Joint pain—whether caused by arthritis, natural wear and tear, or injury—can interfere with even the most ordinary pleasures of life: gardening, hiking, playing with grandchildren, volunteering at church or taking family vacations. But patients can find relief at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, a leader in hip, knee and shoulder replacement and resurfacing procedures. The hospital’s highly trained and experienced doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists work closely with each patient to deliver personalized care that reduces pain and decreases the risk of future injuries.
For Deborah Wishart and her family, Walt Disney World is a favorite vacation spot. They’ve been four times since 2013, but it’s not easy to enjoy the “magic” when hip pain makes walking difficult.
During Wishart’s second and third trips to Disney with her husband, Len, along with their 13-year-old twins, Leonard and Claire, she experienced pain that made it difficult to get around the expansive parks and participate in the fun. To complicate matters, she has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a hereditary neuromuscular condition that damages the nerves in the arms and legs, causing muscle weakness and atrophy.
After returning from the family’s 2017 trip, Wishart consulted Megan Swanson, MD, at Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics. Imaging tests revealed that bone was rubbing against bone in Wishart’s left hip. The top of the left femur, normally shaped like a ball, had worn down and flattened like a hockey puck. To correct the issue, Dr. Swanson performed a direct anterior hip replacement procedure on Wishart’s left hip.
“Direct anterior hip replacement surgery affords the patient the benefits of a hip replacement with less risk of limp and pain, as the posterior muscles and the pelvic stabilizing muscles are not extensively cut during the procedure—as they would be in a posterior or lateral surgical approach,” Dr. Swanson says. “This is even more important in a patient like Mrs. Wishart, with a neuromuscular disorder that causes severe weakness in her lower legs, leading her to use her pelvis and hip muscles to compensate.”
After making a remarkable recovery from the surgery, Wishart had Dr. Swanson perform her right hip replacement in January 2020—again through a direct anterior approach.
“It’s amazing how much better I feel,” says Wishart, 54, of Lake Monticello. “I have no pain in either hip now. Dr. Swanson has been amazing through this process. She made me feel so at ease. She’s just very easygoing and super smart, and really a great person.”
For Wishart, the Caring Tradition at Sentara Martha Jefferson was evident in the acts of kindness shown to her by doctors, nurses and other team members. She recalls Dr. Swanson praying with her before surgery, and the anesthesiologist asking questions to learn more about her CMT—an extra step to help ensure her safety during the procedure.
“Mrs. Wishart is close to my heart because we both love our kids and our dogs and want to be active moms,” says Dr. Swanson. “As happenstance, I saw her out in the community one day before her surgery, walking with a painful limp at the dog park, and it deeply touched me. She has overcome so much in her lifetime dealing with CMT. I am so thankful I was able to be a part of her team and get her back to doing the things she loves.”
Wishart, who gave birth to her twins at Sentara Martha Jefferson, adds: “It’s just amazing that everyone at the hospital is so friendly and so helpful. Despite being busy with all of their responsibilities, my caregivers never hesitated to come when I needed them. It’s such a warm and homey atmosphere, and I’m grateful to Dr. Swanson for taking good care of me. I can’t get around as fast as my family because of my CMT, but my hips are completely pain free now. That means I can get out with them at Disney, at soccer games and on family beach trips and be a part of their lives.”
All in the Family
For Curtis and Ruby Hedgeman of Scottsville, knee replacement surgeries were a family affair. Both suffered for years with arthritis in the knees, making it difficult to do the things they enjoyed, such as gardening, yard work, hunting and volunteering in the churches Curtis pastored.
“I’m a very energetic person, and I like to be busy doing housework, working out in the yard and going shopping,” says Ruby, 80. “My pain got to the point where I couldn’t do those things.”
By 2013, Curtis’ pain was causing him to have trouble sleeping at night. That’s when he knew it was time to consider knee replacement surgery.
