One year ago, Edward Sampong was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk. He was in constant pain and had lost all hope of living a normal life.

But in a real-life happy ending, thanks to Ryan Sullivan, MD, orthopedic surgeon with Endeavor Health, he’s ready to dance again.

Sampong, 67, underwent hip replacement surgeries in March and June 2023 to alleviate what had become debilitating arthritis. Dr. Sullivan is a hip and knee replacement/revision specialist and has been with Endeavor Health Medical Group for four years.

A native of Ghana, Africa, Sampong has lived in the Western suburbs for about 20 years. His pain started a couple of years ago. He initially thought the problems stemmed with his knees.

“He was in Africa and he began to have pain in both his knees,” Dr. Sullivan said. “He saw an orthopedic surgeon there who discovered it was actually a referred pain from both of his hips.”

Dr. Sullivan met Sampong in January 2023, by which time Sampong was in near-constant agony.

“I couldn’t walk,” he said. “I was in a wheelchair. They had to carry me like a baby, carry my legs. I was in severe pain. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit, couldn’t do anything.”

“He was severely limited when I first met him in clinic,” Dr. Sullivan confirmed. “He was brought in in a wheelchair. He was unable to stand or walk; he had to have his relatives carry him around the house because he had too much pain. He said prior to this onset he was someone who liked to run, who liked to dance, and now he was wheelchair-bound.”

The X-rays obtained in clinic showed severe collapse of the femoral head of his left hip — the “ball” part of the joint — and a complete absence of his right hip consistent with avascular necrosis. Avascular necrosis is a disease process where the blood flow gets cut off to the ball and can cause collapse, degradation, and eventual disintegration of the hip joint.

“It’s one way of developing severe arthritis. There are a number of things that can cause it (but) he didn’t have any of the typical risk factors,” Dr. Sullivan said. “He had undergone surgery in Africa to his right hip. He didn’t know what the surgery was but from the X-rays we took in January, he had this collapsed femoral head on the left hip, and on the right hip there was no ball remaining. I suspect the surgery he underwent in Africa was resection (removal) of the femoral head because it had collapsed.”

After seeing the X-rays, Sampong was even more discouraged. He wondered if anyone would be able to help him. He nonetheless agreed to full hip replacement and, together, he and Dr. Sullivan made a surgery plan.

“It required a lot of preoperative planning,” Dr. Sullivan said. “Basically using digital copies of his X-rays to blueprint which implants we would use and how much we would need to lengthen his hips in order to even them out, as he had lost over half an inch of length on his left hip and around two inches on his right.”

Sampong had his first hip replacement in March 2023. He went to a rehab center for six weeks, followed by four weeks at home. His left hip was replaced in June 2023.

“He did very well with his right hip replacement. He immediately felt significant pain relief. He was happy right away,” Dr. Sullivan said. “It’s not uncommon when patients have hip arthritis that’s that severe and that bad, the pain from surgery may be nothing compared to the pain that they had before surgery. He was one of those patients that the day after surgery felt immediately better. From that point on, he was able to function significantly better.”

After his June left hip replacement surgery, X-rays showed that the implants looked good and both legs were equal in length, Dr. Sullivan said. When he saw Sampong most recently, he was thrilled to see his patient walk into the office without assistance and without pain.

“We took a video of him walking up and down the hall and at various points, he started dancing in the hallway,” Dr. Sullivan said.

"I’m able to walk, I’m able to dance, I’m able to do everything,” Sampong said. “I thank God and Dr. Sullivan and all the staff at Endeavor Health. My life has changed. My life was almost falling apart. I’m now walking. I’m doing everything for myself.”

His next goal is to travel to his African homeland for an extended visit to his family.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to walk again and Dr. Sullivan said one day I’d be able to dance again. He and his team have done so much for me. Endeavor Health is one of the best — I tell everyone I know.

The doctors and nurses are patient, they are kind and they are warm-hearted. When I got to the entrance, the security knew me. They received me like a king. They ask me how I am doing. I say I am blessed. When you go to a place where the morale is high, it gives patients confidence.”

For Dr. Sullivan, knowing he was able to help change someone’s life is an indescribable feeling.

“Joint replacement — especially hip replacement — can really be a life-changing operation,” he said. “To be able to provide that and see patients go from where they were pre-operatively, being in significant pain and not knowing if that pain was going to be with them forever, to realizing that the pain is gone and it’s not a limiting factor is one of the most rewarding parts.

“I don’t think he realized there could be a solution that could get him back to where he was before. To see that before and after, he’s back to doing the things he wants to do — that’s the best feeling. This is one of those great, feel-good stories.”