Joe Simz, 45, feels he “won the lottery” becoming a Chicago firefighter/EMT. After taking the qualifying exam in the mid-90’s and hearing nothing back, he ended up working for a local utility company. Then one day out of the blue, the call came.
“It took them ten years,” says Joe, “but when they finally called, I jumped at the chance to join the Chicago Fire Department.” In the meantime, Joe had built a full and busy life. He had married a police officer and they had two children, both competing on traveling hockey, baseball and football teams. Joe and his wife managed to keep all the plates spinning, despite crazy schedules – and physically demanding jobs.
Says Joe, “As a firefighter, it’s not unusual to carry up to 100 pounds in gear up several flights of stairs, then carry someone down.” Unfortunately, in late 2012, pain began to impact Joe’s ability to keep up with work and life. As a runner logging eight to ten miles regularly for many years, Joe was familiar with normal aches and pain, but the groin pain he felt was different – and debilitating.
“I could stand all day long, but it was excruciating to sit or get up.” Joe hid the pain from his firehouse colleagues and downplayed it to his wife, but he was feeling classic symptoms of a labrum tear of the hip and early arthritis – pain in the groin, a catching or locking sensation in the joint and sharp, severe and intermittent pain over the course of months.
“My wife ultimately realized how bad it was,” he says. “It was time to see a doctor.” Joe’s primary care physician referred him to IBJI, but Joe did his own research, too. “I wanted the best of the best and was willing to travel as far as I had to go for it. I had considered another academic medical institution, but IBJI got great reviews everywhere I looked. I had also heard countless positive stories about IBJI from other firefighters. In my world, people are always getting hurt!”
Joe saw IBJI sports medicine specialist, Dr. Marc Breslow in Morton Grove, first. Dr. Breslow diagnosed a labrum tear of the left hip, but when pain injections provided only temporary relief, he referred Joe to IBJI hip specialist, Dr. Ritesh Shah. Says Joe, “I felt very confident in Dr. Shah when I met him. He gave me choices and said I was a very good candidate for hip resurfacing.” Says Dr. Shah, “In firefighting, there’s no such thing as light duty. Hip resurfacing is for highly active people like Joe who are 60 or younger with no other complicating problems. Their bones are typically thicker and stronger, so they do well. Unlike hip replacement, resurfacing leaves most of the native bone intact and there are no physical limitations after post-surgical healing and rehab.”
Joe’s surgery was scheduled for September, 2013. Says Dr. Shah, “Hip resurfacing is more technically demanding than total hip replacement. Advance planning and templating ensure that the implant is sized perfectly and that all goes smoothly in the OR. We use radiographic guidance – live xray – in surgery for optimal precision.”
Joe’s surgery at Lutheran General Hospital went flawlessly. After two nights in the hospital, he went home. Joe says, “I did the whole thing on vacation time – 18 days. It was awesome to be without pain. I was walking up stairs within two days.” Joe followed his six-week physical therapy regimen religiously and soon, could do slow, low impact running.
Today he’s back to stairmaster training and treadmill running several times per week – all conditioning for the inevitable physical challenges at work. In fact, within four months after surgery, Joe delivered a baby on the job – his first – and carried a 300 pound man down the stairs during a call. Says Joe, “Ironically, I was carrying a guy who couldn’t walk because he had a bad hip!”
“Joe suffered for a long time,” says Dr. Shah. “If he’d come to us sooner, we probably could have treated the labrum tear arthroscopically and prevented the arthritic changes that occurred over time. Fortunately, hip resurfacing was a great option for him.” “I’m a tough sell,” says Joe, “but now I’m passing out Dr. Shah’s card at the firehouse and my health club. I was at 50% before surgery, but thanks to Dr. Shah, I’m back to 100% – and much faster than expected. I always direct people to IBJI.”
Dr. Shah offers a full continuum of care for the hip. He is among a handful of surgeons in Chicago who are fellowship-trained to perform hip arthroscopy and hip resurfacing. Dr. Shah also performs minimally invasive, rapid recovery hip replacements and custom total knee replacements. Smaller incisions with very little muscle cut allow patients to heal faster and return to life and work more quickly than the six weeks to three months typically required.