On The Right Path

The aptly named John Bone and his Birmingham Hip experience…

“I’m amazed you could actually walk in here with hips like that” was the disheartening comment of my first specialist on seeing my X-ray back in 1995. As a relatively-young (sub-50), relatively-fit man I’d been taken aback by the sudden onset of severe pain, initially referred to the knees, but now tracked down to loss of cartilage in the hips. Memories of my mother’s last painful 10 years of life crippled by osteoarthritis were only too clear.

I suppose it’s heresy to say on a McMinn web-site, but I took to long-term use of anti-inflammatories to put off the day when I’d have to have a replacement, knowing their limited life expectancy. Pain relief was dramatic, but after 6 more years the pain began to come back, and the time had come. As an ex-squash player, I’d read of Mr McMinn’s astonishing restoration of Jonah Barrington, father of British squash, to professional play. Opinions of consultants of the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing at that time however were mixed, not surprisingly given the relative newness of the procedure.

My first consultation immediately removed all doubts; Derek McMinn’s enthusiasm, obvious integrity and impressive track record, combined with a total lack of hard sell, decided me on a BHR procedure. The operation took longer than planned; I’ll never forget Mr Minn’s comment that “it was like granulated sugar in there”, referring to severe damage in the acetabular socket which had to be repaired. Sleeping was initially difficult, but recovery proceeded smoothly enough, and I got home as planned in 5 days.

The psychology of undergoing hip surgery is interesting. Because the replacement and resurfacing procedures have such a high rate of success, there may be a tendency to underestimate the inevitable impact of the heavy engineering involved. I’m a light sleeper, and found the discomfort of the swollen leg a problem in the early stages of recovery. The elastic stocking was also a reminder of what women have put up with over the years in the name of fashion. However recovery proceeded as forecast after each of my two resurfacings, with the useful spin-off that I became an expert on the footpaths of my area during long walks on crutches, and later on sticks.

So there I was, an early member of Mr McMinn’s One-Of-Each club, having had the original BHR resurfacing on my first, and the mid-head resection BMHR procedure on my second hip. What now? Shortly before my second procedure I retired, and the family moved down to live in Poole, among the scenic wonders of Dorset. Responding to Mr McMinn’s challenge to test his technology to destruction, I decided to take on the South West Coast Path, the country’s longest and most spectacular walking trail, which begins in Poole and wanders right round the south-west coast, past Lands End, up the rugged coast of north Cornwall and eventually into the Bristol Channel, finishing at Minehead. All 630 miles of it. You can get a taste of the wonders of the path at, but nothing prepares you for the uplift you get from striding out on a breezy morning on springy turf with stunning, ever-changing views along the coast.

Now a coast path may sound like a gentle stroll compared with the apparently more rugged Pennine Way, but the south west path is one monster roller-coaster, alternating steep, energy-sapping climbs up to the cliff tops with equally-steep, knee-wrecking descents back to sea level. By the time you complete the path you’ve climbed no less than 4 times the height of Mt Everest! After each long day of this, every bit of me ached apart from – you guessed it – my hips. Nothing. Not a twinge, squeak or clunk from either of them over the two summers during which I completed the walk.

Not a day passed on the walk when I didn’t, between focussing on where to put my foot next, consider my good fortune in belonging to the generation who timed their hip problems to coincide with the perfection by Mr McMinn and his team of the BHR procedure. Very obviously they have changed my life, and I look on my continuing long-distance walking as a small way of paying tribute to their excellence.

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