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Joint Replacement Patient Stories

If you suffer from joint pain and stiffness—whether it’s from inflammation, injury, disease or the natural effects of aging—joint replacement surgery with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team can be life-changing. Don’t just take our word for it. Hear what our patients have to say.  

Carol’s story, robotic-assisted hip replacement 

Loretta’s story, hip replacement 

Flossie's story, hip and knee replacement 

Larry’s story, knee replacement

Barry’s story, knee replacement

Bill's story, joint replacement surgery

Chuck’s story, knee replacement 

  • When Helen Santibanez, 60, was diagnosed with a bad right hip, it surprised her. "The pain didn't seem to be in my hip," remembers Helen. "It was more in the groin area."

    Helen laughingly describes herself as a "retired handyman." She and her husband used to own several rental houses in the University District, and Helen did most of the maintenance work. But then she started having so much pain that it was hard, if not impossible, to do certain projects.

    Helen had managed to cope with the pain for many years because it always subsided after a few days, and she could return to her normal activities. Eventually, it became "like an electric shock" going down her leg, and it didn't go away.

    About two years ago, Helen's primary care doctor referred her to a rheumatologist for an assessment. When the X-rays came back, Helen says, "Even I could tell the 'good' hip from the 'bad' hip." She immediately visited an orthopedic surgeon to talk about the possibility of hip replacement surgery.

    Helen has a background in architecture and thought about how important the hip is in supporting the rest of the body. "This is a major part of you being taken out and replaced," she says. "If something goes wrong, you could really be in trouble."

    To prepare for the surgery in spring 2014, Helen attended a special class at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health where she met the team that would take care of her. This included an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, the nurse who would care for her as an inpatient, and other support people. "They answered all my questions and really boosted my confidence that they knew what they were doing," remembers Helen. "I felt that I would be well taken care of." The nurse gave Helen a phone number to call anytime if any concerns came up for her.

    Helen also appreciated that all the tests and assessments she needed were done in one place at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. "I didn't have to go to one building for the doctor's appointment, another for blood work and another for X-rays. It was efficient."

    Helen said that as the time for her surgery drew closer, she found her stress level going down rather than up. "I felt really well prepared," she says. "I knew that I wouldn't have this constant pain after the surgery, and I was looking forward to doing things."

    Prior to surgery, Helen had been an avid gardener and is now enjoying it again. "I know when I get down on the ground, I'm going to be able to get back up again!"

    In addition to learning all she could about her hip replacement operation. Helen prepared for her surgery by swimming every day to strengthen her muscles. "From everything that I had learned, my sense was that the more physically fit you are going into the surgery, the better you'll do coming out of it. In my case, that was true."

    Helen's operation was in the late afternoon, and by that evening, she was up and walking with the help of a physical therapist. "I was so shocked that there was no pain," she remembers. While she was in the hospital, both an occupational and a physical therapist went over in detail how to safely move about when she got home. "I liked that they asked me detailed questions so that we were talking about my house and not just any house in general."

    Helen is now helping other patients recover from hip replacement surgery as a volunteer with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s "Peer Partners" program. "I've had seven surgeries in my life, and this was the first time I felt I had a whole team with one goal: to make me better. Volunteering is the least I can do to say thank-you to everyone at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.” 

  • Before hip replacement surgery at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health last year, Natalie Margolis was in so much pain she rarely wanted to walk anywhere. But today, Natalie is pain free and happy to leave her car behind. An active 71-year-old, she often walks or takes the bus wherever she needs to go.

    Natalie and her husband of 51 years, Jerry, moved to Seattle a couple of years ago to be closer to a daughter who lives here and a son who lives in Portland. Natalie says that after living in a rural area of New York state, she was happy to move to a city where she wouldn't be dependent on a car.

    Just after the move, however, the ache in Natalie's right hip got progressively worse. She visited a doctor whose specialty was helping patients with problems walking and other activities. After examining Natalie, the doctor suspected a serious problem with her hip and recommended she see an orthopedic specialist at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

    At Natalie's initial appointment in fall 2013, X-rays showed her hip joint had deteriorated to the point where bone was rubbing on bone every time she moved. This was causing the pain Natalie describes as being "like a knife in my hip." The doctor suggested a hip replacement, but before Natalie could be scheduled for surgery, she had another medical issue to address.

    More than 10 years ago, Natalie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the blood and immune system. A visit to her oncologist revealed that the disease, which had been in remission, was once again active. She couldn’t have surgery until the cancer was under control. So in November 2013, Natalie started a course of chemotherapy that lasted into January of the next year.

    “Sometimes people just need someone who can understand things from their point of view”

    After tests revealed the lymphoma was in remission, Natalie was able to have the hip replacement surgery in spring 2014. "I've had a lot of surgeries," says Natalie, "but this was the only one I've ever looked forward to. I was in so much pain."

    In addition to the hip problem, Natalie was also experiencing pain in her right knee. During the hip replacement surgery, Natalie's doctor administered a cortisone shot to her knee. She has had no pain in either the hip or the knee since.

    As with most people undergoing hip replacement, Natalie was up and walking the day after her surgery and released from the hospital the day after that. She at first walked in the hallway of her apartment building, using a walker for three weeks, and then a cane for three weeks after that. Eventually, Natalie was walking outside unassisted and is today confident of walking anywhere on her own.

    One of the reasons Natalie recovered so well from hip replacement surgery is that she closely followed her surgeon’s recommendation regarding exercise. "Every day, I could walk a little farther," says Natalie. "Today, I don't even know I have a hip. By that I mean, I don't think about it. I take it for granted that I can depend on it, and it's not going to be painful for me to go anywhere."

