The Best is Yet to Come: Twin Shoulder Replacements with Dr. Tito Liotta

Katie Ertl and Megan Harvey Bourke are identical twins who have been playing, working and living in the Aspen Valley almost their entire lives. Well known in the Roaring Fork Valley community, Katie is the Senior Vice President of Mountain Operations at the Aspen Skiing Company, and Megan was a former ski instructor, trainer and educational expert. Both are current Aspen CrossFit owners and coaches and were Aspen High School standouts in multiple sports including soccer, ski racing and swimming. Needless to say, their bodies have seen a lot of wear and tear over the years.
“When we were in our twenties, Megan and I had different ski accidents that resulted in torn shoulder labrums,” says Katie. Over the years, the twins’ labrums were treated and, fortunately, did not leave any residual rotator cuff damage, but, she says, those treatments placed the joints in a position where it was “grinding up our bones,” leaving dozens of bone fragments in Katie’s left shoulder and Megan’s right shoulder. These fragments led to multiple “freezing” and “seizing” incidents, where neither sister could raise or use their respective arms.
Katie was the first to reach to Dr. Tito Liotta at ValleyOrtho, who recommended a shoulder replacement. She underwent a stemless total shoulder replacement in October 2021, followed by an active and complete recovery.
“Dr. Liotta was great before and after the surgery,” says Katie. “The care and attention he provided was exceptional. He told me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop living your life. Be smart about your decisions, but don’t stop having fun.’”
During Katie’s recovery, Megan was “in a lot of pain,” but determined to “grin and bear it,” she says. She knew she had bone chips her shoulder, but when it also became stuck, she went to the ER, where she discovered she had “a boulder in my shoulder.” It was time for her right shoulder to be replaced.
“I recommended Megan to Dr. Liotta because of his and his team’s exceptional patient care,” says Katie. “And the entire hospital’s commitment to a low infection rate was really enticing.”
Megan received her stemless titanium right shoulder, just like her twin’s left side replacement, in March 2023.
“We have this theory,” says Katie, “that we were pressed up against each other in the womb. Everything I need repairing is on the left side, and everything Megan deals with is on the right.”
For the two women, aged 55, it was important they would recover from the shoulder replacements as quickly as possible, as their lives and livelihoods are tied to peak physical performance.
“In rehab, you have to advocate for yourselves, Liotta told us, you have to work yourself back into the natural movement. You can’t rest for a couple of months and think you will be OK, it’s consistent work,” says. Katie.
 “Because I had no rotator cuff damage, I was able to lift my arm over my head within a week,” Megan recalls. “I had mobility and movement very early on, able to lift light weight and work with a band for light resistance.”
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” says Megan. “I didn’t realize how much pain I was in until after the surgery,” says Megan.
“Ditto,” says Katie.
Both Katie and Megan believe their new shoulders will outlast them, and feel confident they can move forward without considering additional shoulder surgeries in the future.
“A great outcome is exactly why I went to Dr. Liotta,” says Katie. “We both had great outcomes. Now Megan and I recommend Dr. Liotta to everyone we know who needs shoulder work.”