Unrelenting pain had taken over Courtney Tuft’s life. Advanced osteoarthritis in his shoulders and knees had dropped his quality of life to zero. He couldn’t lift his arms above his chest. He couldn’t bathe without help. His kids said he was a grouch.
It took four surgeries before Courtney could begin to get his life back: one on each of his shoulders and one on each of his knees.
Courtney’s osteoarthritis was largely caused by a lifetime of physical labor. The Nampa native was born on the family farm, one of eight children. He worked on that same farm for most of his life. Farm life was busy and very hard work.
“It was hard on my knees and shoulders,” Courtney says. “I often lifted very heavy objects as well as pushing and moving equipment to get it hooked up to tractors.”
After a downturn in the farm economy he went to work driving a semi-truck, pulling cement powder trailers and liquid sugar tanker doubles. He was 46 years old when he started and continued until he was 62.
“Driving a truck required that I climb in and out of the cab multiple times a day,” he says. “I also had to climb up on the top of my rig and open and close lids. It also entailed moving heavy four-inch hoses that we used to load and unload cement powder or liquid sugar.”
As time went on, his knees got worse and he had to rely on his shoulders to get in and out of the truck. “My knees started to deteriorate first,” he says. “But as the damage to my knees got progressively worse and I was no longer able to rely on that strength, my shoulders deteriorated very quickly. Soon my shoulders were much worse than my knees.”
Courtney worried about how he could care for his family if he didn’t keep working. Steroid injections and visco-supplementation shots helped keep him going until finally, he knew he couldn’t keep living that way.
His wife called Dr. Jared Johnson at St. Luke’s, who at the time had a new practice. “Dr. Johnson was very frank with us and explained that he had been doing the surgery for several years in his residency, but that his practice was only about three months old. He said we were welcome to have a second opinion with someone with more years of experience. I told him, no, I want you to do the surgery.”
Because of his candor, confidence and caring manner, Courtney says, they knew they could trust him to take care of them. “We feel very blessed that we were guided to him. The nurses and physical therapists were very helpful. The joint class gave me lots of information and helped manage expectations.”
His experience with rehab was also good, he says. Dr. Johnson and his physical therapist didn’t want him to overwork and set himself back. Eight months later, when his shoulders were strong enough, Courtney had both his knees replaced.
It’s been nearly five years since the first surgery and Courtney says the change in his life is like night and day. There are so many things he can do now that he couldn’t before, including enjoying time with his wife of 43 years, his five kids, and his 12 grandkids.
“And the biggest thing is that I’m pain free,” he says. “No pain during the day, no pain in my sleep. I just have to remind myself not to do more than Dr. Johnson has suggested. I trust him and don’t want to ever have to do this surgery again.”