“As soon as I stepped foot on the floor, the pain was gone,” Pam says. “It was time to have fun again – taking my grandchildren to the park and going to dinner and dancing with my husband. He told Dr. Edwards, ‘Thank you for giving me my wife back.’”

Dancing Once Again

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Pam Mason, of Buena Vista, Virginia, had nearly crippling hip arthritis before she met Dr. John Edwards, a Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with nearly 14 years of experience.

"I had excruciating pain for three years," says Pam, a 52-year-old sales executive. "I relied on a cane and a walker and even a wheelchair at times. Getting to my office at work, down a few steps, wasn't possible. I had to sit somewhere else. If I wanted to attend church to sing, someone had to go with me to help me walk."

Years of rheumatoid arthritis had stripped away Pam's hip ball joint. She talked to one surgeon about a hip replacement, and he told her no.

"It was because of my weight, my kidney problems, and my diabetes," says Pam.

The doctor she consultants for arthritis suggested she reach out to Dr. Edwards. She took it as a good sign when she got an immediate appointment.

"I could tell by the look on Dr. Edwards' face when I met him that he felt for me," Pam recalls. "He was compassionate, and said 'I will help you.'''

Dr. Edwards understands both patients' and surgeons' conundrum:

"Unfortunately, because of the higher rate of complications with above-average size people during a hip replacement, there's been a movement to decline to do surgery on people with a body mass index of 40 or higher," Dr. Edwards explains. "The official recommendation of the Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons is to not do elective hip replacements. Unfortunately, there's no suggestion on what to do instead. So a lot of people are just told to 'lose weight,' and then sent out of the office."

Patients given that advice elsewhere visit Dr. Edwards a year or two later, and he sees that their physical limitations have prevented them from losing weight. Often, they have added pounds.

"What we need to do for people in this dilemma is both help them lose weight and do surgery safely," he notes. "I have experience operating on individuals in a similar situation, and I felt it would be appropriate for me to do so for Mrs. Mason."

After talking with Dr. Edwards and being inspired by his gentle encouragement, Pam modified her diet and walked in a neighborhood with level sidewalks. The sidewalks provided a smooth foundation as she used a walker. She lost 25 pounds and underwent hip replacement a few months later.

For the surgery, performed at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, Dr. Edwards utilized special techniques and instruments to prevent blood loss and gain exposure to Pam's hip socket and femur. He also used a special bandage to reduce the possibility of wound infections and help the incisions heal more quickly.

Dr. Edwards and Pam credit Dr. Edwards' staff and the Sentara Martha Jefferson team members with putting Pam at ease.

"Everyone was so helpful and nice," Pam shares. "It's a beautiful place with kind people."

Pam tells people that her life before and after surgery is like night and day.

"As soon as I stepped a foot on the floor, the pain was gone," Pam says. "It was time to have fun again - taking my grandchildren to the park and going to dinner and dancing with my husband. He told Dr. Edwards, 'Thank you for giving me my wife back.'"

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