To look at Harry Podvia hunt, fish, and till his garden with a motorized tiller, one would never know he has two artificial shoulders. However, with his two replacement joints (in addition to an artificial knee), Podvia says, boldly, "There is nothing I can't do."
Podvia's shoulder pain started back in 1990 when arthritis crept into his left shoulder. It started as an annoyance, an ache that would trouble him and keep him awake. He would toss and turn every night, getting only a few hours of quality sleep. Podvia, a retired fertilizer, pesticide and chemical salesman from Belle Vernon, PA, soon found that the pain kept getting worse.
The quality of life that he had previously enjoyed—home gardening, fishing, hunting, golf, and many other outdoors activities—quickly deteriorated as his shoulders' arthritis progressed. Soon, Podvia found himself in extreme pain, unable to garden without help or even apply deodorant or shave on his own.
Podvia began shopping for an orthopedic surgeon to fix his ailing shoulder. He visited four surgeons in and around Pittsburgh, and all diagnosed him with severe arthritis in his left shoulder (and soon to be his right). All recommended that he have a total shoulder replacement. When Podvia asked each one how many shoulder replacements each does per year, however, he was quickly disappointed. "One surgeon said, 'Well, I do about two replacements a year,'" Podvia says. "I said, 'Whoah, that's great,' and marched right out of there."
Finally, Podvia visited this month's Shoulder Care Hero, Dr. Jon Warner, who came highly recommended by Podvia's knee-replacement surgeon. "Dr. Warner took X-Rays and all sorts of tests, and looked at (my shoulder) all over and said, 'I think I can help you," Podvia says. He agreed to the surgery right away, and by mid-afternoon on June 17, 1996, he had a new shoulder, complete with metal and plastic parts.
While on the mend from his left shoulder replacement, Podvia began thinking about his right shoulder. As a fisherman, hunter, and gardener who was right hand-dominant, he came to the conclusion that his right shoulder could use an overhaul. "I thought about it and thought about it, and the left one was so good, I decided it was time to do the right [shoulder]," Podvia says.
On October 21, 1997, just over a year later, Podvia returned to Dr. Warner to have his right shoulder replaced. He graced through his recovery with ease, he says—following the physical therapists' instructions to a T. He performed many exercises at home that his therapist had recommended, and saw his quality of life come back. He could once again shave, comb his hair, apply deodorant. He again had autonomy over his morning routine.
Soon, the active life that he had known previously returned. He could fire a 20 gauge semi-automatic Beretta rifle. He could cast with ease when he went fishing in Florida every day during the winter. He could pull the starter cord for his roto-tiller, blower, and lawnmower, and start each one within the first few pulls.
Podvia says his golf game, which he admits is low on his list of priorities, has improved drastically—beyond his ability previous to the shoulder pain, when he was a double-bogey golfer, he laughs. While golfing last winter in Florida, Podvia warned his golfing buddies that he was a terrible golfer with two artificial shoulders prior to teeing off. When he hit par on the first two holes, his foursome must have thought he was kidding.
Now, with his replacement shoulders three and four years old, respectively, Podvia shows no signs of slowing down. This season alone, he has bagged between 50 and 60 pheasants, two turkeys, "and deer season's just coming," he laughs. On the day previous to his interview with Shoulder1, Podvia pounded nails with a hammer for half a day for a tree house he is building.
Podvia says he understands patients may be nervous or intimidated by the prospect of a total shoulder replacement, and has three words of advice: "Get it done." If he has one other piece of advice, he says, it is to visit Dr. Warner for the procedure.