Written by Declan Harty
Oak Lawn couple rolling along pain free after surgeries
She doesn’t walk like Quasimodo anymore.Tom and Kathleen Naughton, posing with their dog Grace, say they feel like new people after their surgeries at Advocate Christ Medical Center. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
He is able to ride thousands of miles on his bike.
For Tom and Kathleen Naughton, being artificial is real.
Kathleen, a 52 year-old registered nurse, and Tom, a 55-year-old stationary engineer, reside in Oak Lawn and continue to live an active lifestyle as any other middle age couple would, but that would not be possible without the help of three artificial joints between the two.
A few years ago, they were both in constant pain and appeared older and slower than their ages would indicate.
“It is a life-changer once you have this done,” Tom said of the surgery. “Well we are both active, we are both very active in that aspect of working out and staying healthier.”
According to Luke…
With the help of Dr. Kevin Luke, an orthopedic surgeon, and the staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center, the Naughtons said they would not be able to continue either an active lifestyle or their careers as they do.
After years of pain for the Naughtons, they decided to pursue joint replacement surgeries. Kathy became a patient initially of Luke when she was 47 years old, which is when they prepared her for two hip replacements totaling a bilateral hip replacement. For Tom, his knee replacement surgery took place in February 2013.
Luke said that for both the Naughton’s he used Stryker-made hips and a knee for Tom in hopes of aiding the couple for the next few decades.
“The concern is any time you replace someone’s joint is the longevity and how long it is going to work and do well,” Luke said.
He expressed that while the Stryker joints will be able to assist in the durability of the joints, it is on the patients to make the most out of the surgery, something the Naughton’s succeeded at, according to Luke.
“They both have a very strong rehab, a very strong work ethic,” he said. “Placing a joint replacement in someone is something that we do, we put them in, but it is really the patient who has to rehab and do the work to make it work correctly and work well. Like anything in life, if you work hard on it, you will get better faster.”
Surgery for the Naughtons was something that had been needed for many years though it wasn’t initially recognized for either.
Knee deep in pain
When Tom was 18, he had his torn meniscus removed from his knee therefore causing a bone on bone grind, was able to manage for several years before something had to be done.
Since the surgery, Tom said he has found a comfort in his new knee that he has missed for years. He has the ability to do many more activities such as cycling, which has become an outlet to exercise his newfound mobility in his knee.
After speaking with Luke for the first time, Tom said he became aware of a possibly larger issue than his knee -- his health.
“Dr. Luke is a pretty straight forward guy, and he told me, if you lose weight and if you are in good shape before the surgery, it makes it that much easier to do,” he said. “I had at least a full year of exercising and before I felt like I needed my knee done.”
With his new knee, Tom has ridden over 1,000 miles on his bike since March.
Quasimodo no more
Kathleen’s issues arose nearly 20 years ago when what she thought was back problems continued to affect her day-to-day life.
After going to countless doctors appointments and even having back surgery, Kathleen’s doctors decided to give Kathleen a full body X-ray to verify that the problem was fixed, but it was then that doctors realized the real problem, her hips. According to Kathleen, both her hips were bone on bone, similar to the issues of her husband’s knee.
After the surgery though, the couple faced many hours of rehabbing and attempting to get back into a normal routine such as work.
As a nurse, Kathleen said her work was deeply damaged by her problems with her hips. She said she “couldn’t physically” work a full shift before the surgery.
“I walked like Quasimodo for years, but I mean that was how I could get from point A to point B fairly comfortably and I could never stand straight,” she said. “Now since my hips are replaced, I am standing straight and walking straight. I can walk fast like I used to. People think I have lost weight, which I haven’t. I am just standing up straight.”
As a nurse with two replacement hips, Kathleen is able to continue to not only work at a higher efficiency level, almost working full time now, but also comfort her patients.
“Well it (surgery) was kind of scary because I knew all of the potential consequences that could occur,” Kathleen said. “When I am taking care of patients that are getting replacements, whatever it is -- knee or hip replacement -- I am a big advocate, saying, ‘It will change your life’.”
As a stationary engineer, both Tom and Kathy expressed mobility vitality in Tom’s job. With his knee replacement, Tom has been provided with more than just the opportunity to continue to work.
“I often wondered if I was going to be able to make it to 65 with my knees just because of the pain,” he said. “Now with the new knee, I am not worried about that at all. Another nice thing is the financial concern that I will be able to work at 65, and make it through my career.”
Luckily for Tom, the surgery did not prohibit much into his work schedule. According to Kathleen, Tom was able to return to work in just six weeks after the surgery on his knee.
When asked of the limitations of the surgery or their new replacement joints, both Tom and Kathleen expressed the fact that the couple did not have any, either from Luke or themselves, but only gratitude for what the surgery has provided them with.
“I am aware of my age, I am 55. The knee didn’t make me 25 again, I am still 55,” Tom said. “It was amazing to realize that the pain I had, it became so normal to walk with it, and then you walk so far, or the amount of Advil I was taking, it just became a daily thing. It was a huge difference with the new knee, and just the distance I could go.”