Firefighter Donny Fletcher was bending down to lift a patient at a 2009 fire call when he felt pain shoot down his left arm.
Donny, a Mayo resident who serves as battalion chief for the Prince George’s County Fire Department, knew something was wrong. But he finished the call and headed back to the firehouse, where he popped a few Tylenol and tried to tough the injury out.
But the next day, as his neck stiffened up, he knew he needed medical attention.
And Donny knew exactly where he wanted to go for treatment.
The former high school football player had several knee injuries as a teenager when he played for Archbishop Spalding High School. Peter Ove, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Anne Arundel Medical Center Orthopedics, took care of him then.
It was the beginning of a long-term relationship between Anne Arundel Medical Center and Donny, now 31, who says the care he’s received at AAMC “is second to none.”
After visiting the Emergency Department, and learning he had two slipped discs in his neck, Donny saw Alex Speciale, MD, orthopedic surgeon, to begin treatment. Speciale guided him through the rehabilitation process, which included strength exercises, stem work, heat therapy and other activities.
Some of that physical therapy continues to this day, but Donny was back doing the job he loves within a month.
But that wasn’t the last time an injury sent him to AAMC Orthopedics.
Four years later, Donny was at the scene of an apartment fire when he was injured again while handling tools. He felt a tightening across his shoulder and the next day, it was difficult for him to move his arm.
When an MRI didn’t detect any damage to his shoulder, Daniel Redziniak, MD, orthopedic surgeon, ordered an arthrogram – a test that gives high definition images with contrast.
The test detected a full labral tear.
“This is why I like AAMC,” Donny says. “I was kind of stunned when the MRI didn’t show anything – deep down, I knew something was wrong.”
He immediately began non-operative treatment, and struck a deal with Dr. Redziniak. He would keep going to rehab, as long as he was allowed to keep working.
“Donny’s work is very important to him, so I wanted to help him return to his job as quickly as possible,” Dr. Redziniak said.
For Donny, being a Prince George’s County firefighter is more than just a job. He’s been with the fire department for 13 years and says a drive for public service runs in his family. His grandfather and two of his uncles were Prince George’s County firefighters, and his father was a Prince George’s County police officer.
“This is our second family,” Donny says.
Today, he still does exercises two to three times a week, and plans to continue them for the rest of his life.
“It obviously worked,” he says. “I feel that I’m a stronger person now than before I was injured.”
Not only did his treatment help him get back to the work he loves, it has also helped him to enjoy other activities that are special to him.
He can play with and pick up his children, 4-year-old Chandler and 19-month-old Zoe, without fear of further injury.
Donny is also able to maintain an active lifestyle outside of work by lifting weights and playing softball, golf and soccer.
Without the treatment he received at AAMC, “there’s no way that I would be able to live the life that I have right now,” Donny says.