Joint Replacement Success Stories
Read about patients who've had joint replacement surgery at Virginia Hospital Center.
Alfreda R. Young: Recovery After Hip Surgery
In 2008, I began feeling stiffness in my right hip while walking or standing after sitting for periods of time. Also, I felt sporadic pain (sharp and shooting). But my mobility and flexibility were pretty much normal.
My primary care physician explained that my X-rays showed some inflammation (osteoarthritis). He sent me to physical therapy for four weeks. I started practicing yoga a few years before, and my doctor told me to continue practicing yoga. In fact, he encouraged me to get as much physical exercise as possible.
For six years, I practiced yoga often, began getting Thai-yoga massages, went swimming two to three times a week, took dance classes, and worked out with a trainer. I stayed active. I also had regular chiropractic adjustments. I researched osteoarthritis and how yoga (including meditation and breathing exercises) could help to address the issues I was having with my hip. I geared my personal practice toward poses that would help me to maintain my flexibility and strength. Yoga, the active lifestyle and chiropractic care helped to alleviate a lot of the joint stiffness and pain I was experiencing.
By the end of 2014, things changed. I had a pronounced limp, the pain was chronic and my yoga practice changed dramatically. Balancing on the right side was difficult. I could lift my right leg for only a few seconds at a time. I ride the Metro to and from work. Sitting and/or standing longer than five minutes was painful and walking was a chore.
In May 2015, I decided to have a total hip replacement. Dr. Colvin Clay Wellborn, his staff, and the staff at Virginia Hospital Center were fantastic. They ensured I was fully prepared, providing comprehensive information about joint/hip replacement surgery and the rehabilitation process.
The surgery was approximately two hours. Three hours after the surgery, I was up walking using a walker. I had occupational therapy the next morning and afternoon to ensure I was able to bathe, dress and undress, get around using a walker and/or cane and maneuver steps.
I was released from the hospital about 2 p.m. the day after surgery with all of my prescriptions, in-home physical therapy sessions arranged, and a list of therapists to contact to arrange outpatient physical therapy when I was ready.
I had very little pain from the surgery. I started in-home physical therapy two days after surgery. Two weeks after that, I had stopped taking pain medications, and I drove myself to my first outpatient physical therapy appointment. My pain level was very low. Even though physical therapy was challenging at times, I was able to use ice packs to manage any minor pain or discomfort.
Six weeks after surgery, I was back riding the Metro to work with no problems. I went back to practicing yoga and dancing and I started water aerobics.
Today, I’m feeling great. The chronic pain is gone, and I no longer walk with a limp. I work out with a personal trainer three times a week in addition to my other exercise routines. The hip replacement surgery was definitely the right decision for me.
George Sephton: Recovery After Knee Surgery
Many little boys might dream of a job that lets them climb trees all day. For 22 years, George Sephton did just that, working for a tree-trimming company. It nearly crippled him.
“Eight years ago, my knees got so bad and painful, I couldn’t climb anymore,” George says.
He trained for a job as a crane operator instead. Staying on the ground didn’t put an end to his knee pain, however.
“Going up and down stairs was really painful,” the 54-year-old Vienna resident says.
The pain also kept him from doing things he loved. Every summer, he and his son take a trip to the wilds of Maine. He always looks forward to it, but last summer he could barely keep up on their hikes.
George sought treatment from David W. Romness, MD, medical director of the Joint Replacement Center at Virginia Hospital Center.
X-rays revealed that the cartilage in both his knees was eroded. Cortisone injections provided only minimal relief. Because of his age and overall fitness, George was an excellent candidate for bilateral knee replacement, where both knees are replaced during a single surgery. (Bilateral knee replacement is considered when a patient is in good health, has equally severe arthritic pain in both knees and is younger than 80 years old.)
Dr. Romness explained that he uses a minimally invasive tendon-sparing technique that requires only a small incision and potentially produces less pain and a faster recovery. He also told George that knee implants are more durable today; 90 percent will last over 20 years.
The advantage of having a bilateral procedure is that there is just one rehabilitation period—generally six weeks for someone who works at a desk job or up to three months for those who are on their feet all day.
“It is the same amount of rehabilitation time if you do one or both knees,” Dr. Romness says. George, however, was hesitant.
"I had never had surgery before,” he says. “The biggest procedure I’d had previously was a root canal.”
After carefully researching Dr. Romness and the procedure, he decided to have both knees replaced at the same time “because I was scared to go through it twice,” he says.
George attended the hospital’s Total Joint Replacement class, which gave him detailed information on what to expect during and after his Hospital stay and exercises to do leading up to surgery.
“We recommend pre-op exercises to strengthen the knee muscles and stretching to improve range of motion. The better you prepare yourself beforehand, the easier your recovery will be afterwards,” says Kathy Miller, MPT, senior physical therapist.
“All the stretching I did presurgery helped me,” George says.
The class also taught George about the importance of pain control after joint replacement surgery. Pain medication is a necessary part of the treatment plan because patients who are in pain don’t move, which can lead to increased risk for blood clots and pneumonia and less successful rehabilitation. He learned how the team in the Joint Replacement Center assesses pain using the pain scale (0 is no pain, 10 is severe pain) and practiced using it, guided by the Orthopedic Unit’s highly skilled nursing team.
“We have a wonderful process for pain control,” says Joint Replacement Coordinator Niama Roland, BSN, RN, CPAN. “Educating patients about pain management before surgery has helped them return home sooner.”
“I never had unmanageable pain; it was just never that bad,” George says. “The morning after my surgery, I used a walker to go down the hall. Halfway back, my therapist said, ‘You don’t need a walker. Here are crutches.’ When I left the hospital two days after surgery, I could walk without any assistance."
George took only three weeks off from work. A month after his surgery, he was mowing the lawn.
“This surgery was life-changing for me,” he said. “I am extremely glad I had it done. Now, I’m looking forward to hiking in Maine.” A month after bilateral knee replacement surgery, George Sephton was back working in his garden.
Kathryn Grant: Hiking Again
Accustomed to hiking eight miles on rough trails in the Rockies, retired physician Kathryn Grant, MD, says her hip pain had gotten to the point where “I was struggling to walk one block in the city.”
As soon as anesthesia wore off the day of her hip replacement surgery, Kathryn was walking and went home the next day.
“Three weeks later, I walked a trail at Great Falls,” she says. “I now feel like the Energizer Bunny® with a new set of batteries.”