Fears Put to Rest as Hattiesburg Woman Chooses Elective Surgery During Pandemic
Hattiesburg Realtor Gwen James has spent the past 45 years running around the Pine Belt helping people find their first or forever home. It’s not come without its toll on her body, especially her knees. She endured as long as she could, but on July 22, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, James had knee replacement surgery at Forrest General’s Orthopedic Institute.
Through the years, James’ community involvement with such groups as the Area Development Partnership, the Hattiesburg Planning and Zoning Commission, Pine Belt Community Foundation and Forrest General Hospital Foundation, just to name a few, have also kept her running. She said she put off surgery for two or three years, as long as possible, until her knee was just bone-on-bone with spurs and getting around became difficult. “I just kept putting it off and then the pandemic began and I came very concerned about that,” she said. “My son, David, told me I needed to go ahead and schedule the surgery, because once the pandemic was over the doctors were going to be too busy to do it. So, we scheduled it.”
The call was made and James was put through to hospitalist Clay King, M.D., who handles pre-screenings for The OI. “He answered all of my questions and eased my concerns,” she said. “He explained that when it became evident the pandemic was here, they shut The OI down and went through the protocols and sanitizing plans they would use.”
From then on James had no concerns. “They had relieved those issues, and it was such an awesome environment to be in,” she said. She reported to the hospital at 6 a.m. with her son. During this part of the pandemic, patients were allowed to have one family member with them. Her surgery lasted a mere 40 minutes before she was wheeled off to recovery, and later in the day she had her first round of physical therapy. She spent one night in the hospital and had another round of physical therapy the next morning before going home where she had sitters around the clock.
James N. Sykes, M.D., performed the surgery, which James described as “awesome.” ‘When I praised Dr. Sykes he was very modest and attributed it to the drastic change in technology and the tools which were available for his use, as well as the implant itself,” James said. In comparison, James’ first knee transplant 11 years ago kept her in the hospital for two weeks. On Thursday of last week, three knee replacements were done in one day, and all three patients went home that day.
“Everybody at The OI was above par,” she said. ”The staff was just exceptional, kind and caring, very service-oriented. It was smoother than I could have ever imagined.”
Since then, James had been undergoing physical therapy three times a week with therapist Steve Britt, RPT, with Forrest General’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services located at the Family Y. “This has been very easy on me and him,” she laughed.
James said prior to surgery she had hobbled around on that bad knee for two or three years and hurt her back in doing so. “I would encourage anybody that has a problem to go ahead and have it done and get over it quicker,” she said. “Don’t wait. There is nothing to fear with the procedures that are in place at the medical facilities about COVID-19, and you’ll feel so much better afterwards.”
James continues to use a walker and is in the home stretch of physical therapy. “I can walk without the walker, but Steve thinks it’s best to continue using it so I don’t fall or give in and have poor posture, so that’s what I’m striving for,” she said.
For those with underlying health conditions, James said to not let that stop you either. “They’ll walk you through that,” she said. “They will take a great medical history and watch every aspect.”
Getting back out into the community and making homeowners’ dreams come true has been the motivation for James’ recovery. “That was my goal,” she said. “I love Hattiesburg. It’s very easy to sell and promote. There are just so many qualify-of-life features here.
“And the OI’s goal is to provide exceptional care, and they succeeded.”
About The Orthopedic Institute: From knee replacements to broken bones, from planned to unplanned procedures, Forrest Health's Orthopedic Services team is always prepared. For patients needing a joint replacement, such as a hip, knee or shoulder, or surgery on their hand, foot, ankle, spine, or for a sports injury, The Orthopedic Institute is their one-stop location. As the only freestanding orthopedic hospital in the region, The Orthopedic Institute offers a level of inpatient and outpatient care that is unmatched in the Southeast. The facility allows patients to avoid the traditional hospital experience by providing for their every need in one convenient location focused on orthopedic care.