"Team Russell" makes joint replacement a family affair


 Team Russell
Team Russell during Joint Camp at JCMC's Joint Replacement Center (from left): Denise and (in back) Joel Norris,
Kathie Love and Russell Love

Team Russell during Joint Camp at JCMC's Joint Replacement Center (from left): Denise and (in back) Joel Norris, Kathie Love and Russell LoveThe Love family will tell you, “We have our own particular craziness. We go full-tilt at everything we do.”

That’s how they’ve approached Russell Love’s hip replacement surgery and rehabilitation. The Mountain City family – Russell’s wife Kathie, his daughter Denise and her husband, Joel Norris – has jumped in with full enthusiasm to help Russell get through the surgery.

He recently had total hip replacement done on one hip, going to the Joint Replacement Center at Johnson City Medical Center for the surgery. Everything went smoothly, and Russell is expected to have a full recovery.

The thing that caught Joint Replacement Center coordinator Misty Spano’s attention was how involved and supportive the family was.

“This is probably the most enthusiastic support I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I have done this for nine years and I’ve never seen anybody do it to this extent. The whole family has been here the whole time. They’ve made it fun.

“This is not just his experience, it’s the entire family’s experience.”

Since Russell was a long-time football coach at Johnson County High School, his family came up with the idea of turning the experience into a camp, like summer football camps. They printed up “Joint Camp” t-shirts that list Katie as head coach and Joel and Denise as assistant coaches. Russell’s shirt says “Camper.” They had two sets of t-shirts made – grey and green.

“Now the coaching role has switched,” Russell said with a laugh. “And a good player does what the coach says.

“They have been great encouragers. They showed up with the t-shirts and I was so touched. I really appreciate what they’ve done. This was truly a family affair.”

“We’re a team,” Kathie said. “We wanted him to know it was about him.”

The Loves chose a new anterior surgery method that goes in from the front and is less invasive than the traditional procedure through the buttocks, therefore requires less rehab time, but it isn’t yet commonly performed.

Russell had put off the surgery for two and a half years before deciding to go forward with it.

“I woke up one morning, literally, and said ‘It’s time.’ I was in a lot of pain,” he said.

School starts again in August, so Love wanted to be able to resume his duties by then. He has served at Johnson County High School for 37 years and now teaches Wellness, which includes physical education and family life, as well as Driver’s Education.

His prognosis following surgery was very good.

“I’ve got a brand spanking new titanium hip,” Russell said. “The pain I’m experiencing now, right after surgery, even though at times it’s quite intense, is nothing like what I experienced the last two years.”

The day after his surgery, his family had brought in a laptop computer and a flat-screen to hook up so they could have movie night.

They also participated in the two-hour pre-operation class. In addition to creating the Joint Camp team t-shirts, they made their dog the team mascot.

They made some modifications to their house to make it easier for Russell upon the return home. Kathie runs her own small business out of their house, so she’ll be there to assist going forward. And most importantly, they always tried to have somebody at JCMC with Russell during the experience.

“We call the family members coaches and we try to let them decide what level of participation they’d like to have,” Spano said. “But the more the patient has family involved, the better chance there is for success.”

The Loves had nothing but praise for the staff at the Joint Replacement Center on the sixth floor at JCMC.

“They have been great,” Kathie said. “The pre-op class we took was great, too. And Misty has been terrific. She’s been to see us every day.”

“They have a game plan in place for us,” Russell said, “and it would behoove us to follow it.”

Provided everything goes smoothly, Russell looks forward to getting back to work at the school, and to returning in the winter to his role as Santa Claus. He’s done that each Christmas since the 1980s. He makes numerous appearances as Santa, including in the Mountain City Christmas Parade, when he rides through the streets on the town fire truck. But the bad hip was taking its toll on Santa.

“Last year I could not get up on the fire truck,” he said, shaking his head. “So they used a forklift. That was becoming difficult. Our whole family takes part in that each Christmas, and it’s something we really enjoy.

“We couldn’t do a whole lot of things we love to do, but that should change now. For instance, I’m looking forward to us going back to the park to take a stroll with my family.”

The JCMC Joint Replacement Center averages more than 700 replaced joints per year, Spano said. Indian Path Medical Center and Johnston Memorial Hospital also have Joint Replacement Centers, and all have a record of low infection rates, short discharge time and good patient recovery.

For more information on MSHA's joint replacement services at JCMC, Indian Path Medical Center (IPMC) and Johnston Memorial Hospital (JMH), visit www.msha.com/jointcenter.

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