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Moving On After Surgery: Playford Is Ready for the Next Big Thing

On a recent vacation, John Playford and his wife, Kim, stood at the entrance to a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky.

The ark, which stands about 50 feet high and spans more than 500 feet long, comes complete with three decks of exhibits retelling of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.John Playford and wife at Noah's Ark museum

They stepped inside to spend a couple of hours touring and enjoying the massive exhibit. Had it not been for a hip replacement surgery just a few months before, Playford would not have been able to comfortably experience the popular “Ark Encounter” attraction with his wife — or many of the other trips and activities they enjoy together.

“The ark was awesome! It was absolutely amazing!” Playford said. “That trip was an all-day walk, but prior to having surgery, I would’ve been miserable. I still would’ve done it, but I would’ve been in absolute misery.”

Playford stands a lofty 6 foot, 3 inches tall, and at age 58, he still maintains an active lifestyle, spending time working out in the gym and away on motorcycle rides and hiking trips.

But about eight years ago, he started experiencing some pain in his left hip. The pain was putting his mobility and comfort in jeopardy.

“When it started, I wasn’t sure what it was,” he said. “I even tried to research it and self-diagnose myself, but that didn’t seem to do any good.”

Playford made an appointment at Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic and where they got an X-ray of his hip joint.

“The images came back, and it said that I had arthritis in my hip,” Playford said. “At that time, I was about 50 years old. I thought, what do I do? I had a prescription for naproxen (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that’s used to treat pain or inflammation caused by conditions such as arthritis), but I wondered what do I do when that doesn’t work anymore? I don’t really like to take pain medication, and I was thinking what could I do to stop this?”

Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition and is often accompanied by stiffness and limited mobility in the affected joint.

At the time, Playford was experiencing some discomfort in his hip, but over time, it grew worse.

He soon visited his primary care physician and was prescribed to begin a physical therapy program, where therapists showed him stretches and activities that he could do to try to strengthen his joints weakened by arthritis. He tried yoga and tai chi classes as well, but his arthritis was advanced and the pain persisted.

He felt his best when he was being active and exercising, so he kept up with his workouts and daily routines, pushing through the constant ache, but eventually the pain worsened to a point where he had to consider other solutions for relief.

“I met a guy at the gym who had a hip replacement and he said to me, ‘you’ll know when it’s time to have it replaced. I can’t tell you. No one else can tell you. But you will know,’” Playford said. “One day, I was just walking around at Sam’s Club and I had to find somewhere to sit down. At the time, I was still working out and everything, but the pain was getting the best of me. It almost seemed that when I moseyed around, it was worse than when I was really going at things hard. I just thought, this is it.”

Playford is a senior data and analytics analyst at Tanner Health System. There, he spoke with two colleagues from the nursing administration team — Deborah Matthews, RN, a senior vice president and chief nursing officer for the health system, and Missie Robertson, RN, assistant chief nursing officer and vice president of institutional performance and patient safety — who helped him consider the options available at Tanner.

“I was thinking that I wanted to go into Atlanta and have this done, but I was talking with Deborah and Missie about it and they told me that Tanner has a great orthopedics program and they would really like the opportunity to take care of me.”

John Playford on bicycleTanner Ortho and Spine Center holds The Gold Seal of approval from The Joint Commission for hip and knee joint replacement, as well as The Gold Seal of Approval for spine surgery. By partnering with specialists at Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic, the center provides local and convenient access to a range of advanced orthopedic services throughout the region, including hip replacement.

The center also offers the exclusive Tanner Joint Academy, a comprehensive educational program that provides resources, tools and support to ensure that people preparing for joint surgery at Tanner have everything they need prior to their procedure and everything they need for a successful recovery afterward.

Surgery wasn’t something Playford considered lightly, as this would be his first major medical procedure. He deliberated over it with his wife and son, Kenneth, before scheduling another appointment at Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic, where he saw Gregory Slappey, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon.

“People tend to live with pain for years if they think the solution will be worse,” said Dr. Slappey. “And realistically, with joint pain among younger patients like John, our options were limited because joint replacement wasn’t always the best option. But with new artificial joint designs that last longer and new approaches to joint replacement surgeries that help people recover faster, we have a lot more options to give people a lasting solution to pain.”

For Playford, the decision wasn’t easy — but he was glad he made it.

“I had been asking God, praying about it, and I just felt it was time,” Playford said. “I went in and I told Dr. Slappey that I think I’m here for a hip replacement. I told him to look me over and tell me what we needed to do. He looked at my X-rays and CT scans, watched me walk and explained what he saw. The amazing thing to me was, when I talked with him, I told him that I think I also might have problems that are extending down my leg. He told me that this has been such a slow ramp up of pain that I had no idea just how much pain my hip was causing me.”

Following his appointment, Playford and Dr. Slappey scheduled the surgery for the morning of April 9 — a total hip replacement with an anterior approach, which was completed using the surgical Mako System from Stryker, a new state-of-the-art system that allows surgeons to use virtual alignment built from the patient’s actual CT scans and X-rays to perform procedures with unprecedented accuracy and precision.

“Dr. Slappey told me that after the procedure, I’ll notice that the pain will be gone,” Playford said. “He told me, of course I’ll have some pain from the surgery, but all that I’d been experiencing will be gone. And it was gone. The old pain I had was completely gone. I had dealt with it for so long and now it was just gone.

“I have to say that the care that I received here was fabulous,” he said. “Everybody was just fabulous. Even afterward, they continue to keep me on track. The nurses were great. The ortho academy was fantastic. The team in the operating room (OR) was great. The OR manager came in to see me, and I even had a couple of physicians who stopped by to see if I was doing OK. I am glad I did it here.”John and Kim Playford on bridge

Now, just months after surgery, Playford is doing well and is already looking ahead to more adventures, like taking a long ride on his motorcycle, taking a “Summits On the Air” backpacking excursion on a far off trail in north Georgia or Alabama — or traveling to see something marvelous, like the full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark.

“That trip was remarkable. They built an entire ark that you can go inside, and we walked the entire thing,” he said. “It’s a story most of us have heard about since we were little children. It’s surreal, looking at this thing, and it doesn’t even look real on the horizon because it’s so enormous. And you just think, that can’t be. I am so glad I got to experience that.”

And with his sails set on a similar horizon, he said he’s just getting started.

“There’s a lot more I’m looking forward to doing,” he said. “I’m riding my bike at home now. I’m riding my bike at the gym. My wife and I are big hikers and we went on a hike a couple of weekends ago. We did a two-and-a-half-mile hike, which I could’ve done before but would’ve been in terrible pain. I just think that this is awesome, because before — when I was out in the wilderness on a hike — I would think that I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer. Now, that has been blown out of the water. This has really opened life back up again.”