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Anybody who drives a car can relate to what Alan Jirik was experiencing with his left hip in 2014. Excruciating pain forced the 62-year-old Downers Grove resident to meet with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Kim, who told Jirik he was “grinding.”
“It’s like the brake pads are gone,” Jirik recalls telling Dr. Kim.
But instead of the metal-on-metal of bad brakes, he was bone-on-bone in his hip, the result of severe osteoarthritis.
“I remember we took a Florida vacation. I couldn’t walk very far and couldn’t easily sit down. When I saw a colorful shell on the beach, I would tell (my wife) Barb, ‘That’s a really pretty shell, would you pick it up?’ I couldn’t even bend down, it hurt so bad,” says Jirik. “The pain was like you were stuck with a dagger. It’s sharp, instantaneous, searing and sudden.”
But, Jirik didn’t go to the shop for repairs just yet. Dr. Kim, who practices with DuPage Medical Group, tried conservative methods first to treat Jirik – physical therapy, cortisone shots, medication.
“When that all failed and he was still in miserable pain, we talked about an anterior left total hip replacement and that’s what we ended up doing,” says Dr. Kim, who performed Jirik’s surgery in January 2015.
In the procedure, which is less invasive than traditional hip replacement surgery, a small incision is made on the front of the hip, which allows the surgeon to avoid disrupting major muscles and tendons. This approach also provides easier access to remove the damaged “ball” or top portion of the thigh bone, and prepare the “socket” or surface of the hip bone, for the new, artificial joint that consists of metal and plastic components.
Using the anterior technique, patients experience less pain, stay in the hospital fewer days, have a less noticeable scar and heal quicker, all of which applied to Jirik, who went back to work four weeks after his surgery.
“I’m back at the gym working out, able to play golf again and stairs don’t bother me,” says Jirik. “Before the surgery, I felt like a 90-year-old man, but was 60. If someone asked me how old I feel now, I’d say late 40s, early 50s. I feel great. In fact, I’d say even a year-and-a-half out, I’m still getting stronger and gaining more flexibility, more movement.”
The good news, according to Dr. Kim, is that Jirik’s experience is the rule, not the exception.
“This is fairly typical following anterior total hip replacement,” says Dr. Kim. “Everyone should expect this result.”
Jirik does have one recommendation for anybody who’s considering or scheduled for hip replacement – if physically able, get as strong as possible before the procedure to help the recovery process afterward.
“If there had been a way to be stronger physically, my recovery would have been easier,” says Jirik, who was limited because his hip had deteriorated so badly and the pain was so intense. “Anything you can do to strengthen is going to help your recovery.”
For those who might be leery of hip replacement surgery, Jirik says don’t be – it’s a life-changer.
“I hugged (Dr. Kim) when I went for my one-year check-up and told him, ‘You truly gave me back my life and more.’ You can’t put a price on that. That’s the most incredible gift you can give someone.”
Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health’s orthopedic services.
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