Tony Morris: Portrait Artist and Martial Artist
Your Name: Tony Morris
Date of surgery: Left hip Oct 2003 (age 41), Right hip Nov 2005 (age 44)
Surgeon: Dr. Robert Wyker (Raleigh Orthopedic, Raleigh, NC)
Hospital: Wake Medical
Prior to surgery
When did you first notice symptoms and what were they?
Well my "official story" is that I first "noticed" symtoms in April 2002 (age 40). I have been an athlete my entire life, multiple organized sports growing up with particular obsession with basketball and a lifetime romance with martial arts. By 40, I had been playing basketball an average of 4 times a week (often on concrete) and had been simultaneously practicing Tae Kwon Do continuously since age 28. So that one April day I launched a face-high side kick while demonstrating a self-defense technique to a student. That moment will forever be seared into my mind. I experienced a severe, sharp shooting pain in the outside rear quarter of my left (the one kicking at the time) hip. It was without comparison the most severe and sudden pain I have consiously experienced to date. My supporting leg buckled beneath me as I collapse to the floor in tearful pain. This was my "official" beginning to what has been an oddessy in self understanding and subsequent personal redefining. Looking back from my current vantage point, I can easily "see" (more like replay in slow-mo) that I had many incremental warnings. I can see now that over the course of many, many years, my range of motion had progressively decreased and my level of pain had increased. All the while I justified and rationalized the evolution of my physical resources as natural aging. Now that is the physical stuff. Now here was the emotional and spiritual context of the time: I was an architect for a living at the time, part owner of my own firm, living hourly with deadlines, deadlines, and did I mention deadlines, the demands and responsibilities of many employees, the financial strains of a recession and was in the middle of a terribly tulmutous marital separation from what had been a miserable 10-year marriage and with all that -- stretching myself with all my soul to protect my only son (4 at the time) from the real-time and cumulative effects of a clinically diagnosed, severly dipolar mom (who was in complete denial and refused any form of treatment) from whom I could no longer endure the intense and unpredictable emotional and spiritual explosions!!!
What was your medical diagnosis (traumatic osteoarthritis, congenital hip problem, avascular necrosis, etc)?
I did go to a local orthopedist after 2 weeks provided no noticable improvement. I was completely baffled, sure that I must have somehow "wrenched" my hip (though being the technique freak that I am this was not a rational theory). To my total SHOCK the PA upon reviewing my xrays with me, told me in a very undramatic and fairly emotionless tone that I clearly had "osteoarthritis and would require a total hip replacement." I don't remember much after that -- I was in a sort of numb, disconnected, surrear stuper.
What forms of treatment did you seek before considering surgery (chiropractic, acupuncture, medications, bodywork, physical therapy, herbs, etc)?
I have several friends who are health professionals from wholistic contexts. Among them I received accupuncture, reiki, physical therapy, deep-tissue therapy, and an herb regimen prescribed to me by my accupucturist. Of course this was all too little too late at this point. I had lived a high-stress, stretched-thin life, played really hard, not rested nearly enough, worked too much, and was a serious sugar-holic.
How did you change your work habits, lifestyle to accommodate the hip problem?
I continued pushing at work. My conversation at the time was that I could not afford to slow down or the firm would go under. This was a terrible thing looking back. My accupuncturist tells me that my adrenals were "shot" and I continued to exhaust all of my systems. On top of that I was living in huge fear for my son's well-being in general and in my own state of financial survival. Simultaneously I both completely stopped exercising (after having exercised every day of my life up to that time!) and started taking increasingly larger doses of ibuprofen to tolerate the pain. Over the next Year and a half I would get up to 1200 mg about every 6 hours. I'm sure my liver had some nice things to say about that.
How long an interval was it from the onset of hip problems until surgery?
From the onset of my debilitating collapse in April 2002 it was about 1 1/2 years to my Oct. 2003 surgery. By the way -- the prevailing conversation in the orthopedic surgical community is that one should postpone surgery "as long as possible" because "it is major surgery and one should avoid major surgery where possible." I have to say I take GREAT ISSUE with this perspective. The quality of my life during that 1 1/2 years was terrible. The level of pain was taxing beyond accurate accounting. All of my relationships were affected, if for no other reason than the shear fact that my internal resources were so tapped that I lacked much left for "zip" and "zest" and the energetic attraction and capacity for giving that I naturally carry. On top of that I POISONED my body with pain-management drugs and cortisone shots limping my way through life during that time. Additionally, I felt like a shadow of myself. My physical prowess had eroded to the point that I could not pick up things off the floor or ride a bike with my son -- forget basketball or tae kwon do!! Lastly, the extended period of lack of physical activity, resulted in a wilted body - attrophied muscles (particularly in the hurting hip) -- meaning a very low baseline from which to start recovery once I had surgery.
