As a student-athlete Joy Shuck played volleyball, basketball and soccer. She became a teacher and coach, and spent her spare time running, hiking and skiing — always looking for chances to be outdoors. She also developed a passion for photography and has chronicled her adventures with thousands of pictures.
But in her mid-20s, her body rebelled in the form of a torn meniscus in her right knee, which resulted in her first surgery. Pain limited her exercise and she gained weight. In her 30s, she developed arthritis and spent the next decade in a cycle of surgery, physical therapy and steroid shots. She left teaching and coaching because of the physical strain and eventually settled into a corporate job. But despite losing 80 pounds with healthy diet and lifestyle changes, by her 40s she needed a walker to get out of bed and moving in the morning.
“I couldn’t even mow the grass for my parents,” she said. “It was heartbreaking.”
For years, doctors had told her that she was too young for total knee replacement surgery. But then she met Dr. David Homesley, of Novant Health Barron, Homesley & Valentine Orthopedic Specialists, who said it was her best option.
“That was the most encouraging thing anyone had ever said,” Shuck, 46, said. “I had done a ton of research and heard so often that he was the best — that he wants to give young people their lives back.”
An estimated 700,000 Americans undergo knee or hip replacement surgery each year, and that number’s expected to increase to more than 3 million a year by 2030 as the baby- boom generation ages. In younger people, sports injuries, repetitive joint-stressing exercise and arthritis are among the causes of chronic knee pain.
In Shuck's case, “She had really bad arthritis and nothing else worked," Homesley said. "It’s so frustrating to be in chronic pain — when you’re able to restore that mobility you’re helping people improve their lives.”
Shuck had to delay surgery when she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer last year. After successfully completing radiation treatment, she scheduled the knee replacement surgery for January. “And I was so excited — it was like a Christmas present to myself.”
Homesley said the surgery generally takes about an hour to 90 minutes. Patients are sedated with a spinal anesthesia, also known as regional anesthesia, rather than general anesthesia.
He performed Shuck’s surgery at Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital. A few hours after surgery she got out of bed and moved with help from a walker. She spent the night at the hospital and was able to go home and do exercises to get movement back into her leg, which is important to prevent blood clots.
She followed instructions faithfully: iced the leg, met three times a week with a physical therapist and worked hard to heal. She stopped using the walker at the end of the first week. After three weeks, she no longer needed a cane. At four weeks she was taking only ibuprofen for pain and was cleared to work from home.
“Within six weeks I had hiked a mile and five months later, I’m up to eight-mile hikes,” she said.
As a thank-you to Homesley and his team, Shuck made a calendar with photographs she took of some of her favorite hiking destinations. It hangs prominently in their office and is a source of pride, said nurse Mary Lynn Preston.
“Being able to help someone like Joy makes us love our jobs,” Preston said. “It makes me feel great that she’s gotten a new lease on life.”
Shuck, an outdoor program and outreach market coordinator for REI, said she’ll continue to hike, swim and stretch, and has started learning yoga. She plans to hike at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer. She’ll also be able to reach her dream of hiking every state park in North Carolina. And she’s once again able to help her elderly parents with house and yard work.
“Sometimes I miss soccer and running, but I am perfectly happy with what I can do now,” she said. “Dr. Homesley and his staff have been a godsend to me. I can’t tell you how life-changing it’s been.”
You don’t have to suffer joint pain. Novant Health experts can help you get your life back.