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Finally Living Pain Free

February 6, 2020 9:26 a.m.

  • Anita Burnett

Arthur woman is happy to be living without shoulder pain after a successful new treatment.

Anita Burnett is thankful for small, pain-free victories, like brushing her hair and reaching the dishes in her kitchen cabinets.

She credits Sarah Bush Lincoln Orthopedic Surgeon Jeremy Stevens, MD, for helping her regain the use of her left shoulder through a new surgical procedure called superior capsular reconstruction.

Anita had lived with severe shoulder pain and limited mobility for several years, yet she was hesitant to seek treatment— which she suspected would mean surgery— while she was still working. She had already taken an extended leave when she was struck with an infectious disease in December 2015. Tragically, that infection caused a blood clot that took her lower right leg; it almost claimed her life. “I’m just lucky to be here,” she said. 

After months of rehabilitation, the Arthur native was eager to return to her job as a customer service manager at the Mattoon Walmart. It was challenging enough to adjust to her new life with a prosthetic leg, so she ignored the pain in her shoulders for as long as she could. “I loved my job and I just dealt with the pain while I was working. I had already been out for illness and I wasn’t going to go through that anymore, so I just put it off,” she explained.


After retiring a year later, Anita decided to make an appointment with Dr. Stevens. While she experienced pain in both shoulders, the pain in her left shoulder was the most severe. Dr. Stevens ordered X-rays, an ultrasound and an MRI to fully evaluate her shoulders. The tear in her left shoulder was so large and retracted that it was not repairable by conventional methods. When cortisone shots no longer provided relief, Dr. Stevens recommended the promising new treatment for massive tears to reduce her pain and restore her shoulder function.

Anita had a high level of confidence in Dr. Stevens’ abilities, so she didn’t hesitate to try it. “Dr. Stevens is very patient, and he tells you exactly what’s going on. He has a very 

calm demeanor, so I felt strongly that I was in good hands,” she said.

Anita felt at ease from the minute she walked through SBL’s doors for surgery in October of 2018. During the outpatient procedure, Dr. Stevens replaced Anita’s tendon with an Arthrex ArthroFLEX® dermal allograft, which is multiple layers of human skin collagen compressed to make a very strong graft. The surgery is performed arthroscopically, by inserting a telescope-like camera and surgical instruments through small incisions. Anita is amazed by how quickly she healed after surgery. “I had very little pain and the surgery worked very well,” she said. 

Anita completed six weeks of physical therapy at the SBL Arthur Clinic. “The therapists were very knowledgeable. They were always kind of delicate with me because of my body situation [as an amputee], but they were very, very good,” she said.

Anita was diligent about completing— several times a day— the exercises that her physical therapists recommended, and she is certain that it made a big difference. “Dr. Stevens was even surprised by how quickly I was improving,” she said. “He told me I was doing wonderfully.”

Today, Anita is thankful to be pain-free and performing day-to-day tasks with ease. She enjoys getting together with friends, painting rocks and making jewelry in her retirement, though she misses the connections she made while working at Walmart for 16 years. “I had a hard time giving it up. I really loved it,” she said.

After suffering more than her share of medical adversity over the past few years, Anita has a newfound appreciation for life. She is grateful to friends and family, especially her husband, Barry, for helping her through all the challenges. “I’m in a good place and I’m at peace,” she said. “I’m enjoying life.” 

For more information or to make an appointment with any of the Sarah Bush Lincoln orthopedists, call 217 238-3435 for SBL Orthopedics & Sports Medicine or 217 342-3400 for the SBL Bonutti Clinic.


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