What factors, physical, emotional, financial, etc. influenced your final decision to have surgery?
I could no longer endure the pain. I felt poisoned. I feared that I was corroding my insides with "medicine" and wondered what long term damage I might have already caused and feared what more I might be causing on top of that. Financially, I couldn't "dig down and make it happen" any longer. I had always up to that point in my life been able to "dig a little deeper" when the "fight got thick" regardless of the context (work, play etc.,). I no longer had this. I could feel my life force weak and very limited. I felt like ET when his finger tip glowed dimly. The "magic" was all gone. Finally, I loved tae kwon do. It was the one "space" where I could be peaceful, explosive, poised, fierce, graceful, focused, grandly aware, expressive, connected, purposeful, giving, moving, inspiring, spontaneous, engaging and comprehensively beautiful ---- all -- at -- once...... And now I seemed resigned to being one of those out of shape pot-bellied men with great stories about how we used to be... THAT WAS THE BOTTOM!!
Were there others you spoke with that helped you?
I did not have the money to look out of my area geographically or in terms of the pool of surgeons my insurance would cover. I looked for info on the web -- but was looking for people like me - relatively young and very athletic --- and most of all successful at a comeback!! When I did not find what I was looking for I became very discouraged and felt very alone. I especially wanted to find martial artists. I could live without basketball (it was beating up my aging joints any way -- it had become too painful the day after to make it worth the diminishing fun of playing) --- but I was a martial artist to my core and refused to give up that fundemental identity, abilities and means of expressing myself and giving to others. The best the local surgeons offered were references to Bo Jackson (though they were quick to add that he had had repeated surgeries to that point and on the same hip -- boy now that was inspiring). Of course they told me about the stables of "succussful patients" they had who were doing "great" playing golf and even doubles tennis". Given what I had been accustomed to before my hip pain, this was akin to telling an athletic combination like the power and grace of a hockey player that his life after surgery was going to be great and that he would be able to play shuffle board and everything! So, again, I felt VERY ALONE.
What influenced your choice of surgeon?
I was restricted to local choices because of money and insurance, so I interviewed the local talent. I set up and paid for appointments with 4 different surgeons in the area, after first researching through my network of health-professional friends. All 4 were highly skilled and came with impressive credentials including body-counts in the thousands and cutting-edge procedures and technologies. I went in looking to differentiate them according to a less quantifiable set of criteria. I was looking for someone I felt connected to, who I trusted, felt energized in front of, someone alive with a special something... I knew I'd know it when I saw it though I couldnt' really tell you what I was looking for. The three I didn NOT choose possessed one or more of the following "absolutely-not-okays": arrogance, impatience, indifference, disconnectedness, looked unhealthy themselves and/or were some form of righteously closed to any element that was in any way a deviation from the "formula" that they had settled into as total hip replacement machines. I guess I should add that all three of these guys also told me "oh-yeah, of course you're going to have to quit that martial arts stuff". The doctor I chose has "twinkle eyes". No, really! He looks so incredibly alive! He is sharp, yet patient and intensely interested in what I have to say and what I aim to achieve. He seemed like a little-boy-phenom-investigator/inventor who relished a challenging new project. He was not shy to confess that the thought of me kicking and turning and exploding made him nervous. As time would prove however this was mostly about his lack of understanding of the body machanics required for the correct tae kwon do techniques. He just sort of had martial arts in that general category of "physically demanding = not such a good idea". He was very open though and that was all I needed. Over the next year I sent him numerous video clips of me from earlier years as well as others that I could find that could demonstrate proper technique and range of motion in addition to a couple of books that broke it down. My charge to him was to "make it possible again". I committed to doing the work on the backside - whatever it took as long as he would do the work to educate himself on my art and craft new parts to accomodate them. He has been GREAT now through 2 surgeries (I had the other hip done just 3 months ago).
