Bellingham man did research before second hip-replacement surgery

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 20, 2014 

1 14 Prime Gerry

Dick Gerry, 72, in Bellingham, Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013. Gerry is recovering from a hip surgery in August.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Name: Dick Gerry.

Age: 72.

Hometown: Bellingham.

Family: Wife of 47 years, Sylvia; their son, Brett, in San Francisco.

Advice from a former pilot: Having apparently overcome a long struggle with hip pain, Dick Gerry offers this advice: "Trust your own instincts. And if your engine quits, have a plan!"

Survived a crash: Gerry traces at least part of his hip problems to an airplane crash in 1996 from which he walked away.

"I was flying a banner over San Diego and suddenly the engine quit. My plane was the type I flew in the Vietnam War, a Cessna," he says.

"I dropped the banner and spotted a set of high-power tension lines I was headed for. I lowered the nose and went under those power lines. Then I faced another set of lower power lines. I had enough air speed to go over those. Then, as I approached a cliff, I pulled the nose up and the plane contacted the ground.

"I walked away, but I injured some vertebrae. But I was cleared to fly again and was back in the air in two weeks."

Two surgeries: After years of suffering major pain in his right hip, Gerry underwent hip-replacement surgery in 2008.

"But I continued to have pain for years; finally I received an MRI and other tests," he says. "I don't blame anyone for the first surgery. Doctors helped me find an out-of-network surgeon. But somehow the cobalt and chromium metals affected me and the prosthetic was failing me.

"I did a lot of research and sought out a second opinion, which led to revision surgery on Aug. 7, 2013. This is a relatively rare operation, so I sought out a doctor, Thomas Stoll (in Redmond), who had considerable experience with this type of revision surgery.

"He did my revision, using ceramic and polyethylene materials for the ball and hip socket, and when I woke up, I knew immediately something good had happened. The pain was gone!"

Better by the day: Gerry, who had always led an active lifestyle, says he was thrilled to get better after the second surgery. He walked with crutches and a walker the first month after surgery. After a little more than two months, he could walk without aid and was able to resume driving.

"I still had to be cautious in how I put pressure on my hip," he says. "I couldn't cross my legs, bend my torso more than 90 degrees, things like that. (In mid-October) I began physical therapy at Performance Physical Therapy in Bellingham."

Looks forward to spring golf: Dick and Sylvia moved to Bellingham in 2004 from California and he soon discovered the delights of Lake Padden Golf Course, not far from their home near Samish Way.

"I can't wait to get back on the course," he says, recalling how much his game suffered in recent years because of his hip pain. "We're also looking forward to doing a lot more travel."

More hip history: Gerry says his hip problems might date from his days as a football player and distance runner at Camarillo High School in California. He also ran cross country and track for two Southern California colleges.

"I also recall tweaking my back on a dive into a saltwater pool on a trip to Mazatlan," he says.

A life in the air: Gerry earned his flying license while in college and after graduation he emerged from officer training school as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. He served 51/2 years, including a year in Vietnam during the height of the war.

After he left the Air Force in 1970, he flew until 2000 as a commercial pilot for Pacific Southwest Airlines and (after a merger) for US Air."

Now in Bellingham: "I spent a summer after eighth grade with an aunt and uncle in Kent. Later, I enjoyed being at McChord Air Force Base," Gerry says. "I had always wanted to move to the Northwest. We love Bellingham, it's a great place. We especially love the clean air."

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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