Photographer captures more underwater dives after hip replacement surgery

Jim Cox, 66, started scuba diving and underwater photography about fifty years ago while in high school. He admits, however, that those first photos were appreciated only by him and his parents.

“I’ve always had a love for our oceans,” said Cox, who eventually earned a degree in ocean engineering. His graduate work centered more on engineering mechanics, which helps his current role as a mechanical engineer.

When not working, he is often underwater enjoying his photography hobby. Unfortunately for him, it was an accident on land that broke his hip and kept him out of the water for months.

“It was not one of my better moments,” said Cox, a born storyteller.

“We had the hose on outside to water some of our pine trees and I went out to turn it off. The hose had pin holes in it, so the water was shooting out sideways, some of it landing on the sidewalk. I didn’t think much about wearing rubber-soled slippers until my feet went out from under me. I landed on my left side on the hard concrete sidewalk. The fall broke my hip.”

Making matters worse was the fact that his wife Donna didn’t know he was outdoors, lying on the sidewalk.

“It probably took me 25 minutes to slither to the front door, the hose still spraying me as the temperature dropped below freezing,” he said. “I called out to Donna, who found me quickly and called for an ambulance. I couldn’t quite pull my leg over the threshold of the front porch, so I just laid there on the stairs until the ambulance techs arrived and lifted me onto a stretcher.”

The ambulance transported him to Lovelace Medical Center where X-rays confirmed his broken hip.

Cox had already researched orthopedic doctors in the area, so he knew that he wanted to be treated by Dr. Christopher Hanosh.

“I previously searched through medical review websites, as well as the hospital’s website, following a prior injury,” explained Cox. “So, after doing my homework, I decided Dr. Hanosh was the right doctor. He proved me right.”

Hip replacement surgery

During the first appointment, Dr. Hanosh confirmed the X-rays of a broken hip and scheduled surgery for that same week at Lovelace Medical Center.

“I was a little concerned how this surgery would affect my underwater photography activities because I knew that was something I planned to spend a lot of time on when I retire,” said Cox. “Dr. Hanosh was very reassuring. He encouraged me to continue to make plans for my photography. ‘We’re going to get you back to the way you were,’ he told me.”

Cox had quickly established a good rapport with Dr. Hanosh before his surgery and asked a nurse in the pre-op room for a pen.

“On my left hip,” Cox recalled, “I wrote something that my dad used to say: ‘Measure twice, cut once.’ I heard later that Dr. Hanosh had a good laugh about that.”

During Cox’s surgery, Dr. Hanosh had to replace the entire hip joint in the left hip, as the connection between the ball and socket had detached because of his fall.

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint that allows motion and gives the stability needed to bear body weight. The "ball" is the femoral head at the top of the femur (leg bone). The socket area (acetabulum) is a concave area inside the pelvis.

Dr. Hanosh replaced the damaged sections with new parts constructed of metal, ceramic and very hard plastic. The smoothness of these new parts will help reduce pain and improve Cox’s mobility.

Consuelo Apodaca-Crowley, FNP-C, who assisted Dr. Hanosh during the surgery, was also very encouraging and helpful to me,” said Cox.

Physical therapy

Cox wanted to get back to his life and work, so as soon as he was able, he started a five-week session of physical therapy (PT).

“I had sessions with Davynne Burr, a great physical therapist,” said Cox.

Together they completed the regular PT sessions at a faster pace than normal. He also, with her permission, worked out at home, often doing certain exercises more often than usual. “She said that if I could handle any discomfort, then I could do my exercises while at home.”

Cox also had a great support system of family and friends who helped and encouraged him along the way.

“My wife did so much for me that I couldn’t do well myself,” said Cox. “Our church family delivered meals and did some of my chores around the house because I couldn't get around very well. By their help and the grace of God, I have healed very well.”

Back in the water

While doing physical therapy, Cox had to stay out of water to minimize the risk of getting an infection around his surgery site. Finally at six weeks post-surgery, he was able to get back into the pool.

“For the next six weeks,” he explained, “I often swam a mile in the pool and returned home to ride 10 -20 miles on my stationary bike.”

Cox continued working hard to get back into shape to start diving again. Finally, after four months, he returned to the ocean for 17 days of underwater photography in the Philippines.

“Whenever I go on a trip, I have to carry around 75 - 90 pounds of photography and scuba gear with me,” said Cox.

“On this first trip after surgery, I was very hesitant to carry this much weight with my new hip supporting much of the weight. Fortunately, the crew was able to put the gear on my shoulders while I was sitting on the side of the boat. After they strapped it around me, all I had to do was fall off the boat. Since I already had shown an aptitude for falling near water, the entire trip went very well.”

Since his surgery, Cox has completed more than 100 scuba dives and captured hundreds of underwater photographs. “I have Dr. Hanosh and staff to thank for helping me to fully recover from my hip replacement surgery. I cannot praise him enough.”

If you are experiencing pain in your knees, hips or other areas, call Lovelace Medical Group Orthopedics at 505.727.4430. You can also read more and schedule an appointment on our Orthopedic Services web page.

Over the years, Jim Cox graduated to a professional-level underwater camera system, producing photographs that are displayed in many homes and offices across the U.S. as well as a New Mexico fine art gallery.