New Year, New Knee, New Outlook

Knee replacement surgery was a necessity for Hillsborough resident Dave Gephart. After undergoing the procedure at the new Hillsborough hospital last fall, he begins 2016 with a new knee and a new outlook.

New Year, New Knee, New Outlook click to enlarge Hillsborough resident Dave Gephart frequently walks the Riverwalk in downtown Hillsborough with his family. His new knee has made those walks more enjoyable. Here, he stops at a recent addition along the path: a stickwork structure by Patrick Dougherty.
New Year, New Knee, New Outlook click to enlarge Dave Gephart after his knee replacement last fall. He calls the care and amenities at the new Hillsborough hospital first class.

by Zach Read -

Longtime Hillsborough resident Dave Gephart has fond memories of his days playing football at UNC in the early 1970s. He jokes that his favorite moment occurred when the Tar Heels’ freshmen team – coached by Moyer Smith, who would later lead the Rams Club – defeated rival Duke, despite setting a record for penalties in a game.  

“I still laugh about that one,” Dave says.

These days, Dave, who runs a marketing business out of his home in Hillsborough, keeps tabs on Carolina football by attending games as a season ticketholder.

“I always say that Kenan Stadium was as beautiful when I played as it is now,” he says.

In recent years, though, traversing the concourse and climbing the steps at Kenan Stadium – and more importantly, the steps he navigates while working at home – has proven painful. Playing collegiate football and four years of high school football in Chicago, Detroit, and Charlotte took a physical toll on his body.

“Ligaments and cartilage in my knees were damaged,” he says. “Finally, a few years ago, it got be bone on bone, and as the pain increased, it was clear that a knee replacement would be necessary if I wanted to get around well.”

Dave sought the expertise of Dr. Christopher Olcott, associate professor of orthopaedics at the UNC School of Medicine and a physician with UNC Orthopaedics’ Total Joint Team. During Dave’s first clinical visit, Dr. Olcott learned how painful getting around had become for him.

“Only if you’ve lived with arthritis do you know how significant it is – it affects every facet of your life,” says Dr. Olcott. “Dave tried to put surgery off for as long as he could, but eventually it came to the point where he needed a knee replacement.”

Dr. Olcott is quick to point out that while knee replacements “don’t make you 22 years old again,” they do help you get back to doing the things you enjoy in your life – in Dave’s case, those included staying active and walking independently while not being in chronic pain.

To achieve the best outcome for his new knee, Dave had to lose weight before surgery, so three years ago he underwent gastric bypass surgery by UNC gastrointestinal surgeon Dr. Wayne Overby.

Then, this past fall, Dave proceeded with the knee replacement, with the surgery performed by Dr. Olcott, at UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus, located five minutes from Dave’s home.

Dr. Olcott commends Dave for his attitude going into the surgery – and for his commitment to rehabilitation post-surgery.

“He was very positive about it beforehand – he wanted to get rid of the pain, restore function, and continue working,” says Dr. Olcott. “So, he prepared himself for the surgery, went through it, and was extremely diligent with his rehab. He was a very good example of someone who followed the rehab course afterwards.”

Today, Dave is getting around well, and he can often be found enjoying the Riverwalk in downtown Hillsborough with his wife and sometimes his two sons, ages 41 and 34, who live in Durham and Hillsborough, respectively, and his three grandchildren, ages seven, four, and seven months. Over the holidays, in fact, Dave and his wife traveled to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, where they walked four miles on Rio Mar Beach, a feat that would have proven challenging before the knee replacement.

Dave contends that the ease with which he has adjusted to life with a new knee can be directly attributed to his experiences at the new hospital in Hillsborough.

“Everything about it was just beautiful,” he says. “The amenities, including the patient rooms, the waiting rooms, even the televisions – everything was so shiny and new. It was important for me to feel like I was in a state-of-the-art facility and for my family to be able to come and support me. My kids and grandkids loved the easy access and all the touches.”

Dr. Olcott’s knowledge and demeanor from the time I met him were first class and all the nurses and staff were fantastic.

And the level and quality of care, Gephart says, matched those modern and convenient touches.

“Dr. Olcott’s knowledge and demeanor from the time I met him were first class,” he continues, “and all the nurses and staff were fantastic. They constantly asked how I was feeling and if I had any questions – there was lots of communication. I was totally impressed with how everyone got along – they were a great team.”

Dr. Olcott, meanwhile, is excited to be practicing in Hillsborough, home of the entire UNC Orthopaedics Total Joint Team. The time and energy spent getting all the details of the new Joint Replacement units in Hillsborough – and, indeed, in the entire Hillsborough hospital facility – just right makes a difference for patients like Dave.

“The main hospital in Chapel Hill is wonderful but it can sometimes be overwhelming for patients,” he recalls from the days when the Joint Replacement team shared space in Chapel Hill. “Hillsborough is a lot quieter and lower key. All the rooms are private, physical therapy is nearby, and there’s plenty of room for patients’ families to visit. Although our patients are mainly healthy and leave within a couple days of the procedure, they need their rest and their therapy afterwards. Our facility is so nice it’s almost like a cruise ship.”

Dr. Olcott also sees payoff for physicians and medical learners in the new location.

“I think it’s a better learning environment for our students and residents,” he says. “It’s more peaceful here. Our practice went from being part of 40-some operating rooms in Chapel Hill to being part of eight operating rooms here at Hillsborough. That allows us to focus more on our patients and eventually to grow our practice.”

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