It's all in the wrist: Donna Milanovich Srajer (back row), executive director of the Chicago Philharmonic, was playing the flute again three weeks after a severe wrist surgery.

As the child of an amateur violinist father and an amateur singer mother, Donna Milanovich Srajer grew up in a household filled with music. She still has vivid recollections of listening to Lyric Opera broadcasts from her home in Indiana. By age 6, she had signed up for piano lessons. By middle school, when she was finally big enough to conquer the physical aspects of playing the instrument, Srajer turned to the flute.

“I was sure, when I was six years old, that I was going to become a musician,” said Srajer. She improvised handbills, distributed them among family members, and staged concerts, tinkling away at her piano pieces. “I would say that most musicians tend to have that drive quite young,” she said.

Now a wife and mother of three living in Oak Park, Srajer is a longtime veteran and current executive director of the Chicago Philharmonic. “I think 16 or 18 years. Something really long. I can’t even believe it,” she said, reflecting on her extensive career.

It is a career that, last summer, was threatened with a lengthy hiatus, at the very least, and possible termination. Descending a flight of stairs, she slipped, fell, and landed on her wrist.

“I was sure I had broken something. It began to swell in an awful way,” said Srajer, recalling the immediate aftermath of her accident. As she scrambled to stabilize the limb, her thoughts turned to an upcoming performance. “I immediately thought of the fact that I had this really nice concert that I wanted to play in a few weeks.”

She didn’t make it to that concert. Instead, she found herself seeking a treatment that wouldn’t keep her from months of rehearsal and performance. If she opted to go with a cast, there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t suffer lifelong pain or discomfort following its removal.

Her livelihood was counting on a more promising fix. The Chicago Philharmonic was only one aspect of an ambitious and well-rounded career in the arts that included teaching private music lessons and participating in freelance performances. In order to maintain that level of dedication to her art, Srajer would need to heal perfectly.

“It had serious implications for her, because of her musical career,” said Dr. Randy Bindra, a Loyola University Medical Center orthopedic surgeon, of Srajer’s injury. “By treating in a cast, if you’re not sure that the fragments will remain well aligned, the bone pieces may start to separate and you could end up with quite a lot of incongruence,” he said. But the surgeon, who specialized in problems of the hand, would be the key to helping Srajer avoid the long term complications that could occur as a result.

During surgery, Bindra injected a sort of mini-telescope into Srajer’s joint, which helped him to realign the bone and affix the pieces with a metal plate and 10 tiny screws. For all its complexity, the outcome was quite simple. “The surgery was August 31,” said Srajer. “I was able to start to play three weeks later, which is incredible to me.”

Months later, Srajer is still surprised by her progress. “I was very anxious about the whole thing, because I thought if it was done badly, then I would have chronic pain or something,” she said. But in fact, she feels almost completely recovered. Occasional fatigue in her hand is the only lingering side-effect, and she said that’s expected, and should disappear in time. But it’s not stopping her from getting right back into her music. Strajer is performing again, with an upcoming chamber music concert scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Union Church of Hinsdale.

Which means the only thing lost to her wrist injury was a couple months of non-music-related recreation. “My budding career in skiing,” she joked, “has to be delayed for six months.”

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