you stopped to think about what peo­ple add to the equa­tion?

Such as the ones be­hind the hos­pi­tal mask, be­hind the MRI scan­ner (from the braini­acs who de­signed and built it to the ex­perts that op­er­ate it), be­hind that late-night phone call telling you the surgery was suc­cess­ful, he’s alive, she’s go­ing to be okay.

Some­times they are cel­e­brated – gifted an Or­der of Aus­tralia medal or, rarely, a No­bel.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, like to­day, fea­tured in the lo­cal rag. But, more of­ten than not, they melt into the back­ground, elud­ing the lime­light and swing­ing the fo­cus onto some­one else en­tirely. You. The pa­tient. Be­cause, in the end; that’s all that mat­ters. It’s what gets them out of bed be­fore the sun is up and keeps the pager beep­ing past the witch­ing hour.

The pure re­ward of see­ing eyes flicker open af­ter a coma. A heart pump­ing life through the pa­tient’s body af­ter a suc­cess­ful triple-by­pass. Or a grand­fa­ther hug­ging his grand­chil­dren af­ter a com­plex shoul­der re­place­ment.

For any­one who has been in an op­er­at­ing the­atre, or had some­one they loved in there, these are our he­roes.

They don’t nec­es­sar­ily win them all; they are, af­ter all, hu­man.

But the re­searchers, the en­gi­neers, the sur­geons, nurses and anaes­thetists who do ev­ery­thing in their power to keep us – or our loved ones – alive and able to re­cover. They’re the names branded onto our hearts. The names mak­ing our top 10s. Names such as Devin­der Gare­wal. You still don’t know who he is but Rush­worth’s Colin Dean does.

To him the Mel­bourne or­thopaedic sur­geon is the man who has given him back a large part of his life; end­ing chronic pain, lack of sleep, and worst of all, the in­abil­ity to even give his grand­chil­dren a big hug.

Be­cause this is the man who has, for Colin and count­less oth­ers; re­stored a qual­ity of life they thought had gone for­ever.

Devin­der is in the busi­ness of chang­ing lives, one arm at a time.

He is the founder of Mel­bourne Arm Clinic – a world-class or­thopaedic up­per limb clinic treat­ing shoul­ders, el­bows, wrists and hands.

Treat­ing ev­ery­one from high pro­file ath­letes and elite foot­ballers to lo­cals such as Colin.

But Devin­der’s el­e­va­tion to the very high pedestal on which so many of his patients have in­stalled him be­gan two decades back when a fresh-faced med­i­cal stu­dent be­gan study­ing at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne.

Com­plet­ing place­ments at hos­pi­tals across the state through­out his fiveyear de­gree, it wasn’t long be­fore Devin­der re­alised his des­tiny – or­thopaedics.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to be a doc­tor be­cause I re­ally en­joy pa­tient re­la­tion­ships,” he said.

“But I love or­thopaedics be­cause I can ac­tu­ally make a real, tan­gi­ble change.

“I’m a per­son who is very black and white, very sci­en­tific and I re­ally en­joy that I can see some­one who’s in a lot of pain, who can’t ac­tu­ally use their arm – and I can make them bet­ter.

“But in a kind of me­thod­i­cal man­ner, by fix­ing them cor­rectly and get­ting them into re­hab ap­pro­pri­ately. “It gives me a lot of plea­sure.” Af­ter com­plet­ing spe­cialty train­ing in Vic­to­ria, Devin­der took on fel­low­ships sub-spe­cial­is­ing in shoul­der surgery and up­per limb trauma.

Work­ing as an or­thopaedic trauma fel­low at the Austin Hos­pi­tal in Mel­bourne, he then com­pleted 12 months of in­ter­na­tional fel­low­ships with the cre`me de la cre`me of or­thopaedic units in France, Italy and the UK.

Hon­ing al­ready ra­zor-sharp skills in or­thopaedic di­ag­no­sis, arthro­scopic, key­hole, min­i­mally in­va­sive and com­puter nav­i­gated sur­gi­cal man­age­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tech­niques.

If it’s re­lated to the shoul­der, he’s prob­a­bly done it.

And has re­turned to Aus­tralia flush with new tech­niques, in­clud­ing Thurs­day’s ground-break­ing, Aus­tralia-first shoul­der re­place­ment surgery.

But blessed (and oc­ca­sion­ally cursed) with an in­quis­i­tive mind, Devin­der’s not con­tent to sit idle.

He’s al­ready on the look-out for the next or­thopaedic game-changer.

“From here, we need to con­tinue evolv­ing the tech­nol­ogy to fur­ther our ac­cu­racy and the amount of bone we re­move when we do our surgery,” he said.

“So if we can get the stem of a pros­the­sis to be shorter and con­serve even more bone but still be sta­ble, we can look at chang­ing the im­plants and what we use.

“And tech­nol­ogy can also im­prove in terms of sur­faces we use, to im­prove the longevity of the pros­the­sis.

“So we’ve al­ready im­proved the tech­nol­ogy with the im­plant used for this surgery.

“This plas­tic has been ra­di­ated to make sure it lasts for many cy­cles so you can ac­tu­ally rub and use this a lot of times with­out too much wear of the plas­tic.”

But in the mean­time, Devin­der will con­tinue to fo­cus on what mat­ters to him most – a pos­i­tive out­come for his patients.

Even now, his face lights up as he plays a video of one of his patients lift­ing their arm and gen­tly swing­ing it around cour­tesy of Devin­der’s hand.

This pa­tient was a truck driver and young grand­fa­ther who, be­fore the surgery, couldn’t carry his grand­daugh­ter and strug­gled to work or even brush his teeth.

“Now, fi­nally, he can lift his grand­daugh­ter up again, pain-free,” Devin­der said.

“To see that I can change some­one’s life and help them to be com­fort­able and have im­proved func­tion gives me a lot of job sat­is­fac­tion and re­ally mo­ti­vates me to im­prove my sur­gi­cal tech­niques.

“I want to make sure out­comes al­ways get bet­ter and bet­ter for patients into the fu­ture.

“This is what spurs me on. This is what gives me a lot of hope that what we’re do­ing here is worth­while.”

SO FAR, SO GOOD: Devin­der Gare­wal and Colin Dean af­ter the Aus­tralian-first shoul­der op­er­a­tion at Echuca Re­gional Health.

Photo: Lach­lan Durl­ing

LIFT: Devin­der Gare­wal, Bruce Flem­ing and Luke Bren­nan (above) pre­pare to lift Colin Dean off the sur­gi­cal ta­ble. The nav­i­ga­tor soft­ware shows green (left) the ar­eas lined up with the CT scan. Devin­der used it to guide drills and screws.

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