|Double knee replacement patient Ruth Morris (seated on exercise bike) is shown with her physical therapy "team" in Montgomery Memorial Hospital's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. Pictured (from left) are physical therapist Michael Shutt; Beverly Buie, department secretary; physical therapist Tim Murphy; Morris; Andy Gillis, physical therapy assistant; and Paula Covington, physical therapy assistant.|
|Physical therapist Michael Shutt (seated) and physical therapy assistant Andy Gillis work with patient Ruth Morris in the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Montgomery Memorial Hospital.|
TROY – The fact that there is nothing especially unusual about Ruth Morris’s experience with FirstHealth of the Carolinas is exactly what makes it such a good story.
Morris had two painfully arthritic knees, she had double knee replacement surgery, she was treated kindly and expertly by her FirstHealth providers, and she was very pleased with her care. During her outpatient physical therapy, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer for which she also received superior care and about which she was also very pleased.
What is different about Morris’s story is that she was raised in an atmosphere of professional and committed medical care. For most of her life, she relied on advice or care dispensed by her father and brother, both of them physicians. She got great care from them, and she was thrilled when she got the same kind of care from FirstHealth. That’s the story – great care and wonderful treatment, just like you would expect from a loving father or brother.
“I know what it is to get outstanding medical treatment,” Morris says.
Morris’s father, the late Dr. Charles W. Bruton Sr. practiced family medicine in Montgomery County for several decades. His waiting room was always full, his daughter recalls, although he never bothered to check on just how busy it was and insisted on remaining in the office until he had seen every single presenting patient.
Between the office and the house calls he also made, that number might be as many as 60 to 80 patients a day.
Morris’s brother, the late Dr. Charles W. Bruton Jr., was a pulmonologist in Oak Ridge, Tenn., but maintained his North Carolina license so he could assist his extended family back home. His death in a 2010 motorcycle accident and her father’s death in 1984 left a medical void in Morris’s life that she found difficult to fill.
That changed when Morris’s right knee became so painful with bone-on-bone arthritis that she had to have help. She sought the advice of childhood friend Beth Walker, now the president of FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital and herself the product of a Montgomery County medical family.
Walker directed her friend to orthopaedic surgeon David Casey, M.D., of the FirstHealth Joint Replacement Center, who sees patients at the Specialty Care Center at the Medical Arts Building in Troy. Dr. Casey not only treated the pain in Morris’s right knee, but pointed out that the left knee was almost as bad.
Surgery was an option, Dr. Casey pointed out, but not until Morris herself said it was time.
Morris appreciated his honesty and candor and the fact that he wasn’t eager to send her into surgery. “I really appreciated that he wasn’t so anxious to start cutting on me,” she says.
The time for surgery came in March of this year. Morris had both knees replaced at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, spending a few days in the hospital but doing so well that she was discharged home instead of to an inpatient rehabilitation program, as is usually the practice.
“I’m very determined,” she says. “I was determined to walk and get out of there.”
For a couple of weeks, Morris had home therapy with physical therapists from FirstHealth Home Care. When she was well enough, she turned to director Michael Shutt, P.T., and his physical therapy staff at the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Montgomery Memorial Hospital.
She progressed rapidly, proving to be just as accommodating as she was demanding. “Whatever they suggested, I always did more,” she says.
Shutt describes Morris as a “Type A” and a “perfectionist.” Physical therapy isn’t easy and, in fact, can be very painful, but Morris stayed with the program all the way.
“We worked her hard,” says Shutt. “She worked with us every way we asked. I’m proud of her.”
Although Morris has completed her prescribed physical therapy program, she returns to the hospital once a month to be evaluated for flexibility in her knees. When she comes in, she is assisted by Shutt and physical therapy assistant Andy Gillis who also did most of her therapy.
“I call Andy ‘magic fingers,’” Morris says. “He just has a special touch.”
Morris’s recovery from replacement surgery was briefly interrupted by the cancer diagnosis after a Pap smear performed by Chrystal Eller, M.D., of FirstHealth Family Medicine in Troy. A D&C, done by Barry Buchele, M.D., of Southern Pines Women’s Health Center, and a robotic hysterectomy, performed by FirstHealth gynecological oncologist Michael Sundborg, M.D., followed in quick succession.
Although scary, the cancer episode was also a positive experience for Morris, who calls her FirstHealth providers her “safety net.” She also includes husband Jackie among her supportive team.
“I’m very confident I’ve gotten superior medical advice, and I will continue to get outstanding treatment,” she says.