How long were you in the hospital?
Both times I had surgery Friday morning. On day 2, I started physical terapy in the room and shuffled a couple of hundred feet around the hospital halls --- and GOT THAT DAMN CATHETER OUT!. On Sunday (day 3) I took my first shower and first bowel movement (halleluya!). On Monday moring (day 4) I went home.
What kind of prosthesis did you get (e.g., ceramic ball/ceramic liner? poly liner? highly-crossed linked poly liner? all metal?)?
I got metal on metal with poreous bone-contact surfaces and the biggest ball I could get at the time -- each time. When I had my first surgery on the left hip in 2003, the biggest ball and socket metal/metal combination I could get included a 38 mm ball. By the time I had the right hip replaced Nov 2005 the material/technological improvements to the cup component allowed for thinner cup walls and consequently larger ball counterparts for the same combined total bone displacement. Because of these improvements, though only 2 years later, I was able to receive a 54mm ball for the second hip. I chose metal / metal combination because of the imperceptible component wear in 20 year simulations and because the ceramic components had been reported to fracture from time to time. This material combination and ball size seemed to offer the best wear-rate and range of motion combination of all the available options.
Did you have any complications in the hospital?
With the first hip I had no complications. Lost no blood to speak of and the surgery was done in under 1 1/2 hours. The second hip was a different story. I had pushed it to its limit (having gained wisdom from the first go around). It was inflamed in there and blead a lot. I lost 3 pints of blood and I had only pre-donated 2 of my own (this turned out to be enough and I did not have to draw on the public blood bank). The biggest problem though, really had nothing to do with the hip surgery. It was the negligence on an attending nurse's part after surgery to read my chart. In skipping this, she missed that I had lost 3 pints of blood in surgery. She proceeded to give me a large dose of morphine for the pain. The large dose, combined with my very weak state at the time, resulted in an overdose. I almost died and had to be revived in the room! It was a big drama that scared the hell out of my wife and the poor nurse who made the mistake. After that I have had an uneventful and successful recovery.
Anything else to say about your in-patient experience?
Generally it was good. The attention was constant and the PT was very aggresive starting the very day after. I was happy and appreciatve.
Did you have any complications, especially unexpected difficulties, after you got home?
Not with the left (the first) hip. With the right however, I suffered considerable swelling and consequently couldn't really push the PT for almost the first month. This was very discouraging at first - as I was imagining a very long process. When the swelling finally went down however, I quickly began to realize the rewards of having prepared well for surgery by getting into excellent physical, psycological and emotional condition and my progress quickly hit a pace much faster than did the first hip.
What steps did you take toward recovery? (Physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, medications, bodywork, herbs, etc.)
I have been dilligent about PT. I push hard during the sessions, then ice down afterwards and give it a rest between sessions. Too much can set you back days -- I know this from my own overzealousness at first.
How long did it take you to really feel recovered (6 months, one year, two years?)?
I had the most envasive approach possible (consequently the most traumatic as well) both times. With the first hip I had been inactive for 1 1/2 years prior to surgery I was not in good shape in any way-- physically, emotionally, spiritually. Nevertheless I was extremely dilligent with the PT, visuallized every day and was very willful about the whole rehab process. I also put my tkd dobok back on at three months and started teaching class again at my dojang. Being willful, and purposeful about being an excellent martial artist was a powerful context within which to recover. I felt invigorated, almost destined to return and be a first hand example of perseverance and indomitable spirit. I "looked" fully recoved at about 8 months. I tested for my 4th degree Jr. Master rank @ 10 months after that first hip (at the time I hadn't tested in 6 years) and hadn't jumped in 2. Attached is a low-res video clip of one of many techniques I was required to perform for that testing 10 months out (the clip is from about 20 months out, but is of the same technique I performed @ 10 months). It was probably a little more than a year before I had no physical subtle reminders of the first hip surgery (to be fair though, I am keenly aware of and connected to my body). I am now 3 months into the rehab from my 2nd hip replacement. I was in excellent shape in all ways leading into this surgery. I was working out every morning (weights and cardio alternating days) 6 days/wk + teaching tkd 3 days a week and working out with the class.
