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Back in the Game

Bending, lifting, reaching and walking … nine to 12 miles a day. For Peggy Faust -- a 61-year-old who now moves like a 16-year-old -- it’s the job she loves.

A Food Services host on the orthopedics unit at Sanford South University Hospital in Fargo, Peggy begins her trek at 6:30 in the morning, hand-delivering breakfast trays to as many as 30 patients a day. At lunchtime she does it all again.

But last spring, her body failed her. “I’d be walking along and my knee would start hurting. And it kept getting worse,” she says.

Worn parts

An appointment at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Fargo revealed the unexpected.

“I was totally surprised when they said it was a hip problem,” she says. X-rays and an exam by Dr. Andrew Hvidston, Sanford orthopedic surgeon, showed severe cartilage wear in her right hip. The likely reason: excess weight from years ago. Peggy had undergone gastric bypass surgery in 2006 and lost 150 pounds, but not in time to avoid joint damage.

A cortisone injection partially relieved the pain, but not permanently. Peggy was scheduled for total hip replacement surgery three weeks later.

“I was so ready,” she says. “I was at the point where I had to use my hands to lift my leg out of the car. Even with my high pain tolerance, I still cried. I had to shorten my workday, too.”

Blessed relief

Peggy had the inside track on what to expect in hip replacement surgery. In her years of working on the orthopedics unit, she’d seen excellent results time and time again. But the morning of July 13, it became personal.

“Right away after surgery I noticed the difference -- almost like the heavens opened up,” she says. “It was so wonderful to be pain free. And my leg worked like it should. Just remarkable!”

That afternoon, a physical therapist came in and taught her exercises to help her recovery. By evening she was up and walking with the help of a nurse -- no pain. The next morning, more walking. By noon was able to leave the hospital.

“I had a 9-pound Chihuahua and a parrot waiting for me,” she says. “I needed to get home.”

A rapid recovery

Several factors contributed to Peggy’s successful surgery and rapid recovery:

  • A minimally invasive approach that requires just two small incisions
  • Peggy’s impressive level of physical fitness thanks to a healthy weight, exercise and good nutrition
  • A team approach with doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others working together
  • Strong family support. Widowed in late 2009, Peggy received help from her siblings, including three sisters and a brother who live in Fargo.

By the fourth day after surgery, Peggy got out her dog stroller and pushed little Bailey two blocks up and two blocks back. “He absolutely loved it,” she says. And so did Peggy. Gradually they increased their distance to two miles, twice a day.

Life is good

Good times with family motivated Peggy to get back to full speed. “My sisters and I take trips together, we spend Saturdays shopping and we have a lot of fun,” she says. “It might not sound like I lead a very exciting life, but I’m content.”

Peggy wanted to return to work, too. Just five weeks after surgery she was back on the job bringing meals -- and smiles -- to patients on the orthopedics unit.

“Patients call me ‘that food lady’ and I don’t mind a bit,” she says with a laugh. “This is who I am, and I feel lucky to be doing what I love.”

Posted Date: March 2011