Mark’s story: New hip improves quality of life for hard-working cargo employee
July 31, 2018
Fearful of missing work, Mark Hofeld spent two years living with excruciating hip pain.
His right hip hurt so much, he walked around like he had a peg leg and took over-the-counter pain medication constantly. Getting in and out of his car was an ordeal. To get in, the 56-year-old Des Plaines father of three would have to sit in the driver’s seat facing out and then lift his right leg into the car. The pain was the most intense following his night shifts at a postal service, where he loads and unloads cargo at O’Hare International Airport.
“I would drive home from work and sit in the driveway for 10 minutes because I knew how much it would hurt to get out of the car and walk to the door,” he says.
Orthopedic surgeon Thomas Kim, M.D., who performs joint replacement procedures at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH), had been urging Mark to have the hip replacement surgery he needed. With a physical job, Dr. Kim feared Mark could fall and suffer a more serious injury.
But Mark kept finding excuses to not have the hip replacement surgery—his daughter’s wedding, guilt over taking more time off work and potential surgical complications from his 290-pound weight and sleep apnea. He decided he’d just live with the pain, and rely on over-the-counter pain medications and occasional ultrasound-guided injections for hip joint pain relief.
To encourage him, Dr. Kim showed Mark his X-rays, explained in simple terms what was wrong, how hip replacement surgery would help and what the recovery process would involve. Mark already had full confidence in Dr. Kim and his staff at Orthopedics Associates S.C., since they’d successfully repaired his rotator cuff and torn tendons in previous years. Mark finally decided to do it.
Opting for a new hip
In November 2017, Mark underwent the 1 1/2 hour procedure at NCH. He was on his feet with physical therapy the next day and after a short hospital stay was discharged to rehab. After his stay in rehab, which Dr. Kim closely monitored, and eight weeks of physical therapy at NCH’s Wellness Center, Mark was his old self. Three months after his surgery, he returned to heavy duty work. His coworkers marveled at his normal walking and movement.
“Before surgery, the pain was unbelievable, and now it’s zero,” Mark says. “I can’t say enough about what Dr. Kim did for me. It’s like he waved a magic wand over my hip.”
Dr. Kim estimates he’s replaced or repaired thousands of hips and knees during his 20-year career and his five years of training at the renowned Rothman Institute in Philadelphia, one of the busiest joint replacement centers in the country.
Dr. Kim says Mark’s surgery was fairly common, and involved implementation of a wedged-shaped, titanium taper lock hip stem. Dr. Kim trained with Dr. Richard Rothman, who developed the taper lock hip stem, which has become a widely used system in the United States. The replacement typically lasts more than 20 years. Dr. Kim uses peripheral nerve blocks for his surgeries, which allow patients to wake up from surgery feeling less discomfort, and to often return home sooner.
“The implants, technology and pain management we’re using at NCH are state-of-the-art,” Dr. Kim says.
The recovery process also is improved and accelerated, thanks to nerve blocks and services like in-home therapy. Full recovery time for a typical hip replacement surgery has shortened, and is now just six to eight weeks, Dr. Kim says.
Orthopedic experts close to home
Dr. Kim notes, “Although technology, implant design and materials, and surgical approach all play a role in a successful outcome, by far, the single most important factor is the surgeon performing the procedure. My advice to patients is to focus on the training, experience and integrity of their surgeon.”
The Harvard Medical School graduate adds, “People think, ‘If I’m going to have major surgery, I need to have it done at one of the university hospitals downtown.’ But patients in our community should be reassured there are surgeons with exceptional training in their backyard.”
Dr. Kim’s education and training impressed Mark, but his integrity is what won him over. Dr. Kim went out of his way to visit Mark multiple times after his surgery, and even came to see him at his rehab facility.
“I’ve been to a lot of different doctors in my life, and none of them are like him. He cares. He is your advocate,” Mark says. “He always answers my questions so well and so understandably.”
Mark encourages anyone in need of a hip replacement to meet with Dr. Kim and not put off having the surgery. As he can attest, waiting only makes the pain worse.
“It’s hard for me to describe what my life would have been like without Dr. Kim,” Mark says. “He totally saved my quality of life.”