For Hill City Elementary Principal Dr. Carlton Wilson, this holiday season will be one of recovery after he undergoes revision surgery to replace two metal hips that have been recalled for high failure rates and unwanted side effects.
“When I found out about all of the symptoms of this, that upset me,” Wilson said the day before one of the metal-on-metal hips he had installed over four years ago would be replaced. “But when I found out that the company knew about all of this a year and a half before they put the first one in, that made me kind of angry.”
DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, manufactured the hips and there are now hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against DePuy. Questions have also arisen about the way in which the hips gained approval for manufacturing.
Worldwide over 93,000 people have received this variety of hip implant, and it is estimated that over 40,000 of those patients are in the U.S.
Above, Hill City Elementary School Principal Carlton Wilson
“Metal-on-metal hips can create soft tissue in your bone and leave chromium and cobalt deposits that get into your system and blood,” Wilson said, who began experiencing negative side effects in his legs and groin area after the hips were installed. “It’s a metal ball on a metal cup. The thinking was that wear was less and the rubbing in that joint created less debris than plastic and porcelain hips that had been used, but apparently your body can deal with plastic and porcelain, not metal.”
So now, after going through two surgeries to have the metal hips installed, one in 2008 and one in 2009, Wilson is going through the frustrating process of having the hips removed and replaced with hips of a different material, and he is expected to be on leave for months.
“I had to do a cobalt and chromium blood test,” he said. “The industry says levels less than five are normal. If you are at 5-7 but in no pain, they will do periodic blood tests to see if toxicity is going up. If it goes up then they look at revision surgery. If you are at more than 7 they do revision surgery to replace it.”
Wilson said his levels of cobalt and chromium tested at 6.7, but that based on a different study he read cobalt and chromium toxicity from metal hips is more dangerous because the metals are internal, not external.
“That makes the danger rate greater because it is internal,” Wilson said. “This doctor said levels higher than three are a cause for concern.”
As of last week Wilson has had one hip replaced, and is expected to spend four to five weeks recovering before he can have the other hip replaced.
“It should be about the first of the year when I can have the other one replaced,” Wilson said. “Then I will have to heal from that one.”
Wilson said recovery from his metal-on-metal implants went well
“The first time I had them I kind of cut the recovery short,” he said. “I went back to work pretty quickly. The second hip I actually stopped at work on the way home from the hospital.”
Wilson said the revision surgery is more complicated than the initial surgery he underwent, and that because of his age he will likely have to have them replaced again in the future.
“The hips only last so long, so once they wear out I will have to replace these as well.”
While he is on leave from Hill City Elementary, Vice Principal Joeta Youngblood will take charge and a retired principal from North Carolina, Scott Perkins, will substitute until Wilson returns.
“I’m not worried about the school,” Wilson said. “Most of the staff has been there since we opened and they would be great without anyone there. They are dedicated.”
But Youngblood says the staff is anxiously awaiting Wilson’s return.
“Of course we are managing, but we are looking forward to his return,” she said.