Carl Prowant likes clean windows.

But the 39-year-old Cedar Springs, Michigan, resident will think twice before tackling the windows in his two-story great room again. In fact, he may even hire someone else to do the job.

In April 2017, Prowant was washing windows from a 16-foot extension ladder when it slipped away from the wall and he tumbled to the floor.

One look at his elbow told him he was in trouble. Plus there was the pain of a dislocated shoulder, which he managed to wrench back into place by himself.

“I knew that it was bad,” Prowant said.

Even after his initial trip to the emergency department, however, he didn’t fully realize the extent of the problem.

Progress, progress, pain

Less than a week after his fall, Prowant had surgery by Spectrum Health Medical Group orthopedic trauma surgeon Blake Miller, DO, to repair the crushed radial head of his elbow and remove the damaged cartilage.

A few weeks later, he started doing physical therapy at the Spectrum Health Outpatient Rehabilitation office located within MVP Athletic Club in Rockford.

“I did physical therapy for awhile and made progress, progress, progress, progress, and all of a sudden there was a lot of pain,” Prowant said. “There was grinding and clicking, and I couldn’t do as much as a week prior.”

At that point, it was time to go back into surgery, this time with Randy Lovell, MD, who repaired the damaged ulnar nerve, which was causing pain, tingling and a cold sensation in his fingers.

Then more physical therapy.

And two more surgeries: Dr. Lovell did nerve repair, and later Peter Ugolini, MD, performed a lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.

That was all followed by more physical therapy.

By his count, Prowant had 88 physical therapy appointments including 60 with physical therapist Bonnie Warren.

His stop-and-start progress isn’t unusual in an elbow injury, according to Warren, who has worked with a large number of patients with similar issues during her 26-year career.

“His rehab has been complicated, which is pretty common with an elbow fracture as bad as his,” Warren said.

Her goal has been to improve his range of motion after each surgery and regain strength.

But there’s still more to do, and Prowant continues to work at home on stretching and strength training.

“He’s a pretty incredible individual,” Warren said. “It could have been so much worse if not for his attitude.”

‘The relationship is important’

Prowant says physical therapy isn’t easy.

“Physical therapy is not going somewhere and having something done to you or for you. They will lead you through the process, but you have to work.”

But even when he switched jobs, adding a daily commute to Holland, he stayed with his Rockford-based therapists.

“The relationship is very important,” Prowant said. “They knew me, they knew what worked and what didn’t.”

For him it’s about trust and doing the exercises.

“It’s going to hurt, you’re not going to enjoy it,” he said. “But that’s not why you are there. They are your expert on what you need, and you need to believe that.”

Looking back, Prowant wishes he had taken a few extra minutes to secure his ladder differently.

But the father of four also counts his blessings, knowing he could have been paralyzed—or worse—after such a dramatic fall.

“Take an extra minute to be sure that you are truly safe in whatever you are doing,” he said. “Life is precious, and it’s really difficult to repair certain things regardless of how awesome medical technology is.”