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Hip Replacement Surgery Patient Finds Hope and Help

As a traveling nurse, Pamela Tanner knew something was wrong when she began dragging her leg when walking. She was told a routine hip replacement was the answer to her problem.

That was in November 2009, and the three and a half years that followed were some of the most difficult Pamela had ever faced.

By January 2010, the pain from her hip replacement was severe and Pamela was also experiencing signs of infection. After another visit with her surgeon, she was told she had never properly healed from the surgery.

“I couldn’t stand on my leg and I was in constant pain,” says the 50-year-old Colome, SD, native. “My doctor at the time told me I had no hip cartilage and I needed another surgery to fix that.”

After the second procedure, Pamela soon ventured down the same path and began experiencing pain. All the time, she continued to work, moving from different hospitals in different states.

“In June 2011, I was in Arkansas and met with a physician there about my condition,” she says. “I had yet another procedure that was supposed to help. And it did for a bit, but then the pain in my leg returned.”

At the end of 2011, Pamela was told there was an infection in the tissue around the replacement parts in her hip and leg. She also experienced drainage from her wound for much of the time since her initial surgery. After some parts were replaced and her hip was cleaned out a few more times, Pamela once again hoped this would be an end to her pain and complications.

“Unfortunately, my pain continued and the middle of my leg still hurt,” says Pamela. “At this point, I was no longer working because I couldn’t even sit up for very long, much less work and stand on my feet all day as a nurse.”

Pamela’s positive, exuberant attitude began to fade after so many procedures with no relief. She began to feel as if she needed to accept her fate: A bed-ridden life full of pain and discomfort, with an uncertain future.

In addition to the great physical burden Pamela carried, she had a stack of medical bills that were beyond her financial means.

“I was at the point of nearly giving up,” she said with tears in her eyes. “That’s when I contacted Sanford. They were my last hope.”

And the best was saved for last. It was through a friend that Pamela learned about Dr. Dustin Bechtold, orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement. Her friend experienced a similar problem following hip replacement surgery, and he recommended Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

“I knew immediately that Dr. Bechtold valued quality care more than quantity,” Pamela says. “I explained my physical, and financial, situation and he was committed to getting me better. That was the most important thing.”

With Dr. Bechtold’s compassion and expertise, the root of Pamela’s problem was finally discovered. Through her numerous surgeries, one piece of her original hip implant had remained in place - the femoral component, or lower replacement piece in the thigh.

“That is where the infection continued to fester, and without removing all foreign material in a chronic infection, it is nearly impossible to clear up,” Dr. Bechtold says. “So the first step was to remove her implants, and then treat the infection in her leg while trying to get her chronically draining wound to finally heal.”

The damage of Pamela’s infection was significant, according to Dr. Bechtold. She had suffered bone loss and tissue destruction that could not be replaced. During the healing process, a temporary implant kept Pamela’s hip stabilized while delivering antibiotics to fight the infection.

“Pamela’s unfortunate story is a great example of why expert care can make a dramatic difference with total joint replacement surgery,” Dr. Bechtold says. “Early, appropriate intervention to deal with a complication after surgery can help patients avoid additional pain, surgery and long term problems. Of course avoiding complications in the first place remains one of our primary goals.”

Now, free of infection and with a new permanent hip implant, Pamela has a fresh outlook on her future. She was also finally able to get her other hip replaced after suffering with severe pain in it for as long as she struggled with her other problems.

Pamela was able to return home after a night in the hospital as a “fast track” patient and had a much different experience compared to her first hip surgery. She’s walking with assistance from a walker because of the remaining damage from her long-term infection, but is grateful to regain her mobility.

Through therapy and close monitoring, Pamela hopes to walk without any assistance very soon. While working as a nurse may no longer be an option, she hopes to take her skills to the classroom and become an educator once she is healed.

In addition to finding relief for her physical ailments, Pamela was referred to Sanford’s Community Care Program to help with her financial concerns. She was approved for assistance, which has helped ease Pamela’s mind through a very stressful time.

“I’ve regained my independence – my freedom, thanks to Dr. Bechtold and the entire team at Sanford,” Pamela says. “I finally found someone who would listen to me and take the time to find the root of the problem. The team has been here for me every step of the way.”

Click here to learn more about the services we provide at Sanford Orthopedics &Sports Medicine.

Posted Date: December 2013