Emotionally and spiritually, I am happily remarried, have full-custody of my (now 8 yr old) beautiful son, inherited a beautiful (now 17 yr old) daughter, and quit architecture and am finally making a living as a commission portrait artist producing beautiful works, getting paid well and living my life's purpose. Here is a sample of my portraiture:
Wow, what a difference context makes. This time around, I was back teaching class 5 days after surgery (on crutches of course - but hey I was there baby!). I now have as much range of motion as the first hip and I am amazingly strong in the recently operated leg. I am currently at about 75% - back to working out every morning and teaching 3 times a week. I expect to be fully recovered within the next 1 to 2 months -- easily 1/2 the time of the first hip!!!!
Anything or any practitioners that you would highly recommend?
I am about to start pilates and yoga. I intend to become more flexible than I have ever been. I understand and respect the couple of movement precautions that will always define my limits - but they are quite generous actually and shall not restrict me within the still quite wide range of motion I plan to play in.
Did you return to martial arts professionally?
Here is Tony teaching 2 weeks after his surgery:
As stated above I have returned to teaching 3 times a week. Life has a funny way of offering invitations however. My class, 3 days a week at the local YMCA has become increasingly popular. In fact it has continued to grow at the same clip even during my physically compromised rehab stage. I love teaching and practicing tae kwon do. It is a wonderful outlet for me and an excellent and able vehicle for developing whole, happy, strong, balanced and capable people. I love being a giver in the world, making a difference in this moment -- a difference that has the potential to replicate itself through others. I have declared to myself and the universe that I will open a commercial school on the heels of my full recovery and earn a living as a combination - portrait artist and martial artist. I'll keep you all posted! I can't think of a more inspiring example than someone who lost it all and then built it all back better.
About tkd class: Do you take tkd classes?
Yes! a coulple of times a month, my master instructor teaches my Saturday class. When this occurs, I get to be IN the class and learn and push myself and set an example for all of my students.
How much facility do you have?
Again, at 3 months post-second hip, I am at about 75%. I expect to be 100% by 5 months.
All post-THR patients are advised to limit impact on the joint and to avoid overcrossing the legs. Given that, do you actually modify your tkd class?
Not much at all. I do not execute repeated jumping techniques, though I demonstrate them regularly for the class placing special emphasis on landing softly (which is good for them anyway). I also don't kick a heavy bag any more - too much compression to the joint. I do however break multiple boards during demonstrations. My reasoning for this is that properly executed my techniques will transfer breaking energy to and then through the boards. My foot for example becomes an explosive projectile and the vast majority of the kenetic energy is transfered and absorbed by the boards sparing any subsantial impact to my hips. Only a poorly and unsuccessfully executed kick would result in hips being impacted with "recoil" energy. There is one kick called a cresent kick that requires the leg to come whipping quickly in a circular motion across the body in one direction in order to generate the power to whip it back across in the opposite direction. For this one kick I simply short-cut the extent of midline crossing for myself and have senior students demonstrate the fully extended version to the class.
Do you do other physical exercise (e.g., Yoga, Pilates, biking, swimming, etc.)? If so do you modify what you do in these activities?
I plan to start pilates and yoga. For pilates I will use a tape and should be okay through most of the moves and understand my limitations enough to modify where appropriate. As for yoga, I plan to find an instructor who intimately understands the deal with my two prostheses. My intention is to actually find a yogo teacher who has had a replacement him or herself.
How has the surgery impacted you professionally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially? Is your life different now? Did you have any outcome, good or bad, that was different from what you expected? Any other thoughts to share?
They have been a god send. DO NOT WAIT once you have exhausted alternatives. If you are in pain to the point that you are compromised all over the place then it is time. Get in as good a shape, in all phases of your life, as you can prior to surgery. Start NOW to get healthy. Health is largely a CHOICE -- choose it!! Your surgery is a proactive part of that choice. See it that way. Getting to the point that a joint repacement is necessary is a majorly BIG DEAL. It is a manefestation of intensely out of balance conditions. Be open to seeing where the imbalances were / are that caused it -- and then ask was there anything underneath that?... and so on. Get to the bottom of it. Hell! - it has gotten your attention - right? - so why not get all there is to get from the whole experience. And now that you are really finally paying attention, what else do you want to create / experience. what a FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY!!! GO for it.
See Tony in action in this video clip after his first surgery.
Phone = 828.808.1536
March 01, 2006
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