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Pain on the Farm

Living on a farm for close to 40 years, Roger Poppema couldn’t tell you the number of times he’s climbed on and off a tractor.

Even after retiring three years ago, he’s spent countless hours on the powerful machine every winter, using a giant auger and blower to clear the roads to his farmhouse in rural Sheldon, Iowa. However, one bitterly cold evening last February he took a step down from the tractor cab that he’ll never forget.

After hours of pushing snow, Roger decided it was getting too dark to work, so he shut off the tractor, scrambling down the side. As his foot reached the ground, he felt shooting pain through his left hip.

“There was a sound like something had snapped and I could feel it right away,” says Roger, standing in his machine shed next to the tractor. “I could hardly walk back to the house.”

Constant pain

Thinking he had a groin injury, the long-time farmer went to see his regular doctor. He was in tons of pain, but did the prescribed physical therapy for an injured groin.

For over two months, nothing seemed to stop the aches along his left side, said Roger. He tried pain medications, but didn’t like the side effects. His hip hurt so much he could hardly even walk across the yard.

“There were nights when I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t know what to do,” Roger said. “I was worried that this wasn’t going to get any better.”

Just as the first signs of spring were beginning to return to the farm, Roger made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon visiting the Sanford Sheldon Clinic. The joint specialist, Dr. Timothy Walker, ordered some tests to figure out why Roger’s hip continued to hurt.

A surprising diagnosis

An x-ray showed that Roger had a far more serious injury than anyone realized. When he took that last step down from the tractor, he had dislocated his anterior hip joint, literally tearing the ball out of the socket inside. Part of the bone had even sheared off, likely adding to his pain.

“There was no way that hip was going to work,” Roger says. “Now I knew why there had been that popping sound.”

In May, Roger was scheduled for hip replacement surgery with Sanford’s Center for Joint Success. The procedure would remove the damaged joint, replacing it with a metal ball attached to a stem and a plastic socket. He was confident that Dr. Walker, who had successfully operated on his wife’s knee in the past, would solve his problem.

“I knew that if anyone could fix my hip, it would be Dr. Walker,” Roger said. “You just can’t beat him.”

As soon as Roger was out of surgery, he was already feeling better. He took only one pain pill the day he left the hospital, and quickly started a regime of physical therapy, doing exercises every day in his home.

Getting back to work

“As soon as they got me out of bed, I was doing better than I had in months,” Roger said. “I kept telling people that I had my pain before the surgery.”

Roger continues to do some physical therapy for the muscles surrounding his new hip, which sustained some damage during the months before his diagnosis. Otherwise, he’s glad to be back to mowing grass and even plowing snow.

His children did insist on installing new set of steps on the tractor so that he won’t have to climb quite so far into the cab this winter. Roger says he knows that even without the new steps he would have no trouble with his hip.

“I’m not the kind of guy who just likes to sit there in a chair,” Roger says, walking across the farmyard. “It’s so good to be back to doing the things I want and need to do.”

Posted Date: January 2012