Mark Evans can always recall having a high threshold for pain. He admits it’s part stubbornness and was simply a trait that developed due to the environment he grew up in. So when he fractured his hip in a high school football injury, he continued to play.
“In the 1980s, when you were hurt, you got back up, and your attitude was to get back in there,” Mark said.
The pain in his hip would eventually dissipate — until 2015. Mark started feeling debilitating, constant pain in the hip he injured during his prep football career. He would roll over at night in his sleep, only for a painful jolt to flare up from his hip into the top of his leg and wake him out of a deep slumber. It would take an hour or more for him to fall back asleep.
Mark described himself as an 85-year-old when it came to climbing stairs. At just 52, he knew he shouldn’t be limited in a similar fashion as someone 30 years his senior. His typical hobbies of golf, biking, and running 5Ks were severely limited.
“The pain I dealt with on a day-to-day basis altered my life,” he said. “It was pretty brutal, quite honestly.”
It was Mark’s tolerance for pain and a hard-nosed mentality that delayed a hospital trip for an evaluation. When he finally decided to be seen at UP Health System – Marquette, Dr. J. Bryan Dixon and Dr. Zachary Leonard of Advanced Center for Orthopedics & Plastic Surgery were astounded at what they saw on Mark’s x-rayed hip: bone spurs, cartilage missing and ossification (abnormal bone formation).
“They were shocked. They could not understand how I had been walking without assistance,” Mark said. “It was one of the worst hips they saw in a guy my age.”
Once Mark was given a diagnosis, he had the choice of undergoing a hip replacement or attempting to live through the pain — just as he had done the previous four years. He contemplated “toughing it out,” which would be on-brand with his demeanor dating back to high school. After conversations with his wife and other friends, they convinced him to get to stop letting pain take control of his life.
“It’s major surgery, so I was a little uptight and nervous about it. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was getting it done in January, so that meant ice and snow, and I didn’t want to lose my summer,” Mark said. “Dr. Leonard was very reassuring. I met with people who had the surgery done by Dr. Leonard and they all said they were so glad to have it done by him.”
Two months following the surgery, Mark was up and walking. As he describes it, he was “moving like a 20-25-year-old again.” He was told it could take six weeks before he was back to normal, but after only three weeks, he felt comfortable walking and getting back his regular mobility. He credits his progress by how he was able to attack his rehab.
“If I want something, I usually go find a way to get it,” said Mark, who would push to do 30 stairs during his rehab process when only asked to do a few. “If I’m held back by something, I get really frustrated. To me, this process was a wonderful part of the journey of where I am now. Now, when shoveling snow or walking, I don’t remember what the pain felt like.”
To top off Mark’s experience, it was the hometown feel that made even a former stubborn athlete feel at ease through it all.
“It was a UP thing to me. The recovery nurse was from Baraga, RN right from Negaunee,” Mark said. “It was people that made me feel like I stayed at home to get this done, which was reassuring. It was like having it done in your hometown.”
For someone averse to seeking assistance for any pain or medical issues, Mark only had praise for his surgical and rehab team. From the x-ray that confirmed his injury did, in fact, take place in 1984 from his football days to the surgery and recovery, UPHS – Marquette was able to get Mark back on track.
“I could not be more pleased with UPHS – Marquette from start to finish,” he said. “They have the answers to a lot of questions that calm your fears and explain what you’ll be going through. The prep before the surgery was with friendly people who were comforting, reassuring, and very professional. Waking up, the recovery room nurse was immediately attentive. The RNs couldn’t have been any better, asking how you feel, stopping to talk to you and in a large hospital setting, you don’t get that.”
The orthopedic and sports medicine team at UP Health System – Marquette is here to help you heal and return to a quality of life with the support of other high-quality services including sports medicine, physical therapy, and diagnostics. Don’t let joint pain hold you back. Call 844.411.UPHS (8747) or visit mgh.org/our-services/orthopaedics and we’ll get you connected with the right care today.