Colin getting a pioneering new lease on life
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.
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.