The Changing Face of Joint Replacement and Spine Surgery
We followed patients of varying ages to chronicle their experiences with knee and hip replacement and orthopedic spine surgery. They came to The Joint & Spine Center to seek relief from pain caused by arthritis. They had led active lives, but were increasingly unable to participate in their favorite activities. After surgery, they were up and walking the same day.
"With My New Knee, I Feel Like I've Gotten My Life Back!"
(Watch Cathy's video)
"I knew my knee wasn’t going to hold up much longer," says Cathy, remembering the pain she endured for several years while trying to participate in the outings she enjoyed most. "There’s not much I don’t like to do, but hiking, skiing and golf take up most of my free time." The change from being an active person to one severely limited in activity due to pain was a gradual one.
When Cathy turned 50, she cut back on her daily running routine and ran three times a week, dosed with ibuprofen. Then she stopped running and walked or rode her bike. Finally, even walking was a problem. "I was not able to be active and was gaining weight. My gait was so bad that it’s amazing I didn’t hurt my hips. There was no way I was going to sit around and wait until I was ‘old enough’ for a replacement. I didn’t want to live like that and I didn’t want to be sedentary," says Cathy.
To keep on doing what she loved,Cathy knew she needed help."The first place I heard about Valley was from a guy I met on a chairlift at Crystal Mountain. He had his knee replaced by Dr. Barrett and highly recommended Valley. When you strike up conversations with people out of the blue, I think people will be honest with you about recommending or steering you away from certain places. All of a sudden, I kept meeting people randomly and when we would get to talking, they would recommend Valley Medical Center as the place to go for replacement surgery."
"When I went in to see Dr. Barrett, I thought both knees were bad. Actually, I found out at my exam, that the pain in my right knee was caused by the added pressure of overcompensating for my bad left knee. The right knee is still in pretty good shape and feels great now that I’ve got my left one replaced."
"And now, my secret is to keep exercising. That new joint loves to be moved—the more I move, the better it feels. My husband has his hiking and skiing buddy back. And now that I don’t have pain, I feel like I’ve gotten my life back," says Cathy.
"I could physically not work...(now) I'm a new man"
(Watch Bob's video)
A carpenter by trade, Bob reached the point where he was no longer able to "pound nails... and rebuild and remodel," his passion at work and in his free time. After total hip and bilateral knee replacement, he has "a new lease on life."
Active as Ever, Carolyn is Now Living Without Hip Pain
The anterior approach is a newer, less invasive total hip replacement technique which allows the surgeon to reach the hip joint from the front, as opposed to the side or back of the hip. The surgeon works between the muscles and tissue, sparing them from trauma which lessens recovery time, improves mobility and avoids the pain of sitting on the surgical site.
Carolyn, a recent anterior approach hip replacement patient, is no novice when it comes to hip replacement. Years of running on pavement and teaching aerobics on hard surfaces wore out her hips. “I had lots of hip pain, but I didn’t let it slow me down too much—I just took lots of medication. But I didn’t like having all that medication in my system,” she says.
Carolyn had her first hip replacement five years ago at age 57 at another hospital and experienced extreme swelling and discomfort. “The first hip replacement was a horrible experience,” she recalls.
In November 2010, Carolyn had her other hip replaced, this time at The Joint & Spine Center. “At The Joint Center, it was great,” she says. “I was up and walking around with one crutch the day after my surgery. The doctors and nurses are wonderful—always friendly and smiling. The food was delicious. And they let me sleep through the night,instead of waking me up every hour. In comparison, it felt like a vacation at The Joint Center,” says Carolyn.
“The second time around, I had the anterior approach replacement. I totally recommend it over the posterior approach—I can move so much better and had a much easier recovery. I am back to my weight training classes, Zumba, yoga, playing with my grandsons and hiking trails with my husband. I am living without pain now,” says Carolyn.
A Nurse's Knee Replacement Results in a Remarkable Recovery
“On June 4th, Dr. Hendrickson did a total replacement of my left knee at Valley. From the time I arrived, until the time I was discharged, I was treated with respect and dignity.
“The Joint Center has a first class staff and I should know—my nursing background consisted of running numerous hospital units including the orthopedic surgery and recovery, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
“During the four days I was there, The Joint Center staff was absolutely delightful. They certainly go above and beyond to make sure you are comfortable and feel cared for. I have friends who have gone elsewhere and did not have near the care I received. Dr. Hendrickson even called my daughter who lives in Las Vegas to let her know that I had come through the surgery all right. Also, the food was outstanding. This community hould be very proud of The Joint Center.
