Patient Perspectives on Joint Replacement

These locals have first-hand experience with joint-replacement surgery.
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The Mountain Hiker

Newcastle resident Carolyn Love, 63, has had both of her hips replaced in the last five years. Married, with two grown daughters and four grandsons, Love hikes Cougar Mountain and does Zumba, weight training and aerobics. “Having hip replacements has made a world of difference,” says Love. “I no longer wake up at night in tremendous pain.”

Prior to her first surgery five years ago, Love fought the symptoms of osteoarthritis with exercise and pain medication. It was a losing battle. Her orthopedic surgeon at the time recommended hip replacement. Love underwent traditional replacement surgery, in which an incision was made in the side of her hip. She remained in bed for the first three days, then started physical therapy and was back in her exercise classes in about four months.

Last year, when her other hip needed a replacement, Love sought out William Barrett, M.D. of Valley Orthopedic Associates. Dr. Barrett recommended hip replacement using the anterior (front) approach, a procedure that causes less damage to the surrounding muscle and tissue. What a difference, Love says. “I was up with a walker within a couple of hours and went home on day three, walking with the aid of a crutch. I was able to do household chores almost immediately and my regular exercises within six weeks.” This was a completely different experience, starting with her stay in the Joint Center at Valley Medical. “They don’t wake you up in the middle of the night, and they are very good at managing the pain afterward.”

Today, Love has the same flexibility she had in her 20s. Her advice for others considering hip replacement: “Don’t be afraid if you need one. Just do it. You won’t regret it.”

The Lifetime Athlete

At Garfield High School in Seattle and at Central Washington University, William Minor was a major player in football, basketball and baseball. He even made the semi-pros, playing for the Seattle Ramblers and the Cheney Studs. Although he is 71, the Kent resident looks 20 years younger and is still on the go. He was active in his son’s sports leagues, walks for exercise, bowls and follows his passion for photography, sometimes spending three or four hours at a time on his feet in pursuit of the perfect shot. Several years ago, however, he began to experience significant pain in his hip and started limping. His right hip had deteriorated and was bone-on-bone.

“I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person, but the pain was depressing,” he says. On the advice of his primary care physician, Minor met with Dr. William Barrett at Valley Medical Center in Renton, one of the leading joint centers in the state, and eventually had his hip replaced. After surgery, he focused on physical therapy and quickly regained his strength and agility. Barrett gave him his life back, he says. “Afterward, the pain was so much less. And those exercises they tell you to do: Do them! The doctor can perform the surgery, but the rest is up to you.”

The Seafair Volunteer

Bellevue’s Kathleen McLemore, 63, (pictured above) doesn’t have time to be out of commission; she has grandkids to chase around. She is also a legal secretary and the Seafair Weekend Event chairman (which oversees the hydroplane races, as well as air and land events). Even though the pain in her knee had become unbearable, “I waited more than a year to have knee replacement surgery because I am just too busy to take time off,” she says from her hospital bed at Evergreen Hospital and Medical Center. Knowing that a fast recovery was a priority for McLemore, her personal physician suggested she consult with Evergreen Orthopedic Center’s Dr. Craig McAllister about the latest techniques in minimally invasive, computer-guided knee replacement.

Twenty-four hours after surgery, McLemore doesn’t look like she’s had major surgery. She’s alert, articulate, in good humor and says the pain isn’t too bad. She’s been doing exercises while waiting for the paperwork to be released from the hospital. Then, after spending one night in the hospital, she’s on her way home and expects to be back at work in about three weeks (although she’s planning to answer phone calls and e-mails almost immediately).

Three weeks post-surgery, McLemore has good news. She’s just finished a physical-therapy appointment, and her progress is excellent. She went back to work 2 1/2 weeks after surgery. She is mostly off the pain meds and she just spent a successful three hours at the mall in search of a Lightning McQueen car for her grandson (found it!). She hasn’t used a walker or crutches since the day she got home.

Now that she’s done it, McLemore says, “Don’t put it off. It’s better to just get it done if you need it.” So much has changed in the last few years since her brother had his own knee surgery. Comparing his experience with hers, McLemore says, “It’s a much easier process now.”