Beebe hip replacement surgery put me back on my feet

John Epstein enjoying walking again
December 17, 2019

John Epstein would be the first person to tell you not to feel sorry for him. He’s lived Hawaii, has three sons and a loving wife, and two big dogs. Together, they’ve found their perfect spot on the East Coast in Lewes.

He also grew up in poverty, has battled colon cancer three times, and has dealt with off-and-on paralysis from the waist down for the last 10 years.

“My tagline for years has been: I’m immortal until proven otherwise. Life has thrown all kinds of different stuff at me,” John said, walking down the Lewes-Georgetown Trail with his wife Laura and their two dogs, Bella and Shiro, a German Shepherd and an Akita. “I’ve adopted a positive mental attitude toward life. I believe that the more good beliefs I have, the better things happen.”

A stroll along the trail is one of those little things he can enjoy now that he is walking again.

Before his hip replacement surgery at Beebe, John was in a wheelchair. In 2010, he fell getting out of bed. His legs were paralyzed. For years before he moved to Delaware, he saw different doctors, trying to find the correct diagnosis, slowly regaining some strength in his legs. John finally found out he has a condition called arachnoiditis, a pain disorder caused by spinal cord nerve inflammation. There is no pattern to the symptoms, and they can go into remission, which allowed John to walk with a limp.

He moved to Delaware in 2015, and in fall 2017, he became assistant principal at Milford High School. By the new year, the pain and tingling had John back in a wheelchair, but it even hurt to sit, so he went to see Joseph Farrell, DO, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Associates of Southern Delaware P.A. John felt a trusting connection with Dr. Farrell right away: “He really cared about me as a person. The first visit we had, we spent an hour together.” 

John had a hairline fracture in his hip, which normally calls for repair with screws, but Dr. Farrell suggested hip replacement surgery since the result was more durable and more likely to last for John’s lifespan. When John and Laura got to Beebe on his surgery day, he was impressed.

“Having been to two Level 1 trauma centers, my experience at Beebe is on par if not a little bit better in terms of the treatment I got, the care I received, and the concern to make sure there weren’t any mistakes,” he said. “All the things that I’ve seen at other hospitals were in place and with a smile at Beebe that made me feel good in regard to the surgery, post-surgical care that I received there, and the follow-up phone calls from the nursing staff. The work with the OT and PT, it was just fabulous.”

John was up and walking soon after surgery and physical rehabilitation, a feat Dr. Farrell called amazing. He couldn’t medically explain why the surgery helped John’s arachnoiditis, but said the nerve issues could have been related to the hip pain from the fracture. Now, with that pain alleviated and John walking upright, perhaps the spinal nerves could calm down and lead to symptom remission.

John said, “I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk again. I consider myself so fortunate that even though I’ve lived through some painful moments in regard to how my body is, here I am walking.”

John also appreciated the support of the Beebe nursing staff for allowing him to push himself with walking: “The folks at Beebe really responded to my positive mental attitude. They treated me as an individual, and that’s not been the case many times in my life when I’ve been at other places.”

“The nurses at Beebe are fantastic,” said Dr. Farrell. “I can trust my patients are looked after well. It makes all the difference in the world to a patient if they are cared for and not just a number. I think it changes their outcome, not just their perception.”

The trails and nature were one of the many draws that attracted John and Laura to the area. A wheelchair was never going to stop that. Even when he wasn’t able to walk, he was out hand-cycling. Even now, John is unsure if the debilitating pain will return, but he’ll enjoy the moments living at 6-foot-1 while he can. Every day that he and Laura can do something together is a gift, he said.

“Whatever is going on with him, he’s always going to figure out a way,” Laura said.

“The fact that I can walk, the fact that I’m 6-foot-1 again as opposed to 3-foot-1 in my wheelchair, opens up the whole world of cabinets and driving that were, for a while, off limits for me,” he said. He’s able to drive up to Staten Island to teach college students elementary prep in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). He can play pickleball upright.

“The remission is spontaneous and unknown in regard to its duration,” John said. “So how I look at it is, not that we’ve experienced all the negative things that someone can have in life, but I what I know from the core essence of every particle that I am, that my wife and I will find a way to make it through anything that happens.”

To learn more about Dr. Farrell and Orthopaedic Associates, call 302-644-3311. Learn more about orthopaedic surgery at Beebe by going to


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