Actress May Heatherly traveled from Spain to Birmingham to have hip replacement surgery done at Princeton Baptist Medical Center, where she says she was treated better than royalty.
Heatherly, 56, says she needed the surgery for several years, but kept putting it off because of the lengthy recovery time that would have significantly restricted her movements. She was especially concerned after the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, had hip replacement surgery in April 2012 and was still using crutches several months later.
"In Spain they told me I’d spend at least six weeks on crutches, followed by more than a month of physiotherapy,” Heatherly says. “I’m very active, and I just didn’t want to do it that way.”
She didn’t have to, thanks to a new technique offered at Princeton Baptist that allows for a minimally invasive approach to total hip replacement. Using the hana hip and knee arthroplasty table, surgeons are able to carefully position a patient’s leg in such a way that the hip replacement can be done through a small incision (4 to 6 inches) that cuts between muscles and not through muscle.
“By doing it this way, there is not as much damaged tissue that needs to heal,” says Dr. Theodis Buggs, a Princeton Baptist orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure on Heatherly. “So there is less pain and a faster return to normal everyday activities for the patient.”
Heatherly says she is proof of that. She had the procedure done at Princeton Baptist on May 1, was released from the hospital two days later, and in less than a week was moving without the aid of crutches or a walker. Heatherly currently is staying with her sister, who lives in Birmingham, and says she expects to make the lengthy flight back to Spain by mid June, barely six weeks after the surgery.
“I feel absolutely fantastic,” Heatherly says. “I can’t believe this has happened so fast. I’m really amazed. I’m already walking all over the place. I have to make myself remember that I just had major surgery.
“What’s especially amazing is there were no restrictions on my movements after the surgery. I could cross my legs, bend down and twist. I checked with a doctor in Chicago who said I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things for at least three weeks. When Dr. Buggs told me there would be no restrictions here, I knew I had found my place.”
Dr. Buggs says Princeton Baptist is one of the few hospitals in the world currently using this technique for total hip replacement.
“It has a high learning curve. It’s very difficult to learn,” he says. “You have to put a total hip into that small incision. So not a lot of physicians are doing it. It’s so new that we’ve had to design special equipment at Princeton, because we’re one of the first ones using this process. We’ve had people from as far away as Australia come here to see how we’re doing it.
“It’s an ideal procedure for someone who has a business to run or travels a lot and simply can’t have that much downtime. People can be back at work in two weeks, and they don’t have to worry about restricting their activities.”
ABOUT PRINCETON BAPTIST MEDICAL CENTER
Founded 91 years ago in 1922, Princeton is the largest hospital of Baptist Health System. Today Princeton Baptist is a full service tertiary hospital with approximately 1,400 employees providing a wide range of services including such specialties as diagnostic imaging, cancer treatment, wound care, diabetes care, cardiac services and surgery, pulmonary medicine, neurosurgery, obstetrics and orthopedics.