NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — “This X-ray looks beautiful,” said Northwest Arkansas Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Christopher Dougherty as he reviewed the image with Trent Brock.
It was the first time Brock was able to see his new hip implant that was installed in a first-of-its-kind surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in mid-July.
The world-renowned medical institution is known for its innovative approaches to complex medical problems.
A few days before he had the two-day procedure, he described the implant as the “largest, most customized titanium hip implant ever done to date.”
Multiple past surgeries Brock had while living in New Zealand to remove hip bone cancer, and then a massive infection, led to almost the entire left side of his pelvis being removed.
His left leg then inched up so far into his pelvis there was a 4-inch deficit in the length of his legs, thus the need for the implant.
As he crutched into his August appointment for his first post-operation X-ray, Brock said he was feeling a mix of excitement and concern not yet knowing how the surgery went.
Before even seeing it though, he was already happy with the results he noticed on the outside since his left leg now only sits about an inch higher than his right.
Dr. Dougherty referred to the surgery as tricky, but said it went extremely well.
“He’s got part of pelvis, just the bottom half in the front’s hooked on, and then your sacrum in the back, and the small of your back is still there, but they made him a half of a fake pelvis and put a socket on it so he can get this total hip put in so that he can walk on it. Then to increase his stability they bolted it to his spine,” Dr. Dougherty said.
When he described the complexity of it, he explained how doctors had to dodge nerves with the screws they used to bolt the implant to his spine, so Brock still has all the sensation and motor in his leg.
The implant is quickly taking shape as the bone edge along his sacrum is already growing into it as designed, according to Dr. Dougherty.
As Brock left the appointment, you could see the relief on his face, and you could hear the excitement in his voice as he chatted about the results he’d just gotten.
About two months later a noticeably thinner Brock shared what he remembers after waking up from the surgeries which he said took a combined 18 hours.
“First thing I normally do is I look down and make sure my leg is still down there… I’ve been through so many surgeries with this leg that there was always a chance that the leg wasn’t going to be there,” he said.
He also described the pain he felt in the days after and at times continues to struggle with.
“Think about your leg being cut off then sown back on…. the natural weight of that pulling on your leg all day then there’s nothing you can do about it then you multiply that with it being infected which makes it two or three times worse.”Trent Brock
Pain is something Brock has become accustomed to, and he even said it has been a bit of a comfort for him because he is so used to it.
“Every day you get a little better but it’s sore. I’m really sore I’ve got about a 20″ incision down the middle of my back and also one down the side of my leg,” he said.
What he hasn’t gotten used to, is the fatigue, fevers and chills he has since experienced due to what he calls implant symptoms.
While his medication helps “take the edge off” as he said, he has to be extra careful getting around as even the simplest of movements, like rolling over in bed or getting in or out of his car, can cause him excruciating pain. This means little to no exercise, which is something he really enjoys.
“I’m just really counting down the days when I can really get back in the gym because this little leg is kind of shriveled up to look pretty much like a toothpick now,” he said.
Aside from all the discomfort he said he’s feeling thankful, grateful and even a little cocky.
“You got to have a little bit of that when you’re staring in the eyes of the doctor telling you you’re never going to walk again, you’re not going to live through this,” Brock said.
In mid-October he will go back to the Mayo Clinic so doctors can have their first in-person look at him post-surgery. His contact since has been solely virtual.
He hopes to be cleared by the end of the year to put weight on his left leg which he said “would be a great Christmas present.”
Brock has also set a goal to be off his crutches, which he’s had to use for about five years now, within the next year.
Originally the plan was for Brock to go back to Mayo once he’s fully healed from the hip implant surgery to have a leg lengthening procedure, but now he’s not sure whether he’ll go through with another surgery.
“The thing’s so close now, I’m not sure we’re going to risk another surgery on it. Something I need to think about,” he said.
In the meantime, Brock has been spending his time doing light yoga, volunteering, sharing his story on podcasts and writing a book about his battles with cancer.