Hip replacement leads to lifesaving open-heart surgery

February 15, 2022

I had a hip replacement scheduled for Nov. 10, at Beebe Healthcare. It was to be performed by one of my favorite orthopaedic doctors, Joseph Farrell, DO. As standard preoperative procedure, an approval by a cardiologist is required, and I have one of the best in Ajith Kumar, MD.

This simple pre-surgery approval process, however, caused my story to take a bit of a turn. Dr. Kumar saw a few indicators and suggested I get a cardiac CT scan for a calcium score. This procedure would take pictures of my coronary arteries to determine if they were blocked or narrowed by calcium buildup. I agreed to the CT, and what I thought was a slight variation in my plan for a hip replacement became a complete U-turn.

I had never had a calcium score done before. Apparently, a score of less than 100 is OK. My score was 1,640, which is off the charts. I needed immediate cardiac treatment.

Dr. Kumar said normally, there are three options – medication, stents or open-heart surgery. He quickly scheduled a cardiac catheterization procedure, hoping that a few stents would remedy my situation. During the stent procedure, though, he determined that stents were not enough. I needed a coronary artery bypass graft. Dr. Kumar reached out to cardiothoracic surgeon Edward “Ted” Stephenson, MD, and within an hour, Dr. Stephenson’s PA was at my bedside explaining the next steps.

I had my first face-to-face meeting with Dr. Stephenson within two days. My open-heart surgery was scheduled for Nov. 15.

Now here is the really interesting part of my story. I don’t review restaurants, movies or doctors, and Dr. Stephenson had come to me without my solicitation. However, when a family member asked my wife the name of the physician doing my open-heart surgery, we were shocked to discover that one of my in-laws’ brothers spent four years at Penn State with Dr. Stephenson! My relative is a cardiologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he told us unequivocally that Dr. Stephenson is considered a “rock star” in his profession.

I didn’t need that confirmation, but now I had something to tease Dr. Stephenson about. And yes, he has certainly lived up to that billing, but I doubt “rock star” will ever be on his calling card.

My surgery went great, and my three days at Beebe and roughly 10 days at home with Beebe Home Care were absolutely amazing. Supposedly, at 72, I became the “iron man.” Everyone was thrilled with my progress, but the real rock stars are the 20-30 Beebe healthcare providers who took care of me. I am truly grateful for each and every one.

I have now started cardiac physical therapy to get my endurance back. My six kids and nine (soon to be 10) grandkids should also help keep me in shape. Oh, and one more thing – 40 years of fast food will help get you into my spaghetti-bowl-artery mess. I’m now a huge advocate of folks getting all the baselines and screenings done that their doctor suggests. Maybe soon I’ll even get that new hip I originally went in for! - Your forever grateful patient, neighbor and friend, John.

As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of the community it serves. To make a gift to celebrate the excellent care you or a loved one has received, visit Beebe Medical Foundation at or call 302-644-2900. Want to share your story? Contact Amanda Neal at

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