Published on December 12, 2013

Giving hope through hip replacement

By Eric Cravey, Managing Editor, Clay Today

MIDDLEBURG – For the past three decades, DeWayne Johnny Cook has suffered silently in pain caused by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now 53, Cook was only 14 when he broke his left femur while a passenger in the backseat of a car during an auto accident. And it was that fracture and its subsequent improper healing that, over the years, made him a candidate just this year for hip replacement surgery.

"It’s never been right ever since," Cook said. "I’ve been in pain the last 25, 30 years."

Numerous doctor visits through the years proved no help to relieve Cook’s pain until this fall when he found out about a program called Operation Walk USA. The Rosemont, Ill.-based national nonprofit – in conjunction with 130 volunteer orthopaedic surgeons at 70 participating U.S. hospitals – will donate an estimated 230 hip replacement surgeries from Dec. 2 through Dec. 7. Cook, a resident of Fernandina Beach, was in Clay County on Dec. 2 where his surgery was performed free of charge at St. Vincent’s Clay County.

After his leg fracture, Cook’s hip became dislocated, which affected his ability to hold a good job. After he served six years in the U.S. Army as a Scout helicopter mechanic, Cook worked in construction, a field that takes its toll on the human body.

"You work a day and you can’t work for two more," Cook said. "It’s going to be a 100 percent improvement."

Cook recently found himself running out of options as his hip pain grew unbearable. He was applying for Social Security when he found out about the free hip replacement program through a free medical clinic in Fernandina Beach. He said now he has hope.

"It’s a great surgery," said Max Lincoln, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon with the Jacksonville-based Heekin Orthopaedic Specialists, who performed Cook’s surgery. "I understand it’s the second best surgery for giving people their life back after open heart surgery."

Cook’s pain was so harsh, he couldn’t even roll over at night while sleeping. Lincoln is confident that Cook’s life will change from page 10

for the better once he has completed physical therapy and rehabilitation.

"I think it’s going to restore his ability to work and sleep well at night and stop limping," Lincoln said. "It should be a real positive thing for him."

One of Cook’s main goals is to re-enter the world of work and again become independent. In recent years, his family has helped him through the pain.

"This is a godsend, getting his hip fixed," said Patricia Cook, his mother who accompanied him to the surgery. "He’s been in pain since he was 14-years-old. This is the first year they’ve done this program and they chose him."

St. Vincent’s and Operation Walk USA provides all aspects of treatment – surgery, hospitalization, and pre-and postoperative care – at no cost to participating patients who may not qualify for government assistance, have insurance or afford surgery on their own.

"This program allows us to give back to the community by offering patients hope for a better quality of life," said Gavan Duffy, medical director for the Orthopedic Center of Excellence at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Southside.

Cook’s surgery was one of eight free hip replacement operations carried out Dec. 2 at all three Northeast Florida St. Vincent’s hospital locations. Cook’s and one other were conducted in Clay County.

Over the years, Cook has attempted to get doctors to perform a hip replacement, but he said, he was always told he was too young as the replacement parts typically have a 10-year life span. Now he is simply looking forward to the future.

"Me and my buddies want to open up a bait shop," he said. "But that’ll be somewhere down the road after this."

Surgeon Max Lincoln, M.D., preps for a hip replacement surgery on DeWayne Johnny Cook of Fernandina Beach on Dec. 2 at St. Vincent’s Clay County as part of a partnership with Operation Walk USA.