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Lynn’s Story: New Hips Bring a Speed Skater Back to the Ice

Contributor: Charles Carrier, MD
8 minute read
A woman ice skating Salem Hospital joint replacement patient Lynn Whitney is back to skating after having both hips replaced.

Less than a year after having her second hip replaced, Lynn Whitney is back on the move in a big way. Historically a very active person, Lynn loves skiing, kayaking, and water sports. In childhood she also developed a lifelong love of ice skating — at first as a competitive speed skater.

Lynn hasn’t really been an actual speed skater for some time, but she says she still has a bit of the instinct.

“When I learned to skate, I learned on speed skates, and I've been skating on them since I was 3 years old. And I did race when I was a child, up until I was 13. But I never stopped skating.”

It was over a 3-to-5-year period that Lynn, now 68, began to seek help for the increasingly debilitating pain she’d been living with, having been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both her hips and knees. She met with Charles Carrier, MD, a Mass General Brigham orthopaedic surgeon in the North Shore Physicians’ Group at Salem Hospital. Lynn’s daughter, Kendra Bird, a Mass General Brigham employee, helped her to find the care she needed.

A candidate for hip replacement surgery

Dr. Carrier identified Lynn as an appropriate candidate for joint replacement by performing a thorough physical exam, reviewing her imaging, and learning about the impact of pain on her quality of life.

“I look at the radiographs and explain that they do demonstrate significant arthritis, but that’s just part of the discussion. The physical exams are more important, to confirm that a patient’s pain is actually coming from the arthritis. Our discussion helps me to understand how their pain and loss of mobility are affecting their quality of life.”

If a patient has tried non-surgical management including physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, and injections and they continue to have an unacceptable level of pain and/or limited function, then Dr. Carrier talks with them about joint replacement.

“Lynn’s history of pain and attempted treatments fit the profile,” he says. “Together we decided that surgery was her best option. She had her first hip replaced in June of 2022, and her second only 4 months later, in October.”

Hip replacement patient and speed skater Lynn Whitney in 1958 (age 3) and post-surgery in 2023.

Recovery from hip replacement surgery

Lynn says any unwanted side effects from the surgery have been virtually non-existent for her throughout her recovery period.

“The physical therapy’s been unbelievable. I followed the pain medication protocol, and I had little to no pain.”

She also speaks highly of a program called “aquacise,” a regimen of swimming pool-based exercises that she committed to early in her recovery, to help her ease back into an active lifestyle.

Back on the ice with new hips

Lynn typically skates at a rink in her hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts, where she’s been part of a long-time community of fellow skaters. They’ve all been thrilled to watch her recovery. For her, just getting back out onto the ice seems to have brought her back to a new level of confidence.

“Now, when I start my next season, I already know that I've been on the ice. I know I can do it,” she says.

Lynn’s recovery hasn’t just been limited to skating, either. In addition to daily walks, she regularly hops on the Peloton bike or her new rowing machine to keep building her strength back. This past month she spent a couple of weeks at a family lake house in New Hampshire where she was equally confident with stand-up paddle-boarding and tubing behind a motorboat — something that was excruciating for her just last year.

“I was crawling onto the dock to get out of the tube last summer, literally crawling. So, I've come a very long way.”

My back is stronger, my core's getting stronger. I don't even notice my knees right now. So, we'll see what happens when I get back to skating more, if they wake up a little bit, but right now everything feels great.

Lynn Whitney
Joint Replacement Patient

Hip replacement can take pressure off of knees

Lynn sometimes worries that she’ll have to have her knees replaced as well, as these were diagnosed with a similar arthritis to her hips. But she says for now her post-hip-replacement quality of life has included those joints feeling better as well.

“That might be in my future,” she admits, “but everything feels so much better. I'm feeling comfortable with the hips, which were just completely disabling me.”

Lynn says the new hips have allowed her to resume a level of exercise that she lost to years of weakness and pain, perhaps combined with a sedentary effect that the COVID-19 pandemic induced on many.

“Now I'm able to get everything else stronger,” she says. “My back is stronger, my core's getting stronger. I don't even notice my knees right now. So, we'll see what happens when I get back to skating more, if they wake up a little bit, but right now everything feels great.”

Advances in joint replacement treatment

Dr. Carrier says that joint replacement surgery has become remarkably safe in recent decades with modern surgical techniques, medications, and anesthesia — so much so that patients often go home the same day as surgery.

“It's been a dramatic shift from a decade ago when people would be in the hospital for a week,” he says.

Dr. Carrier also emphasizes that advances in the material science used to make modern joint replacements — some of which was developed at Mass General Brigham — has dramatically improved the longevity of implants. He can now confidently tell patients that their joint replacements should last at least 20 to 30 years, and maybe longer.

“Patients and surgeons used to try to hold off as long as possible for fear that the implants would wear out, forcing them to undergo an additional surgery,” he says. “With modern implants, that concern has gone away.” 

To set expectations for recovery, Dr. Carrier often tells recipients of joint replacements that by 2 to 4 weeks, patients generally feel really good.  “By 6 weeks, they are doing most of the activities that they want to be doing,” he says. “They continue to work with PT, and by 3 months, I expect people to be able to do anything they want to do.”

For Lynn Whitney, the reality has lived up remarkably to the promise.

Charles Carrier, MD


Orthopaedic Surgeon