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New parts bring renewal for many

FriedEvans 69 South Hollmember Ingalls Advanced Orthopedic Institute Alumni Club bowls Brunswick Zone XL Homewood. |  Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Frieda Evans, 69, of South Holland, a member of the Ingalls Advanced Orthopedic Institute Alumni Club, bowls at Brunswick Zone XL in Homewood. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 14, 2012 6:01AM

Heads up, bowlers: Frieda Evans is back.

The South Holland woman took up the sport in 1979. But progressively debilitating arthritis kept her off the lanes all of 2011.

“I had to stop because the pain was so bad,” Evans, 69, said. She also had to give up her other favorite pastime, roller skating.

Her prognosis changed, however, after she had knee replacement surgery at Ingalls Hospital in Harvey in December 2011.

“My doctor told me a month ago I could start bowling again,” she said.

Evans joined a half dozen other members of Ingalls Advanced Orthopedic Institute’s alumni club for a few games at Brunswick Bowl in Homewood last week.

Increasingly, Americans are finding new mobility thanks to joint replacement surgery.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee replacements increased 70 percent from 1996 to 2006, while the number of hip replacements jumped by a third during that period. Demand is expected to grow 673 percent for knee replacements and 175 percent for hips by 2030.

Osteoarthritis, considered one of the 10 most disabling diseases in developed countries, is the most common cause for the surgery. The United States’ aging population and increased obesity rate contribute to the condition.

Joseph Thometz, orthopedic surgeon at Ingalls, said improvements in technology have made joint replacement surgery appropriate for more people.

“Originally, it was limited to people over age 60 who were not really active,” he said. “Now that parts are lasting longer, more patients are candidates for the surgery.”

Today, he said, implants are expected to last many years and even whole lifetimes. In addition, he said, improvements in rehabilitation techniques and pain management contribute to the trend.

David Shea had both knees replaced, one in 2009, the other a year later. The most difficult part of the experience for the 70-year-old retired machinist was the post-operative therapy, he said.

“It was a little rough but nothing I couldn’t handle,” the Burnham resident said.

Theophilus Brown, 34, lived with a constant pinching pain in his left hip before he had it replaced in March of 2011.

Arthritis had caused the bone to chip and deteriorate.

“When I heard he was to have hip replacement surgery, I was devastated,” said his mom, Peggy Brown. “He was so young.”

Theophilus, of Blue Island, was just 33 when he had the operation.

“As a kid, his hip came out of joint. He just grew so fast,” Peggy said.

But now, Theophilus said, he feels much better, well enough to bowl.

Brad Hedstrom, 52, also had his left hip replaced. His surgery was in July of 2011.

Before that, he said, “It was hell. It hurt so much to move that I got less and less active.”

He put on weight, exacerbating the problem to the point that he had to take an early retirement from his construction job.

Today, the South Holland resident exercises and diets. He also took up some new pastimes, including wood carving and gardening.

“I got so lucky,” he said. “I can do it all again.”

Perhaps making the fastest comeback was Christine Swatek of Dolton.

Swatek, 65, suffered a knee injury during a basketball game when she was 16. She lived with increasing pain for 45 years until she had one knee replaced in 2009 and the other in 2010.

“Six weeks after my first surgery I was bowling,” Swatek said. Three months after her second, she ran a 5K.

“I’m grateful every day,” she said.

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