A New Hip for a Hip New Grandmother

Hip replacement surgery ended 15 years of pain for Jennifer Wheatley – just in time for her to keep up with her first grandchild.

“My goal was to be fully recovered before my granddaughter started walking,” Wheatley says. “Now I can take her to the park and get down on the floor to play with her. I thought getting older meant you have to hurt every day, and I’m so grateful that it doesn’t.”

Wheatley, a 55-year-old massage therapist, benefited from a newer surgical approach perfected at Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine, which helps patients recover rapidly. The direct anterior, or front, approach to the hip socket allows surgeons to bypass muscles, tendons, and ligaments that stabilize the joint.

“Patients improve so much within the first three months that they gain a lot of confidence moving forward,” explains Dr. Daniel Cavazos, Wheatley’s surgeon. “They can move very quickly without restrictions. That’s especially important for someone who is younger or wants to stay very active. Jennifer had high expectations, and happily we met all of them.”

By the time Wheatley came to HROSM in December 2017, she had been in crippling pain for a year and was struggling with basic chores such as grocery shopping, pumping gas, and cooking at her Newport News home. Her right hip had first started to ache in 2003, when she worked for UPS; at various points she was misdiagnosed with bursitis and a muscle injury.

A holistic person who had never even broken a bone, Wheatley had tried ice, rest, ibuprofen, stretching, water therapy, salt baths, ointments, and sleeping with a pillow between her knees. “My world just kept getting smaller,” she says. “I was looking for a doctor who would really listen and bring a positive, compassionate energy, and that’s exactly what Dr. Cavazos did.”

An X-ray revealed severe osteoarthritis in the hip, leaving surgery as Wheatley’s only option. She was stunned to be on her feet within two hours of her March 7 operation and in physical therapy that afternoon.

At her six-week follow-up, she asked Dr. Cavazos for a big hug.

Most patients can go home the day of surgery with the anterior approach, which has an extremely low risk of complications or subsequent joint dislocation. Typically, they’re off narcotic pain medications in three or four days and can drive within about two weeks. Dr. Cavazos, who has nearly 15 years of experience with the technique, can even operate on both hips at once if needed.

“Not surprisingly, we have patients traveling here from other states because we have so much expertise,” he says. Thanks to durable ceramic and polyethylene materials, the prosthetics should last a good 25 years.

Today, Wheatley, a married mother of three, has dropped more than 20 pounds and has newfound energy for work, exercise, and family, including several loved ones with chronic illnesses, a 16-yearold son, and, of course, that 1-year-old granddaughter. Next in line to play: a newborn grandson.

“This surgery was life-changing,” she says. “It’s incredible I can feel so good.”