Getting Older, Getting Better: Part II

Dr. Charles Hope studies hip X-rays.
Dr. Charles Hope studies hip X-rays.

The Carestios--parents of five and grandparents of seven--are retired and living on the edge. The edge of a golf course, that is. And these days, Ralph's swing is as good as ever.

Just months out of total hip replacement surgery, Ralph is feeling no pain, but that wasn't the case this time last year. "We were in Italy a year ago and every step was painful," he told us. "We came back, I knew then avoiding surgery was not an option."

"The days of saying, 'Just live with it, go into your wheel chair,' we don't do that any more," said Dr. Charles A. Hope with the Orthopedic Center in Savannah.

Instead, millions of people with debilitating degenerative joint problems like Ralph are holding on to their quality of life with surgery.

"If I didn't do this, I'd be walking with a cane, I'd have lots of pain, couldn't do the things we were used to doing," Ralph said.

But Ralph hadn't had surgery since he had his tonsils out as a child, and the thought of major hip surgery was scary. So he hit the internet and discovered a surgery that required a much smaller incision and promised to have him up and moving faster than after traditional hip surgery.

"I found Dr. Hope because I got online and found people doing minimally invasive procedures," he said.

"Patients are asking specific questions," said Dr. Hope. "It's something they have researched. They are a more educated consumer so they are expecting more."

And Ralph says that's just what he got.

His problem was his left hip. It deteriorated quickly and he was facing a big choice: replace the hip or give up golf.

"When you swing through the ball, you finish on the left side, you put weight on the left side," he said. "I can hit the ball again. It's hard to do that when you can't transfer your weight."

Dr. Hope performed the surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital using a newer procedure that limits the the size of the incision. "Change how you handle tissue on the inside, either go around the muscle or under rather than cutting through," he explained. "It allows the patient to heal and allows for a shorter recovery period."

It's a procedure he uses consistently with patients from their teens to their 90s. At 62, that puts Ralph in the middle. Now he'll have many more years to work on his golf game.

"My golf game is not any better," joked Ralph. "He gave me a new hip, not a new swing."

Dr. Hope says hip replacement is one of the most predictable and reliable in terms of pain relief and restoring function and quality of life. He also says technology continues to improve.

Reported by: Jody Chapin,