Fast-Acting Relief

Procedure gets patients home hours after joint replacement surgery.

Among the millions of Americans who have lost work because of the spread of COVID-19 is Sybil Johnson, a 69-year-old part-time stage actress and theater director whose career in the arts came to a virtual halt just after January.

“I was up and at ’em the day after surgery,” Sybil raves.

“One of the last things I did was at the Straz Center in Tampa,” Sybil says. “I did a portrayal of the woman who once owned the land that the Straz Center was built on. Her name was Fortune Taylor, and there’s a street and a bridge named after her there.

“She was a former slave, so I dressed up in an 1800s-era costume, had my hair done up like it would have been back when she was alive, and did an in-person monologue and answered questions about her life. It was a lot of fun.

“Since then, though, I’ve mostly done performances online as part of a community-based project that I’m a part of. I also do a little directing there, but I’m a college professor by profession. I teach English, speech and theater.”

Sybil says she has “taught all over,” and she’s not exaggerating. She has taught at Florida State University and several community colleges throughout the state. She has also taught at universities in American Samoa and Fiji.

For work purposes, Sybil has been living “on and off” in the South Pacific for the past 17 years. It wasn’t long after she made her first sojourn there that she became the star in her own real-life medical drama. The villain was arthritis.

“I was about 150 pounds heavier than I am now, and I was beginning to experience a lot of pain in my knees,” Sybil relates. “It had become hard for me to walk, and when I went to the doctor about it, he told me my knees were bone on bone.”

That diagnosis resulted in Sybil eventually undergoing knee replacement surgery in 2006. Her knees held up well for the next 13 years, but a problem in her left knee developed in 2019 that led to a second replacement surgery on that knee.

That second surgery didn’t quite take, though, and almost immediately afterward, Sybil began experiencing new problems. A sudden lack of stability was her main complaint, Sybil’s left knee often “caving in” on her when she walked.

“Not only that, but my knee was very painful,” Sybil relates. “I’m a very active person, but my knee was so annoyingly painful that it was hard for me to do a lot of things. And it only got worse as time went on.”

Further complicating the matter was that Sybil’s insurance limited the doctors she could choose from to correct the problem. So, she changed insurance plans, and after doing some research called Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) for help.

“The reason I did that is because I spoke to the doctor at OJRCA, and his manner even on the phone was so kind and respectful,” Sybil says. “After that I said, The insurance system will not stop me from getting the care I want from this man.

Specialized Approach

The doctor who so impressed Sybil is Philip E. Clifford, MD, AAHKS, AAOS, co-founder of the Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America. Dr. Clifford specializes in a surgical protocol for the replacement of hips and knees that eliminates the need for long, postoperative hospital stays.

“One of the factors that’s most unique about our protocol is the medicine we use,” Dr. Clifford explains. “One of those medicines is called Exparel®. It’s a long-lasting, non-opioid, local anesthetic that can last for two to three days.

“For knee replacement surgery, we also do what’s called an adductor canal block. When you do that along with an injection of Exparel properly, it allows the patient to get up and move around faster following surgery.

“I tell everybody I know who has knee problems, Go see Dr. Clifford.” Sybil

“Another feature that’s unique about our protocol is the surgical technique we use. For example, with our knee replacement surgery, we’re not assaulting the muscle; we’re incising the capsule of the joint. That, in and of itself, means less trauma.

“The same is true of our hip replacement surgery. That too is a minimally invasive, muscle-sparing replacement procedure that results in less muscle trauma and less bleeding. And the less muscle trauma and bleeding you have, the better.

“The hip procedure is also done through a small incision, about three to five inches long. This allows us to preserve muscle attachments as well, which means the patient can get up and start moving just hours after surgery with no limitations.”

Further expediting the healing process is the artificial joint that Dr. Clifford implants. The knee joint, for example, is constructed in a way that allows for faster recovery, which is one reason Dr. Clifford refers to it as “the best available.”

“With the vast majority of knee replacements, the plastic is fixed to the metal that goes into the tibia and is cemented in the tibia,” he says. “This implant is a rotating platform. That plastic part can swivel and rotate. That facilitates better and faster range of motion.”

Unbelievable Recovery

Along with Dr. Clifford’s manner, it was that advanced technology and the promise of a speedy recovery that so attracted Sybil to Dr. Clifford and OJRCA. She soon learned that her faith was well placed.

Sybil Johnson

“I was up and at ’em and feeling great the day after surgery,’’ Sybil raves. “And I am ecstatic about that because I’m a very active woman. I’m very busy, and I can’t take sitting still very long.

“So, I was very grateful for that, and then on the first day that I went for my rehab work, the people there were absolutely amazed at how mobile I was. On the day after my surgery, I already had 90-degree flexion in my left knee, and they were just shocked by that.

“They thought that I must have been through physical therapy already or that my surgery had been done weeks earlier, but I told them, No, I just had my surgery yesterday. It was as though they’d never seen anything like it.

“Something else you should know is that after that first day, I didn’t even bother to use the walker or the cane they gave me. They give you that for stability while you’re recovering, but I gave up the walker after the first day and never used the cane at all.

“That’s how good my mobility and balance were. And now my knee feels great. It hasn’t felt this good in years, so I’m ecstatic. And I could not be more pleased with Dr. Clifford and his staff. They’re just fabulous, and I tell everybody I know who has knee problems, Go see Dr. Clifford. I recommend them all the time.”

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