For more than 40 years, sculpting art out of eggshells has been “more than a hobby and less than a living” for Wichitan Yolonda Pears.
As she completes each one, she carefully signs it – denoting her pride in the resulting work of art – before offering it for sale.
However, until last year, Yolonda’s been less than happy with the outcome of her total left knee replacement done in 2014. Instead of alleviating the pain she had been experiencing for several years, it only exacerbated it. A follow-up procedure to “clean out” the area also provided no relief.
When her knee continued to swell up every few weeks, she underwent an exploratory procedure to see if she had a torn tendon. As it turned out, the tendon was intact, but her implant was infected, the orthopedic surgeon told her. “Fortunately, we have someone here for whom that’s his specialty.”
But by then, says the 63-year-old retired land surveyor, “I was mad and I just didn’t want any more surgeries.”
So when she went to see orthopedic oncologist Christopher Halphen, DO, at Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, she flatly told him, “No,” when he said she needed surgery.
“He said, ‘Excuse me?’ then scooted up closer to me on his stool and looked me directly in the eye and said, “I know what is wrong with your knee and I know how to fix it.”
That was all the assurance Yolonda says she needed, adding with a laugh, “I thought, ‘Let’s see if you’re as good as your ego.’”
Four days later, Dr. Halphen, who specializes in complex knee revisions as well as in treating bone cancers, removed Yolonda’s bad knee and put a hand-formed spacer in its place. She then underwent six weeks of IV antibiotics to rid the area of any infection. Two weeks later when Dr. Halphen checked the fluid in her knee, it was clear. So on Nov. 1, 2017, Yolonda underwent her second left knee replacement.
As it turned out, Dr. Halphen took great care in the creation of his masterpiece, not unlike the way she does with the delicate ones she sculpts in her home-based studio in Midtown.
Yolonda has tender skin — so much so that the staples used to close her incisions have always caused her to be in pain 24/7 until their removal. “Dr. Halphen took the time to use sutures instead. I was so impressed by that courtesy.”
She also told him in passing that after each prior knee surgery, she had experienced pain in her left hip. “So Dr. Halphen gave me an epidural and then a femoral block to make certain that when I woke up I wouldn’t be in pain,” she says.
“It all healed smoothly without complications,” she says — so much so that when she went in for her six-month check, “I told him that I thought it was a work of art and he needed to sign it.
“He wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not. But after eight years of misery and five surgeries, he’s the one who finally fixed my leg for real.”
So he signed one of the X-rays taken that day and gave it to her.
“With his permission, I took it down to my tattoo artist and I had his signature tattooed alongside the scar,” says Yolonda, who says “his last name is a little iffy, but overall it’s fairly legible.”
Nearly a year later, her second new knee continues to be in good shape, but her other one has begun to act up.
“If I ever have anything done to it, I’m definitely going to Dr. Halphen.”