“A big shout out to Dr. Maslen, my anesthesiologist, who made sure that I was included in all the decisions regarding the type of anesthesia I would receive. I was even introduced to everyone when I arrived in the surgical suite.
“Thanks to Dr.Hendrickson and his physician assistant, Van, I’m making a remarkable recovery. It is not quite six weeks since my surgery and I no longer have to walk with a cane. As you can tell, I was thoroughly impressed with the treatment and care I received.”
Pre-surgery Tips from Pat
This advance preparation made my eturn home much more comfortable.
1) Before my surgery, I got the medical equipment I would need at home—walker, cane, raised toilet seat, shower stool and I practiced using the equipment few times knowing my knee motion would be limited when I first got home.
2) I made sure there was room to move around my rooms with my walker—shifting some furniture to make it work.
3) I also made sure my walker and cane were adjusted to the correct height. (If you’re not sure what height they should be, bring them to The Joint Center when you go in for surgery and therapists will adjust them to the correct height for you.)
4) I rearranged my kitchen a bit to make things easier to reach and prepared and froze some meals ahead of time.
A New Spin on Life
She exercised daily on her spin bike and walked, hike, cycled, mountain biked and cross-country skied in her free time and was walking large areas for her job as a sales and service representative for a clinical lab. In a month’s time, however, Barbara’s world came to a crashing halt. She went from being an active 59 year-old to using a walker, in severe pain.
An MRI revealed the problem. While some people’s osteoarthritic hip pain comes on gradually, Barbara “was one of the ones who falls off a cliff,” she recalls, as far as onset of symptoms and needing replacement for both hips as soon as she could get scheduled. Cortisone injections temporarily relieved some of the pain and improved her mobility somewhat until she had her surgery. “I researched hip replacement surgery and knew I wanted the anterior approach—recovery is supposed to be easier because no muscle is cut. But I learned the anterior approach is not very common. There are only two surgeons in the Seattle area performing the anterior approach and Dr. Barrett is one of them. He’s done a lot of these surgeries—I felt really confident in my surgeon.
“Before I had my surgery, I continued to exercise on my spin bike about 20 minutes every day and my husband helped me with some daily strengthening and conditioning exercises. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it would make my life easier after surgery. My recovery was phenomenal.
“I was able to stand with the aid of a walker just five hours after surgery. The next day I was walking halfway down the hallway with the walker. By the time I left the joint center three days later, I was easily able to lap the entire floor three times. The experience exceeded my expectations of what I would be able to do so soon after surgery.”
A Man Trades his Wings to Explore the World on Foot
Richard and his wife Nancy on one of their typical volkswalks
Taking charge of his recovery after orthopedic spine surgery was no problem for Richard who had surgery in January 2010 and is now living life pain-free after decades of managing and coping. Eighty-four years young and a former Boeing engineer with passions for flying and hiking, Richard has flown his own plane, his self-proclaimed “Magic Carpet,” to all corners of continental North America. He and his wife Nancy also explore exotic places on foot, logging over 850 10K “volkswalks” since 1987.Several years ago, Richard traded in his wings to focus on worldwide walking trips, Iceland and South Africa being personal favorites. As they trekked, he enjoyed the local people and marveled at the variety of beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife.
Since high school, Richard has been living with back pain, using physical activity and over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve the discomfort. “I got used to pain and just did what I wanted—gritting teeth sometimes. I had been limping for 15 years, but kept going anyway ... until I couldn’t.” In mid-2009 while descending a mountain ridge, both of Richard’s legs collapsed. He was carried down a mile to the bus. “It was serious,” he says.
Richard gives his orthopedic surgeon,Christopher Howe, MD, all the credit for getting him back on the trail pain-free in just six months. “The surgery was technically very difficult. I’ve got five steel screws stabilizing my vertebrae into a solid structure. Now my limp is gone and I continue getting stronger. Being in tip-top shape has made recuperation easier.”
Just seven months after surgery, Richard and his wife explored British Columbia’s west coast and Vancouver Island. “From Whistler to one of the world’s prettiest little coves on Hwy. 101, to much trail hiking and canoeing on Vancouver Island, we recommend seeing as much of Vancouver Island as possible, especially with a good back,” says Richard.