John Edwards, MD, at Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics, had treated the couple for years, using conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs and, later, cortisone injections. Although those measures were effective for many years, their arthritis progressed with age.
“It got to the point where I just couldn’t rest at night,” says Curtis, 81, now retired. “That just makes it difficult to do anything, which is very discouraging.”
Curtis had his right knee replaced in June 2013, and Ruby had her right knee replaced in 2015. Later, in 2017, Curtis and Ruby each underwent a left knee replacement. After each procedure, the Hedgemans recuperated at home.
“I was in a lot of pain all the time, whether standing, walking or even lying down,” Ruby recalls. “It got to the point where I couldn’t do anything without experiencing pain.”
Although medications and injections can be effective initially in many cases, the time may come for some patients to consider the potential benefits of surgery.
“Knee replacement surgery is not a life-saving procedure—it’s more of a lifestyle-saving operation,” Dr. Edwards says. “I don’t typically push patients to have these procedures, but when they tell me their knee pain is interfering with life, that’s when they typically decide to have surgery.”
Curtis and Ruby are grateful that they no longer have pain in their knees. Although retired now, they stay busy with church work, yard work and day trips. Curtis still likes to go deer hunting, and Dr. Edwards has on occasion received venison sausage from these grateful patients.
“We think a lot of Dr. Edwards—he’s so calm and down-to-earth,” says Ruby, adding that she did so well during recovery that Dr. Edwards presented her with a medal to mark her achievement. “His bedside manner is really wonderful, and we really love him. I would recommend Sentara Martha Jefferson to anyone.”
A Positive Outlook Speeds Recovery
Sally Murphy likes to keep busy. Whether volunteering in the community, baking bread, walking, bicycling, crocheting or hosting her five grandchildren for an annual “No Parents Week” at Bethany Beach, Del., she always seems to have something scheduled.
When she and her husband, Ken, retired in 2008, they moved to the Charlottesville area to be closer to their two sons and their families. Eventually, osteoarthritis in her shoulders began to cause pain and limit her range of motion, interfering with the activities she enjoyed. She even had difficulty lifting her youngest grandchild, who was a toddler at the time.
In 2014, Murphy consulted with Stephen Gunther, MD, at Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics. He repaired her right rotator cuff, the group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. Four months later, he performed a total joint replacement on the left shoulder.
“I was in pretty bad shape, and Dr. Gunther gave me my life back,” says Murphy, 73, who also has had knee and hip replacement procedures.
In the six years since those shoulder procedures, the wear and tear in Murphy’s right shoulder progressed. This past June, Dr. Gunther performed a reverse ball-and-socket shoulder arthroplasty, which reverses the normal ball-and-socket structure. Instead of attaching the artificial ball to the top of the arm bone, where it normally would be placed, the surgeon attaches the artificial ball to the shoulder blade. The artificial socket is attached to the top of the arm bone. With this arrangement, the deltoid muscle covering the shoulder allows the patient to raise the arm over the head without the normal rotator cuff function.
“This procedure is a shoulder replacement for people with an unrepairable rotator cuff tear—especially if it’s coupled with arthritis,” Dr. Gunther explains. “It provides functionality in cases where other solutions would not.”
Murphy feels great and is pleased with her results.
“Dr. Gunther is the ‘shoulder guru,’” Murphy says. “Not only is he a renowned surgeon in his field, but he is incredible with his patients. He exudes confidence, respect and empathy, and he has a wonderful ability to make you feel like you’re the only person on his radar screen. Plus, I love his sense of humor!”
For his part, Dr. Gunther enjoys establishing long-term relationships with patients like Murphy. Her dedication and follow-through with physical therapy have been key to her recovery, he says.
“Sally is a pleasure to care for because she has such a wonderful, positive attitude,” Dr. Gunther says. “That positive, engaging outlook and attitude makes a big difference in healing and postoperative recovery. Patients like her often do have much better outcomes. It’s a joy for me to take care of patients and see them get back to their lives.”