At 67, Cheyenne resident Phyllis O’Connor still walks daily and frequently travels with her husband, Jim.
“We live a very active lifestyle,” Phyllis said.
Even their vacations are often planned to include scenic walks and nature hikes.
Last fall, though, Phyllis started having what she describes as “a few aches and pains” in her right hip.
Despite the pain, she continued to walk a couple of miles a day and attended a Zumba class three times a week.
“I wasn’t ready to stop doing the things I enjoy,” she said.
By January, though, the pain had intensified. “If I did Zumba, I would pay for it the rest of the day,” Phyllis said.
Phyllis decided it was time to consult a specialist.
She went to see Dr. John Winter, an orthopedic surgeon at Wyoming Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Cheyenne.
Dr. Winter had Phyllis undergo an MRI scan, which showed that she had a tear in the labrum, a cartilage in the hip joint.
To relieve the pain, Phyllis decided to have a cortisone injection in her hip.
Phyllis said the shot “worked perfectly” for about six weeks, allowing her to take a vacation that she and Jim had planned in March.
But by the end of the trip, the pain was back.
Dr. Winter had explained that at a certain age, the long-term solution is usually to have a total hip replacement, Phyllis said.
Phyllis went back to see Dr. Winter in mid-April to discuss what a hip replacement would entail.
Phyllis was concerned that it might be several months before she could have the surgery because of everything that had to be done ahead of time, including insurance pre-approvals, the need for a CAT scan, a required pre-surgery physical and scheduling the surgery itself.
“I wanted to be able to get back to the things I enjoyed, and I knew that wouldn’t happen until I had surgery,” she said.
Within 48 hours, Phyllis received a call from the clinic. “They had all the approvals and scheduling in place,” she said. “They’d even arranged a time for me to have a physical with my primary care doctor.”
Phyllis ran into another possible delay when the EKG taken during her physical came back “abnormal,” she said. “I was going to have to see a cardiologist. I thought that would surely push back the surgery. But as it turned out, they got me right in, did another EKG, and it was fine.”
Everything went smoothly
Phyllis was pleased with how well everything fell into place. “The clinic took care of all the arrangements,” she said. “For me, it was just a matter of showing up for my appointments and getting ready for surgery.”
Phyllis was also happy with how smoothly everything went on the day of surgery, which took place at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in mid-May. In Admissions and Same Day Surgery, “they were immediately ready for me when I arrived,” she said. “The nurse giving me the IV told me what to expect. Then the anesthesiologist and Dr. Winter came in to ask if I had any questions and let me know what would be happening.”
Phyllis was in surgery for about an hour and a half and was in recovery by mid-afternoon. By that evening she was able to sit up in a chair and eat a light meal. She spent one night and part of the next day in the hospital’s Ortho-Neuro Unit and was then discharged.
“All of my caregivers were just awesome,” Phyllis said of the treatment she received at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. As an example of their attentiveness, she described how one of her CNAs remembered that she liked coffee: “I had told him the night before that I’m a big-time coffee drinker, and he was right there with a cup of coffee when I woke up.”
Phyllis was also pleased with the physical therapy sessions she had in the hospital: “I live in a townhome with stairs, and my bedroom is on the second floor. I told them that I had to be able to get up and down those stairs. They made sure I knew what to do before I left the hospital.”
Of everything she went through, the most challenging, Phyllis said, was figuring out how to get around and make adjustments while her hip healed.
“I needed a lot of reassurance,” she said. “Dr. Winter, Lindsay Tully (the physician assistant) and the staff at the clinic gave me a lot of feedback and reassurance that I was doing OK.”
Phyllis also appreciated that a hospital nurse navigator came to visit her at home about a week after surgery, to be sure that she was recovering and to see if there was anything she needed.
Happy with the results
It’s been about four and a half months since her surgery, and Phyllis says she is happy with the results. The pain in her hip is gone, and she is able to do the things she enjoys again. She started to drive within three weeks of surgery and went to a family reunion in the Black Hills of South Dakota in July. She also attended her 50th high school reunion in Iowa and went to see her grandkids in Nebraska over the summer. In August she and Jim visited friends in the Colorado mountains, where they went on what Phyllis describes as a “gentle” hike. The couple has also planned a trip to Niagara Falls this fall.
At home Phyllis currently walks two or more miles a day. She does volunteer work for her church, is involved with a book club, gets out regularly to have lunch with friends and helps her husband deliver meals to seniors. She and Jim have also planned several more trips.
Phyllis said that having the hip replacement has made it possible to continue to do the things that she and Jim love: “Our goal at this stage in our lives is to be active and involved and to travel as much as possible. I’m thankful to Dr. Winter and his team for taking such great care of me. I feel really blessed about how everything has turned out.”