After two hip surgeries, Kenneth Burke is back to pain-free living
Kenneth Burke – call him Ken, please – proudly shares a recent trout fishing tale. But it isn’t one of those big fish stories.
Burke is happy simply to share an image of himself, trout in hand, after fishing a 4-mile stretch of river. That’s something he could barely do just a year ago, his mobility severely compromised by two diseased hips.
“It was probably towards the end of summer 2020 and more into the fall of that year where I really started to notice that there was something wrong,” Burke says. “At that point it was a lot of just weakness, stumbling, just kinda being clumsy-type thing and it just kinda slowly progressed.”
His hips, an increasingly “unbearable” source of pain and discomfort, interfered with his work.
“I work in the paper business,” says Burke, who lives in Niagara, Wisconsin. “We make the coating and filler for paper. So we basically make paper white. It’s a very demanding job.”
His hip problems interfered with his daily life.
“My wife and I, we went grocery shopping and, like, three times that night in the grocery store I almost fell,” Burke says. “I couldn’t do it anymore.”
The pain felt like sporadic jolts of electricity coursing through his hips, Burke says. “It would hit … and I would just lose balance, like, collapse.”
Hip or SI joint issue?
He visited his family doctor. X-rays didn’t reveal much. “They said they thought maybe it was, like, an SI joint issue … or a back issue. They said it could be either one because I have had some issues with my lower back.”
The sacroiliac joints, or SI joints, sit on each side of the spine. They carry the weight of the upper body when a person stands or walks and shift that weight to the legs.
Burke, who is in his early 50s, then visited Dr. Max Ots, with whom he had some familiarity, thanks to a previous neck surgery. Ots is a neurological surgeon with BayCare Clinic.
“We were pretty much all set to do an SI joint surgery but then Dr. Ots had ordered a CAT scan and thank goodness he did that,” Burke says. “When they did that, that’s when it showed that not only the left hip was bad, but the left and the right hip were bad with this avascular necrosis.”
Avascular necrosis occurs when bone tissue dies due to lack of blood supply.
Ots provided Burke a list of recommended orthopedic surgeons and suggested he contact one for treatment. Dr. Kirk Dimitris, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic, was among those on the list.
“I came home and I did my homework and, you know, researched him and I liked what I saw with Dr. Dimitris, looking online and reading about him,” Burke says.
Burke consulted Dimitris. At their first meeting, he knew instantly Dimitris would be the right surgeon.
“He was one of those doctor-surgeons that I just really felt comfortable with and really, really liked him and his nurse as well,” Burke says.
“He’s very understanding, very easy to talk to, the best bedside manner of any doctor or surgeon I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve dealt with a lot of them,” he says. “I really mean that. I think he’s the best doctor, best surgeon I’ve ever dealt with … just a very fun, easygoing, great guy.”
Surgical success for both hips
Dimitris performed Burke’s left and right posterior total hip arthroplasty surgeries, minimally-invasive hip surgeries performed to replace the hip joints.
“The first one, it was pretty much perfect,” Burke says.
The second hip surgery, about six weeks later, was more of the same. “Fantastic, fantastic,” Burke says.
His hip woes were over.
The stumbling, clumsy feeling? “I am able to go up and down stairs pretty much free of pain now,” Burke says.
That pain that felt like a jolt of electricity in his hips? “Now that it’s not happening, it’s different. … I’m getting used to it and I like it,” he says.
Burke is back to work with no restrictions and has waded back into the water, too.
“I went trout fishing for the first time on August 11. It was a 4-mile stretch of river and I didn’t have any problems. In fact, a good friend of mine that was with us fell two or three times throughout the day and I never fell once, so it was great,” he says, laughing.
Burke isn’t shy about spreading the word about his positive experience with Dimitris.
When an acquaintance at work shared his own hip woes, “I told him, I said, if you have a problem with your hip, this is the guy. I would … see Dr. Dimitris. He will take care of you.”