patient stories

Eric Johnston

Oh, Now I Remember Me

For the better part of two decades, the person Eric Johnston knew himself to be began to slowly disappear. As the physical pain from an arduous life spent doing manual labor increased, the ease with which even rudimentary tasks decreased. Being able to swing a bat or golf club, picking up something on the ground, or getting in and out of a car became activities of the past.

For this man from an era known for picking oneself up by one’s bootstraps and depending on no one, rock bottom came in February 2016. “I wasn’t fully aware of how the pain was changing me — the way I could or couldn’t do everyday things. I was eating too much, drinking too much. It wasn’t a hopeful path,” says Eric. “The farthest I was walking was from the sofa to the refrigerator and back.”

By the time he was referred to Dr. LaFleur for a consultation, Eric weighed 313 pounds and needed a cane to get around, if he chose to move at all. X-rays showed so much bone spur material that the ball joints of his hips were not visible. Like all good care providers, Dr. LaFleur treats the whole person. He sent Eric through an orientation class that explained the high cost of doing nothing, the need to lose weight and change his diet, and the mental focus required to give Eric the best possible chance at success.

“More than anything, Eric adopted the right mindset,” says Dr. LaFleur. “When he had a clear vision for what he would be able to do in the future, the short term goals of weight loss and diet changes made complete sense to him. He embraced the need for change.”

In February 2020, Eric underwent hip replacement surgery on his right hip first. Numbed from the waist down, he came out of surgery surprised at how quickly it happened. After the numbness wore off — and with a walker — Eric walked down the hallway. When asked his pain level on a scale from 1 to 10, Eric exclaimed, “Zero. I don’t have any pain.” Even Dr. LaFleur was a bit surprised.

Six months later in August, the left hip was replaced. The staff remembered Eric from the first surgery. “Are you going to tell us there’s no pain again?” asked one of the physical therapists. “I hate to disappoint you, but I am!” responded Eric. He was even able to leave the hospital earlier than expected.

Down from 313 to 187 pounds, from a 56 inch waist to a 36 inch waist, Eric has no pain in his hips or legs. Eric no longer requires the use of a cane, although he does carry it around.

When asked what the biggest difference is post surgery, Eric responded “I’m rediscovering my ability to do some of the most mundane things again — the freedom to do them for myself. Recently I went and threw balls for batting practice at the local high school!”

Why Adventist Health Tillamook? “Dr. LaFleur treated the whole me. And the technology has improved so dramatically from what it once was. The staff at the hospital provided the most incredible experience.”

What advice would you give? “Go into it with the most positive attitude you can. Personally, I wish I’d done it sooner! I feel like I’ve got a new lease on life.”