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Pamela’s story: Wrist surgery allows her to return to music

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“When I play, I feel like a whole person. For me, music is life,” says Pamela Nikodem.

Pamela, who’s in her early 50’s, has played violin and cello in an orchestra for more than 10 years and conducted a youth orchestra for six years.

So, when she injured her wrist in a fall in 2017, she was devastated.

“I could no longer move my wrist. I couldn’t twist it and definitely couldn’t hold a bow anymore,” she says.

It was the icing on the cake for Pamela. Three years earlier she had injured the same arm in a separate incident.

She had gone through several surgeries on her elbow and was still in the process of recovering when she fell in 2017.

“I thought I’d never play again,” she says. “I felt a lot of emptiness but thought ‘now there’s no way’ I have to somehow learn to let it go.”

“I couldn’t do a lot of things,” she says. I couldn’t curl my hair, put make up on easily, brushing my teeth was a challenge.”

She became somewhat ambidextrous, but even simple things like getting dressed, tying her shoes or putting her boots on proved difficult.

“It affected everything in my life, and it kept me awake at night,” she says.

Still, Pamela wanted to avoid surgery at all costs. She already had four surgeries on her elbow for the previous injury, and “couldn’t bear” to be put in a cast again, she says. She tried to deal with the pain on her own, hoping it would get better, but it didn’t.

Six months after her injury she saw Dr. Brian Klika, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.

Knowing her feelings about surgery, together they initially decided on a conservative treatment.

“A handful of patients actually can get better with injections and physical therapy,” says Klika. “It’s always our first option for patients. We try to avoid surgery if we can.”

For a while, the conservative method worked, says Pamela.

Until she re-enflamed the dormant injury while out to lunch with her daughters.

“I kept denying it was a problem because I didn’t want to have surgery,” she admits. “But when it popped, I couldn’t do it anymore.”

She went back to Dr. Klika who performed a minimally invasive outpatient procedure known as a wrist arthroscopy. With the scope, he was able to diagnose and repair her torn ligament with suture, he says.

"This was a necessary step to get her back to (playing),"says Klika. "A wrist scope is a minimally-invasive technique, so it's just a couple small incisions. I diagnosed the tear and fixed it that same day."

In January, Pamela accepted a new position as a children’s music instructor – her first step in getting back to music.

“I feel so much better. I can actually hold a bow now,” she says. “I feel like there’s life in me again.”

Both Dr. Klika and Pamela feel like with continued therapy and healing she’ll be back to her former self.

She wants to perform with an orchestra again.

"During her last visit, she was doing quite well," says Klika. "We hope to get her back to playing at the same level she was before her injuries. Her prognosis is excellent. The fact that she's doing this well after her surgery … the sky is the limit."

Published: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Author: Alysha Schertz