For some people, orthopedic health is a family affair.
Just ask Rachel Spek. Four of her relatives—husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and his mother—underwent joint replacement at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital, where Spek works as a nursing manager.
It started with the older generation.
Harriet Spek, 88, Spek’s mother-in-law, developed a knee pain that initially led to one knee replacement, followed by the other. Doctors also later replaced both of her hips, too.
Ruth Lutke, now 92, the mother of Spek’s brother-in-law, had her hip replaced.
This year, the clan’s Baby Boomers stepped up.
Spek’s husband, Paul Spek, 60, had a knee replacement, while her brother-in-law, Bruce, 59, got a new hip.
Spek admits her work as a nurse caused her to pooh-pooh her husband’s symptoms a bit—a persistent knee pain that had lasted about a year.
“I kept saying, ‘It’s probably just a torn meniscus,'” she said.
Paul eventually sought treatment, however, and an MRI showed an abnormality that doctors at first suspected might be a tumor.
“I felt so guilty,” said Spek, of Zeeland, Michigan. “I rushed right home from work. I had to apologize for taking the typical nurse stance, that, ‘Oh, buck up—you’ll be fine’ attitude.”
Spectrum Health radiologists scrutinized the images and determined the swelling in Paul’s knee wasn’t a tumor, but a bit of bone that had broken off and embedded itself in the muscle.
In March, orthopedic surgeon Joel Wolfe, MD, replaced Paul’s knee.
Paul already knew Dr. Wolfe, of the Shoreline Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Clinic in Holland, Michigan, as the doctor who had performed all four joint replacement surgeries on his mom.
The operation and recovery went exactly as Dr. Wolfe and the orthopedic staff said it would, Paul said. Even so, he admits the extensive healing process has humbled him.
“It hurt a lot for about four weeks,” Paul said. “The physical therapy helped me tremendously. …I’m back to cycling and I can exercise without pain.”
Happy with the hips
Spek’s brother-in-law, Bruce Lutke, who also lives in Zeeland, is recently recovering. He opted for a hip replacement mid-June, after two years of increasing pain and weakness in his right thigh and hip.
“It got so I couldn’t even walk the dog much,” Bruce said. “Then in April I realized that even standing behind the lawnmower for an hour was too much.”
Imaging revealed damage from osteoarthritis. He scheduled the surgery with Jon Hop, MD, also an orthopedic surgeon at the Shoreline Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Clinic. Dr. Hop had replaced Bruce’s mother’s hip seven years earlier.
After his surgery, Bruce returned home with a walker and soon graduated to a crutch.
“I’m doing well,” he said. “But I’m not healing as fast as my mom did. And it was so helpful to have Rachel in the family, to give me some tips.”
The family’s matriarchs have set the bar pretty high for complete recovery.
Spek said Harriet, who has dementia, is now pain-free in all her joints.
Ruth, who lives in McBain, Michigan, traveled 100-plus miles to Zeeland for her surgery. She did so well in her recovery that nurses nicknamed her Wonder Woman.
Ruth remains grateful the surgery has enabled her to walk so well. She also continues to drive and live on her own—“on the same road I’ve lived on all my life.”
“I’m very glad I had the hip replacement done,” she said.