New Ferry rugby veteran’s remarkable hip replacement recovery

A former star rugby player and Falklands veteran from Wirral is on the road to recovery after a top surgeon replaced his worn-out hip replacement.

Fly-half Gerry Price won England Youth caps and played for Combined Services, the Royal Navy, top West Country club, Lydney, and even lined up with the fearsome Pontypool front row.

The electrical engineer combined that with a Navy career in submarines including a tour of duty in the Falklands War on HMS Otus before leaving the Navy and moving to Wirral where he played for leading local side Birkenhead Park.

The wear and tear took its toll on the cheerful 62-year-old though and when a first total hip replacement went wrong after ten years he feared his active days were over and he might even end up in a wheelchair.

Gerry, who now lives in New Ferry, just a short distance down the road from Cammell Lairds where generations of British submarines have been built, said, “I was taking more painkillers than I should have just to get through and although my employers, Baker and Baker, were brilliant with me, I couldn’t carry on.

“I was in so much pain and if I sat down it was agony when I stood up again. I couldn’t walk properly – I had to swing my right leg round.”

His GP referred him to leading hip and knee specialist Mr Alan Highcock, based at Arrowe Park Hospital and after a four-hour operation to build a new replacement hip joint, Jerry is on the mend.

Alan said, “It can happen that artificial hip joints wear out so they have to be re-done, and there are very few surgeons in this area who specialise in this complex surgical procedure  

“His previous joint replacement was pistoning inside the thigh bone, going up and down inside the femur, so I had to take the artificial joint out and redo it, and this revision surgery is more complex.”

Alan, originally from Bromborough, trained as a doctor at the University of Liverpool and went into orthopaedic surgery, becoming the first winner of the Biennial International Fellowship Award in 2015 which earned him a place for a year at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, to work under the supervision of world renowned surgeon Dr Allan Gross.

It was there he learned to replace artificial hip joints and he said, “I had to take all of the previous artificial hip out and redo the hip joint. The new joint is made from cobalt chromium and the ball of the joint is ceramic.

“Revision surgery is significantly more complex than the initial hip replacement and although the old joint came out easily because it was so worn, the new joint then involved drilling down into the femur, about a 30cm down the thigh bone, and then filling the void around the new hip joint.

“Within a week Jerry was up and walking around. You can tell he’s a sportsman because you can’t hold him back. He was champing at the bit and within a week he was walking around.”

Eleven weeks later Jerry is doing 10 kilometres a day on his exercise bike, ten lengths of the swimming pool, and walking his dogs for a couple of miles twice a day.

England Youth v Wales Youth at Bridgend in 1980, Gerry Price is on the right of the middle row. His half-back partner and future British Lion, Nigel Melville, is on the left of the same row

His rugby career had seen him win four England Youth caps and partner future England captain and British Lion Nigel Melville at half back and in all he played at Twickenham 13 times for the Navy and for Combined Services he lined up against Australia twice, Japan and was in a winning side against a Scotland XV at Murrayfield.

He said, “I’m at 70 per cent right now but in a week or so I will be at 90 per cent. I won’t stop though – I still need to lose half a stone.

“It’s a quality of life thing. When you’re laid up you can’t do the things you want to do and I’ve always been active.

“It was making me a grumpy old git and I was so tired that I’d be nodding off about five or six in the evening.

“But I went to see my doctor ten or 11 months ago and he referred me to Alan and four months later I had the hip redone.

“Ten weeks on from that I’m chuffed to bits with the job Alan has done for me. I can really recommend him.”

Alan Highcock has practised at Spire Murrayfield Hospital and at Wirral University Teaching Hospital for several years, specialising in lower limb trauma and complex hip and knee surgery.

His work covers all aspects of hip and knee arthritis, including joint preservation surgery, and he has published multiple papers in scientific journals, and presented his work in Europe, North America and the Far East.

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