    Because of her positive experience at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, Natalie is a volunteer with "Peer Partners"—a unique program where former patients visit current ones going through similar experiences. "Sometimes people just need someone who can understand things from their point of view," says Natalie. "I think that's what a Peer Partner does."

    Natalie is a former executive director of a company in New York that serves children with special needs. Nowadays, she volunteers at a Seattle food bank, participates in a gym program and is signed up for a book club.

    "It's wonderful to be able to get out and do things that I enjoy. If I hadn't had the surgery, I would still be trying to get around in pain. Since the surgery, I'm free to do what I want. I have Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to thank for that, and that's why I volunteer—not only to help the hospital but also to help others going through the same thing."

  • When Nik Quesnell, 61, is not out playing golf or on a bike trip of 50 miles or more, he’s probably indoors “spinning” on a stationary bike or doing hot yoga. Nik, who is retired, has been active all his life. Today, thanks to bilateral hip replacement surgery at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, he’s enjoying his favorite activities without the pain that used to accompany them. “I’m so glad I did it sooner rather than later;” says Nik. “I didn’t give up anything except during the two months of rehab.”

    When Nik decided to look into hip replacement surgery, his doctor at the Virginia Mason Lynnwood Medical Center referred him to a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health orthopedic surgeon in Seattle. It was clear from the comprehensive assessment Nik was given that osteoarthritis had worn away his hip joints and this was the source of his ever-increasing pain. Bone was rubbing on bone.

    But even with the aching pain, Nik hesitated. “I was only 59 and had never had major surgery,” he recalls. “It’s hard to think about giving up a part of your body.” While he was considering the surgery, Nik did a lot of research and decided that when he had his operation, he wanted an “anterior” rather than a “posterior”  procedure.

    Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is a leader in anterior hip replacement surgery in which the surgeon accesses the hip joint from the front, as opposed to the lateral (side) or posterior of the hip. This allows the doctor to replace the hip joint without detaching muscles or tendons. Advantages are thought to include a quicker recovery time and return to normal daily activities.

    “It’s hard to think about giving up a part of your body.”

    Nik found that to be true when he had his first hip replaced in August 2013. He was out of the hospital in 48 hours and within two months was back at his one-hour spinning class, enjoying full sessions of hot yoga and playing 18 holes of golf.

    One year after the first operation, Nik had his second hip replacement. While the recovery took a little longer, it followed much the same course. Today, Nik has “no joint pain at all.” His experience with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health was so positive that he signed up to volunteer with “Peer Partners,” a unique program where former patients visit patients who are going through similar experiences. "Peer Partners," says Nik, "is just one more way that Virginia Mason Franciscan Health ‘puts the patient first in everything they do.’”

    One thing Nik says he has learned from being a Peer Partner is that most patients wish they had addressed their joint problems earlier. “A lot of people live for years with pain. After their surgeries, most people are like me, happy they can now do the things they love without that pain.”

    In addition to Peer Partners, Nik volunteers for NEST (North East Seattle Together), a community organization that does home repairs and chores for seniors to help them remain independent and in their own homes. He’s happy that, with his new hip joints, he’s once again able to do carpentry and yard work as well as climb ladders to clean out gutters for NEST clients. “They need the help, and it feels good to be able to give it.”

  • Sonja Hampton, 71, had a total knee replacement at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in 2014. Her best advice to others considering the surgery: "Don't wait as long as I did! You don't have to live in pain."

    Like many people, no matter how much pain she had, Sonja dreaded the thought of surgery. She had already had a successful hip replacement on her left side, but she had convinced herself she should continue to cope with the constant ache in her right knee. Finally, the knee worsened to the point where the pain was dictating what she could and couldn't do.

    "I used to love going to the movies," says Sonja. "But when friends would ask me to go, I'd wonder how far I would need to walk and whether there would be stairs. Even getting dressed to go out was difficult. It often just didn't seem worth it."

    With help from her daughter, who is a surgeon in Washington, D.C., Sonja researched knee replacement surgery and the surgeons within her health insurance network who perform it. She was pleased to learn she could have the knee procedure done at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

    In the weeks before her operation, Sonja did exercises from the knee replacement book she received from Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. The exercises are designed to build up muscles around the knee and help with recovery from the procedure. Knowing she wouldn't be able to drive for at least three weeks, Sonja also stocked up on groceries and other household supplies. It gave her peace of mind, she says, to know she was doing everything she could to be prepared.

    Sonja's daughter flew in for the surgery. "She was really impressed with the way Virginia Mason Franciscan Health kept the family informed," says Sonja. "There was a reader board that told her where I was at all times, so she knew exactly when the surgery was over, when I was in recovery, and when I was back in my room." Sonja went through the surgery with no problems. "And when I came home, I only used a cane for a couple of days."

    It wasn't long before Sonja was back to her normal activities and then some. Her surgery was in March, and just a few months later, she flew to Washington to attend a conference with her daughter. She didn't have any problem keeping up with the busy schedule they had during her visit.

    Sonja has resumed volunteer work with her church and is part of the "Peer Partners" program at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. "This is a wonderful service for the patients," she says. "Most of the medical people taking care of them haven't had a joint replacement. I'm someone they can talk to who's been through the same kind of surgery. I can demonstrate how I can bend and straighten my knee and tell them that they're going to be able to do that, too."

    Sonja said she's particularly happy to enjoy family events again. In addition to her daughter, she has two sons, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. "Having my knee replaced has made all the difference for me. When I meet a knee replacement patient now, I'm able to tell them that it just keeps getting better."

Could you benefit from joint replacement surgery?