Jim Y Back on the Beat

"I don’t know why I put it off. It was the best thing I ever did."

Working a beat is nothing new for Jim Young. He previously served as an officer with the Chatham Borough Police Department and spent nearly two decades as a fraud investigator for a leading insurer.

Through it all, he has had a not-so-friendly companion: arthritis. “It’s a family thing,” says Jim, 77, of Chatham. “I happen to have it the worst.”

Jim’s arthritis has caused aches and pains in various joints over the years, so he wasn’t overly surprised when, in late 2022, he experienced some discomfort in his right hip.

“It started off as a slow pain,” he says. But soon, it threatened to take him off his latest beat—working as a security officer inside the RWJBarnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC).

By mid-2023, Jim’s pain had become almost unbearable. He struggled to complete a round of golf. Skiing was out of the question. Even work became challenging.

“It was difficult getting around from station to station,” Jim says. “I was in constant discomfort. At times it felt like a heavy ache. Then, from out of nowhere, I’d get a very sharp pain. I couldn’t tie my shoes, put socks on or bend over.”

When he finally was ready to get his knee looked at by a doctor, Jim found an expert located right on his beat: Richard S. Yoon, MD, FAAOS, an orthopedic surgeon at CBMC and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

“He had just opened up an office in the ACC, and I got to know his staff pretty well,” Jim recalls. “They saw me limping one day and told me, ‘You should really see Dr. Yoon. He’s a great surgeon.’ So, I booked an appointment with him.”

Richard S. Yoon, MD, FAAOS
Richard S. Yoon, MD, FAAOS

Choosing the Best Option

At that appointment, Dr. Yoon ordered an X-ray that identified the root cause of Jim’s pain. His degenerative arthritis had deteriorated the cartilage around his right hip, causing bone-on-bone contact.

To help reduce Jim’s pain, Dr. Yoon explored potential treatment options. “Conservative measures like therapy, anti-inflammatories and even injections are a possibility for most patients,” Dr. Yoon says. “With Jim, his discomfort was so severe that we knew those would only be temporary measures.”

Total hip replacement surgery would be Jim’s best chance to eliminate his pain for good. Dr. Yoon specializes in a direct anterior approach to hip replacement, a muscle-sparing, minimally invasive technique that allows for a faster recovery.

“Dr. Yoon told me he’d perform the surgery through the front, not the back, which would make it easier on me,” Jim says.

Instant Relief

In September, Dr. Yoon performed Jim’s anterior hip replacement surgery. “I took one pain pill at 2 a.m. the day after surgery, and that was all,” Jim says. “I had absolutely no discomfort, which really surprised me.”

Three months after surgery, Jim returned to work. A month later, he played golf again for the first time. “I have normal activity now,” he says. “I go to work every day, walk through the entire facility and have no difficulties walking or bending.”

While Jim’s hip is pain-free, arthritis is now affecting his right shoulder. He’s now scheduled for shoulder replacement surgery. And he’s chosen Dr. Yoon to do the job once again.

“He is one of the easiest doctors I’ve ever dealt with,” Jim says. “He has a tremendous bedside manner, takes time to explain things to you and always has a smile.”

To others who are suffering from hip pain due to arthritis, Jim offers some advice. “There’s no need to fear hip replacement surgery,” he says. “I have friends who were concerned about having it, but once they did, they told me, ‘I don’t know why I put it off. It was the best thing I ever did.’”

An Advanced Approach to Hip Replacement

Orthopedic surgeon Richard S. Yoon, MD, FAAOS, is highly experienced in performing total hip replacement surgery and in most cases uses the direct anterior approach because the advanced method offers unique advantages for many patients.

In a traditional posterior approach, surgeons access the hip joint through an incision close to the buttocks. This involves cutting through the hip muscles and soft tissue.

In a direct anterior approach, surgeons make an incision in the front of the hip and access the joint through a naturally occurring space between muscles. This technique minimizes post-surgery pain, promotes faster healing and reduces the risk of complications.

During the procedure, patients lie on a table designed specifically for the direct anterior approach. Dr. Yoon uses interoperative fluoroscopy—a special type of X-ray—to guide the hip implant into proper position.

“The anterior approach is probably my favorite surgery to do because patients have such good results,” Dr. Yoon says. “In fact, I sometimes have to tell patients not to overdo it during recovery because they feel so good.”

Almost anyone can benefit from the direct anterior approach when it’s performed by a skilled surgeon. (Exceptions include patients with morbid obesity, who generally don’t qualify for the approach.)

“At Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, we see a lot of patients who have active lifestyles and want to stay on the go,” Dr. Yoon says, “and they tend to benefit the most.”

Learn more about joint surgery at RWJBarnabas Health.