Hip Replacement—Depuy ASR
As he teed it up on the first hole, vowing, as always, to shoot his lowest round yet, Jerry Stitt couldn’t help but smile. It was shaping up to be yet another day in paradise. After a 45-year career in the grain processing industry, the mid-western family man had taken retirement in 1999 with a plan: golf three times a week, travel with the wife, and enjoy his golden years to the fullest. Just shy of two years in, he was living the dream.
Midway through the front nine that day, a sharp pain in his left leg stopped him cold. He pushed through a few more holes, but became increasingly concerned. The pain was getting worse, and he found himself unable to step out of the golf cart, much less swing a club. Thinking it must be his knee, Stitt made a beeline for his orthopedic doctors in Champaign, Illinois. X-rays told the story: it wasn’t his knee at all; it was the hip, and it had to go.
Traditional replacement surgery went well, and Stitt eventually picked up where he’d left off, golfing and traveling to visit the kids. Eighteen months later, however, pain started up on his right side, making even driving a car too much to bear. A return visit to the orthopedist confirmed that his right hip was failing him as well.
This time, Stitt’s surgeon encouraged him to try something new: an implant that he promised would cause less discomfort than he’d endured following his first surgery. Placing his trust in Carle Hospital and its capable staff, Stitt gave his consent, and, in December of 2007, was outfitted with the DePuy ASR hip replacement device, an all-metal, two-piece mechanism designed to mimic the human hip’s ball and socket.
For a year following the surgery, Stitt was happy as a clam, and looked forward to resuming his retirement schedule. The recovery had been quicker and less painful than the first time around, and once through that phase, experienced no discomfort at all. Unfortunately, after those first 12 months, everything began to go downhill.
When he and his wife, Rosemary, flew to Arizona for a visit to the Grand Canyon, Stitt’s sons had to rent a large sedan and pick them up at the airport, as suddenly this strong, capable, head of family couldn’t even handle driving a car. Even when they arrived at their destination, Stitt was in too much pain to keep up. “I’d walk for a block or two, find a bench, and let them go on ahead and pick me up on the way back. There was no place I could go without pain.”
As his condition worsened, Stitt noticed what appeared to be a bone pushing out of his right side. He wondered whether he’d somehow broken his hip. Even his coordination seemed to be affected. “I’d just as soon have had it chopped off at that point,” he said.
Another visit to the orthopedist revealed that the right hip was deteriorating badly. Friction from the DePuy ball and cup grinding against one another had sent metallic debris into Stitt’s bloodstream. The protrusion on his hip was in actuality an abscess of cobalt and other metals being shed by the defective ASR device. Stitt was told that it had to come out, and fast. Revision surgery was an absolute necessity.
“My doctors replaced my right hip for the second time, and told me I’d do well to find a lawyer. That’s when I found out that everyone [sic] was having these problems.”
Stitt contacted a local attorney, who connected him with Meyers & Flowers, a Chicago law firm specializing in medical device litigation. The Meyers & Flowers partners were already aware, and on top of, the suffering experienced by more than 8,000 patients who had received the DePuy ASR hip replacement device.
“They impressed me as a very reliable and high-powered firm,” Stitt said, noting that, throughout his dealings with Mr. Flowers, he was kept apprised of the status of the research and the legal proceedings.
Meyers & Flowers spearheaded litigation against DePuy on behalf of hundreds of patients in Illinois, and filed separate suits for thousands of others across the U.S. The $2.5 billion settlement agreement was announced in a federal court in Toledo, Ohio, in September of 2014.
“Meyers & Flowers helped me to realize that when these big companies do make a mistake and cause injury to others, they have to pay for it,” said Stitt. “If nothing else, I know now that justice can be served.”
More than six years after his ill-fated surgery, Jerry Stitt received an envelope in the mail: his share of the $2.5 billion settlement. In his humble manner, he acknowledges that he can’t complain, though he does admit that his quality of life will never be the same. While his new hip is working well, he can no longer manage 18 holes of golf. And, new physical obstacles have cropped up, making it unlikely that he’ll ever realize his dreams of living out his golden years on the road and on the course.
Jerry and Rosemary Stitt recently marked their 60th wedding anniversary with a celebration among friends, children and grandchildren, and Jerry is learning to use his gift from the kids: a new computer. He looks at life philosophically now. “Personally,” he says, “I just want to try to come back from [this] and enjoy what’s left of my time on this earth.”