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Most of us have reasons to be thankful for during this week devoted to just that. I'm thankful for so many friends, family members, readers and events that have blended to enrich my life over the decades.

Among the gratitudes is one you might find unique: A new right hip that restored normalcy to life 16 years ago.

Has it really been that long since I was wheeled into a frigid surgical suite at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock where orthopedic surgeon Dr. William F. Hefley Jr. waited to replace my badly worn right hip?

It doesn't seem that many years have passed, especially since the model he installed has functioned so well I often don't notice it's any different than the natural ball and socket on my left side. Like many others who'd lived a half-century, osteoarthritis had gnawed away the synovial fluid inside my right socket until it was gone.

That left me in my early 50s with a painful hip socket constantly rubbing against the bony knob it contained. The resulting constant ache caused me to limp and sleep only on my good side.

Normal life had ended within a matter of months. Activities such as dancing, golf and hiking became fond memories.

Yet I also felt much too young to sacrifice so much. The options were constant pain medications until I departed or having my hip surgically replaced. Not much of a choice, eh?

Having never been hospitalized, I resisted the surgery despite advice from friends who'd already had it and regained their normal lives. My family doctor at the time, Dr. Larry Tuttle, said I definitely needed a replacement. But another physician left me even more reluctant when he laughingly referred to the traditional replacement achieved through an incision down the hip and leg as "a real hog killin'!"

Yeah, that visual struck me like it would you. In my quandary I did what any chicken would do: I relied on providence to guide me.

And wouldn't you know, a couple of weeks later, a friend mentioned the latest revolutionary minimally invasive replacement technique where the surgeon replaces one's entire hip with dual two-inch incisions while also not cutting muscles. That form of replacement made traditional rehabilitation unnecessary except for strengthening the new hip by walking on it.

In my resulting search I recognized more providence at work. One of the nation's few orthopedic surgeons performing the minimally invasive method at the time practiced in Little Rock and was even on my insurance plan. What were the odds? And in 2003, he was actually training fellow surgeons how to perform the revolutionary technique.

Dr. Hefley, with physician partners, has since founded the Arkansas Surgical Hospital, specializing in joint and spine pain procedures, and Bowen Hefley Orthopedics. Today his partnership has seven surgeons and five physicians on staff.

Back then (the early Pleistocene) I made the appointment and soon headed from Fayetteville to Little Rock. I recall visiting with the mild-mannered, friendly and straight-shooting surgeon and his assistant, hopeful I might be a candidate for his technique.

At the time, a potential patient couldn't be significantly overweight to qualify. I promised if he'd take me as his patient, I'd lose 40 pounds between then and my surgery date. He agreed.

So I began training in a swimming pool over the next seven weeks to take the weight off my diseased hip, dropped the weight and and made minimally invasive surgery become a reality.

In the process I wound up writing a detailed account from a patient's viewpoint on what to expect, from preparing for the experience through surgery day and into recovery, in a 100-page account titled One Hip Book.

My thinking was so many baby boomers would be facing this in years to come that an account of my experience might help them understand what awaited. In other words, I wrote about the worries, fears, realities and details I believed most folks facing that situation would want to know.

Today I walk, dance, play golf and do all the things I could do before the arthritis destroyed my natural hip socket, thanks to Dr. Hefley and his remarkable surgical technique. I was hospitalized only one night. He said he expected this form of major surgery one day likely would be done on an outpatient basis.

My purpose in writing today is to again thank Dr. Hefley for his enduring gift and encourage anyone out there who is suffering like I was 16 years ago and feeling natural apprehensions about having a hip replaced to take the leap of faith and have your active life restored, especially if you are a candidate for the minimally invasive method.

Today, I only wish I'd had it done a year earlier than I did when the aching began in my inner groin (a sign of hip ailment). Git 'er done now and by next Thanksgiving, you too will be grateful to have normalcy restored to your life.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 11/18/2018

Print Headline: In gratitude

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