Not many women take a month-long trip through Northern California and Oregon on the back of a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. Fewer still do it in their 70s. And Jo Ann may be the only one who has done it following spinal fusion surgery, hip replacement surgeries on both hips, and while dealing with a chronic blood disorder. But Jo Ann is not your typical 71-year-old woman. She's a feisty, independent woman who clearly enjoys and embraces life.
Jo Ann became a Sutter Health patient when she moved to Roseville in the 1990s. Over the years, she's moved from being a patient to becoming a true Sutter Health fan. So much so that when she had the opportunity to move to Oregon, she opted to stay in Roseville because of the excellent care she receives from her doctors and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.
Jo Ann knows the hospital well from visiting its infusion center every six weeks to monitor her hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease that causes excess iron to build up in her body. On those visits, she shares the center with patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and is always amazed by the nurses' attitudes.
"I give nurses all the credit in the world," Jo Ann says. "It's hard to take care of sick people. And older patients who don't feel well can be pretty cranky. But the infusion center nurses are always upbeat and cheerful."
Jo Ann now closely monitors her hemochromatosis, but the condition is often called a silent killer because it develops under the radar for many years. Early-stage symptoms are mild, varied and slow to appear. But it's during those early years that excess iron can accumulate in joints, eventually causing a form of arthritis that requires joint replacement or spinal surgeries. Jo Ann has been through both.
Dr. Thomas Burton replaced both hips at Roseville Community Hospital, before Sutter Roseville Medical Center was built. While artificial hips implanted today typically last longer, those implanted in the 1990s had a life expectancy of about 10 years. Dr. Burton had retired when the first hips required replacement, so Dr. Kevin Luong performed the revision surgery, at Sutter Roseville this time.
Jo Ann had also been living with lower back pain, which she attributed to her hip problems. But while the replacement hips relieved the hip pain, her back pain remained. Dr. Luong referred Jo Ann to his practice colleague Tyler Smith, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treating spine conditions. After diagnostic testing, Dr. Smith recommended spinal fusion of two lower vertebrae.
"From the minute I woke up after surgery, I knew I was going to be okay," Jo Ann says. "The pain only lasted for a couple of days before I started to feel better."
Jo Ann knows the surgery corrected the spine problems, but she gives Dr. Smith credit for making the experience so easy. "Dr. Smith is incredibly caring. He knew I was going through surgery alone, so he sat with me and held my hand when they put me under," she says, "and he was there when I woke up in the recovery room. It was so clear that Dr. Smith genuinely cared that it made me feel secure. Even when I was going home, he let me know that I should contact him if I needed anything. Now I recommend him to other people and I always feel good knowing that they'll be in such excellent hands."
It's been two trouble-free years since she had her spinal fusion surgery. But the proof of her spine surgery success came from a motorcycle. As Jo Ann explains, "A friend of mine bought a new Harley-Davidson and wanted to go on a road trip. His wife wasn't able to make the trip, so when he asked if I wanted to go, I thought, 'Why not?' I admit, it was cold on the back of the motorcycle and my hips did hurt some, but my back didn't bother me once."