As an airline pilot who flies all over the world, Christopher James is used to traveling. So a drive from the Charlotte metro area to Winston-Salem was a no-brainer—especially considering it held the promise of the pain relief he had been seeking.

Two tendons in Christopher’s left shoulder rotator cuff were separated and a third was partially torn, and they would need to be tied together through a procedure known as superior capsule reconstruction (SCR). Though he knew surgery would be necessary, his big questions became “where?” and “who?” 

Christopher, a Mooresville resident, searched the Charlotte area for a surgeon that met the standards and qualifications he was looking for. None seemed to be right for his needs. 

“I wanted a second opinion,” says the 61-year-old. “So I asked my primary care physician for advice. He did some research and came up with Dr. Waterman.” 

According to Dr. Brian Waterman, an orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Health and the surgeon who operated on Christopher, injuries like the one Christopher had can be difficult to repair.

These days, the broader majority of rotator cuff tears can be addressed with SCR, the advanced surgical technique that was used on Christopher. Wake Forest Baptist Health has long been a leader in comprehensive shoulder care, including these surgeries. It serves as a referral center for the broader Mid-Atlantic region.

“Our sports medicine and upper extremity teams are leading the way in orthopaedic surgery,” says Dr. Waterman.

Christopher believes the experience was well worth the drive. “Dr. Waterman had great bedside manner and explained to me exactly what would need to be done,” he says. “There were no surprises, and everything went smoothly.”

Christopher’s expectations were met. Recovery, however, exceeded his expectations. Following his procedure, he only needed pain medication one day.

“I didn’t need more after that,” he says. “Recovery was better than I thought it would be. It was continual progress throughout physical therapy, and pretty soon I was pain free.”

Christopher says that his left shoulder now feels better than his “good shoulder.” “I have zero pain now,” he says.

Prior to the surgery, Christopher struggled with many daily tasks but powered through the pain. He says that, previously, even putting on his coat for work or accessing overhead switches in the plane were painful. Everyday activities like showering also proved difficult, he says.

“Every aspect of my life was impacted by the pain … but that means every aspect of my life was improved by the surgery,” says Christopher.

Christopher was steadfast in his recovery with physical therapy. The recovery for this procedure can last six to 12 months, but it’s well worth it says Dr. Waterman. “I have personally been involved in more than 75 SCR procedures and can honestly attest to the positive impact of this procedure on my patients and their quality of life.”

Christopher says he would recommend the procedure—under the expert care of Dr. Waterman—without hesitation. “I’m glad my physician discovered him, and I’m so glad I made the drive,” he says.