Donor tissue graft helps grandfather regain use of arm

Tom Campbell | Tissue recipient

Tom Campbell was looking forward to enjoying retirement and being active with his six grandchildren — but initially, fate had other plans. A slip on the ice aggravated a decade-old shoulder injury.

Tom Campbell with grandchildThis time, it was much worse than before. Tom was unable to lift his dominant arm. “I tore all four rotator cuff muscles and ruptured my bicep,” he said. “I couldn’t lift my grandkids or play with them. I couldn’t play golf or baseball — any activity where you would need to use both arms.”

Tom regained the use of his right arm through a procedure called superior capsule reconstruction, which uses donor tissue to connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket. After a successful surgery, he was immobilized for 13 weeks before he could move again.

“It was like a breath of fresh air,” he said. “I lifted my arm up to put deodorant on. I didn’t have to use my other arm to lift it. It felt good. I know that may sound strange, but it’s the little things like that, the ones you take for granted.”

More importantly, Tom is back to being the grandfather he envisioned himself being when his retirement began. He can play catch and get back to enjoying Lake Michigan, where he lives.

Tom is grateful for his donor and their family. He credits their unselfish act for giving him his life back. He also has a simple message he’d like to share with others about the importance of becoming a donor: “Sign up,” he said. “Make someone’s life better!”