From Slo-Mo to Bionic in Less Than 10 Months

From Slo-Mo to Bionic in Less Than 10 Months

“I really slowed down four years ago,” says 73-year-old Tom Fleming. “I couldn’t get down on my knees anymore. I had trouble with stairs. Then all of a sudden, I couldn’t walk with my wife. I guess the wear and tear just caught up with me.” Active and interested in everything, Tom went to see orthopedic surgeon William Barrett, MD who had replaced his wife’s knees seven years prior.

While Tom’s aches and pains came from his hip and knee, it was decided to tackle his hip first with an anterior approach hip replacement at Valley Medical Center. The anterior approach offers a smaller incision with less injury to the muscles and tendons and a shorter, less painful recovery for many. Tom healed quickly from his surgery. In just 17 days he was back to work as a facilities engineer.

“I made a point of keeping on working soon after surgery,” says Tom. “Exercise following surgery is hard. For me, the best way to exercise is to keep working at my job which keeps me on a schedule and moving all the time. I make a game out of walking around the warehouse.”

Lying on his side during his hip recovery, Tom’s shoulder began causing him serious pain. The x-rays revealed a worn out shoulder joint, most likely caused from his earlier days of heavy lifting as a truck mechanic. Four months after his hip replacement, Tom had his shoulder joint replaced at Valley by Dr. Arntz, a colleague of Dr. Barrett’s. While replacing the joint, Dr. Arntz also repaired a torn rotator cuff. Tom’s shoulder pain disappeared and just three weeks after surgery, with the help of a spray gun and his wife, he painted a fence.

While he was able to walk easier following his hip replacement, knee pain continued to linger. Five months after the shoulder replacement, Tom went back to Dr. Barrett for a knee replacement. Again, Tom enjoyed a speedy recovery, returning to his job three weeks later. “Getting out of surgery, the hurting is gone,” says Tom. “The healing is a different thing. It’s uncomfortable for a while, but it’s only temporary.”

It’s been seven months since his last joint replacement. What’s up with Tom now? The end of April, Tom is scheduled to revisit Valley’s Joint Center when Dr. Arntz replaces his other shoulder. Next year, he plans to have his other knee replaced. Tom is looking forward to feeling even better than ever.

“A lot of people call me the Bionic Man now. I can’t say it’s been easy—the recovery has been hard work. But getting the replacements is just what I needed to stay active and bring me back up to speed. I like to go fishing and camping. I do a lot of yard work to maintain my third of an acre. I can do those things now. It’s been such an exhilarating experience—I would recommend replacement surgery to anyone.”

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Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office