Jennean Hallerman, Sports Medicine

A Woman and Her Horse

When it comes to specialty orthopedic care, two Northwest Hospital & Medical Center surgeons say experience counts. Dr. Kevin Smith and Dr. Caroline Chebli have much in common, including specialty training in shoulder and elbow orthopedics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. As leaders in their field, and colleagues at Northwest Hospital, they treat an array of shoulder and elbow problems ranging from chronic, degenerative conditions to acute traumatic injuries. And they think highly of each other.

"We are both good docs and we care about people," Dr. Smith says.

"As a surgeon, it's comforting to know that I have a knowledgeable counterpart somewhere else in the hospital," >Dr. Chebli adds. "People in the community can access top-notch shoulder and elbow care here, even if one of us is unavailable."

The expert care these two physicians provide is making a difference every day, helping people free themselves from immobility and pain and get back to doing the things they love to do. For a father and son and a mother of four, Dr. Chebli and Dr. Smith helped these patients return to riding - an activiy each says makes them feel alive.

People find it hard to believe Monroe resident Jennean Hallerman, 41, when she recounts the story of how a pack of Sugar Babies caused her to break her clavicle, or collar bone. In September 2009, while on a trail ride with a friend in Okanogan County, Jennean was taking in the wooded scenery on a casual walk atop her mustang Rio and munching the candies. When she quickened the horse's pace to a trot, the box of candies began to shake and she lost control of the horse.

"Mustangs scare easily and he thought the shaking candies were a rattlesnake," she says. "He got going pretty fast and I had to do an emergency dismount."

The horse was fine, but Jennean was not. She had broken her clavicle and was in shock. She rested for a while in a nearby town before returning home. When she arrived, she made an appointment with the first orthopedic surgeon available, something she says she now regrets.

"At the time, I was in so much pain. I went with the person who could get me in and do the surgery the quickest," she recalls. "But looking back on it, I would have done things differently. I would have done more research. I would have looked around and asked for high-quality references."

It wasn't long after her first surgery that the pain in her shoulder intensified significantly. At this point, Jennean was referred to Dr. Smith at The Bone & Joint Center of Seattle.

"She was having pain and limited function because the six screws she had put in were pulling out of the metal plate connecting the two broken ends of her clavicle," Dr. Smith says.

Jennean was concerned another surgery would mean more pain and time away from her children and horses. Dr. Smith admits that once a surgery fails, the second surgery can sometimes be more challenging. He assured Jennean that this time they would take the necessary precautions to improve her chances of success.

"Jennean always wants to go like gangbusters," Dr. Smith says. "But this time, I needed the support of her entire family to make sure she did the right things so she could eventually get back on her horse. We were all in it together."

"Having surgery again meant that I couldn't do the things I loved with my children," Jennean says. "And that I couldn't be with my horses, which is like therapy for me. I was doing something with them every day, whether it was riding or playing. I missed it so much and it was depressing."

Dr. Smith operated on Jennean this past February and is still making sure she doesn't overdo it today. In mid-June, Jennean was finally able to mount her mustang again, going on her first trail ride in more than ten months.

"It felt amazing," she says. "Being with my horses is a part of my life. During my injury, I would take a chair up into the pasture and just sit there with them. Eventually they would come close, stand over me and hang out. At the time, that made me feel better. Now it's nice to be able to ride again and enjoy something that I can do with my daughters."

Jennean, who has already referred people to Dr. Smith, admits she learned a tough lesson along the path to recovery.

"It's not one of those things where you can just go to any surgeon," Jennean says. "Take the time to find the best — and Dr. Smith is the best."