Set a Goal and Keep Moving Toward It
The morning after surgery,Margaret walks the hallway.
Margaret, a former Boeing manager and drafter, spent years behind the computer creating the schematics for electronic airplane components. What she didn’t expect after her retirement was the collapse of some of her knee components from osteoarthritis, causing pain, limiting mobility and her plans for post-retirement travel.
While Margaret and her husband George began planning a six month trip to navigate the perimeter of the United States in their RV, she realized she wouldn’t be able to make the trip if she couldn’t climb in and out of their home-on-wheels. That’s when Margaret set her sights on getting her knee fixed and healed in time to make their dream trip happen. Her daughter’s due date happened to fall within the trip timeline which began in February 2011, so Margaret had even more incentive to be able to travel to Nevada in time to welcome her new grandchild into the family. “It was nice to have something to be working toward,” says Margaret.
Margaret had her partial knee replacement on December 7, 2010. Just one month after surgery, Margaret regained full flexibility in her knee, could walk independently and regained strength to climb a small flight of stairs, mastering even the steep RV stairs. She and George are currently on their nationwide dream excursion around the country and spent several weeks getting to know their new grandson.
One week after surgery, Margaret is in physical therapy and working on strength.
Margaret’s Tips for an Excellent Outcome
- Attend the joint replacement educational seminar. The seminar, materials and staff prepared me well. I knew just what to expect and what was expected of me.
- Before surgery, keep up with some low impact exercise to maintain strength going into the procedure. I did water aerobics and look forward to going back to my class after my trip.
- After surgery is scheduled, start getting ready for recovery at home. Prepare some meals for the freezer. Adjust your furniture so that you have plenty of room to walk with a walker. Remove loose rugs.
- For the first week or so after surgery, have your caregiver check on you every half hour. Sometimes you need help grabbing something, getting up and down or an ice pack. Have plenty of water bottles stashed around the house within easy reach.
- George recommends always keeping the ice packs cold and to give plenty of encouragement.
- Have distractions—books, TV and movies, friends visiting are all helpful.
- Get into a routine of getting up and getting dressed so you don’t feel sick and you feel more like moving around.
- For the first weeks, schedule your pain medication dosages about 45 minutes in advance of doing at-home exercise and physical therapy.
- Keep moving, keep flexible. Walk around the house at least once an hour.
- Be encouraged by your daily and weekly progress!
One month after surgery, Margaret can ascend the RVstairs. Next goal? Keep getting stronger!
How Cliff Mcgrath Got Back in the Game
After 40-plus years of playing and coaching soccer, U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame member Cliff McCrath had resigned to what he calls a life of "pain, pills and procrastination."
Then he met Dr. Barrett, Medical Director of The Joint Center at Valley Medical Center. Cliff's X-rays showed there was no cartilage left - his knees were bone on bone. He was a perfect candidate for bilateral knee replacement.
Today Cliff lives life free of pain. He takes the stairs two at a time, lives without hesitation and continues to coach soccer stars of the future. Watch Cliff's video.
New Hip Mends Gym Owner's Body, Spirits
A gym owner, Vickie Harrington teaches others about fitness
It's good to be Vickie Harrington. Or so you'd think watching the vivacious 58-year-old preside over her Fremont gym in Seattle. Tan and fit in a pair of spandex shorts, Harrington's the very picture of robust health. In fact, watching her coax clients into shape at Sound Mind & Body, you'd think she was indomitable.
But inside, Harrington's joints were literally betraying her. Over the years, cartilage in her hips had worn away because of arthritis. The self-styled ex-Gidget, who grew up surfing and skiing and still follows an athlete's punishing regimen, had become discouraged and disheartened watching her formerly energetic lifestyle wither away. As husband Richard tells it, "We used to go skiing and stay a week. Now, after just an afternoon, she is exhausted."
According to William Barrett, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Valley Medical Center, the loss of cartilage in Harrington's debilitated left hip accelerated the friction in her joint. The crunch of bone against bone was responsible for chronic discomfort.
Dr. Barrett replaced the joint in Harrington's left hip utilizing a minimally invasive procedure resulting in a smaller incision. Two days after the surgery, in fact, Harringon left the hospital. Within five she was back working—at the gym.
Listen to more stories
"Jana Flener, PA-C, is very professional, very thorough, very competent, and very very good. She is wonderful. Great Job. Thanks for a great experience." Cathy C.