The physical demands of war take a toll on servicemen and women, including those in the United States Army at Fort Polk. In this Healthcast, 7News talk to one soldier who dealt with excruciating hip pain while in Afghanistan, to find out how he found relief.
As his leg is lifted on the exam table at Orthopaedic Specialists, Staff Sergeant Michael Weston says that is a move he could not have made without extreme pain seven months ago. "I probably would have jumped off the table or something close to it," he said.
This 31-year-old husband and father of two has had a busy army career, with a deployment to Iraq and two to Afghanistan, working as a transportation management coordinator - a physical job on the rocky, desert terrain. "I lift and carry heavy pieces of equipment and stack containers on the backs of trucks," he said.
SSgt. Weston was stationed in southeastern Afghanistan when he started feeling an intense pain he could not ignore any longer. "It was a burning sensation deep down into the groin and I also had pain that radiated to the outside of my hips," he said.
When SSgt. Weston got back on American soil last year, he was directed to army reservist and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brett Cascio, with Orthopaedic Specialists at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. Dr. Cascio has treated several Ft. Polk soldiers. "It can be everything from a battle wound to every day wear and tear things that happen to any kind of athlete or active person," he said.
For SSgt. Weston, it was a torn labrum, or the rubbery cushion part, in both hips. That injury is very painful and potentially arthritic. "It takes surgery to repair it," said Dr. Cascio, "we go in through two small poke holes and we fix the tear with anchors and sutures. The surgery takes about an hour and physical therapy starts almost immediately."
SSgt. Weston had his first surgery seven months ago and his second hip repaired one month ago, just in time to get ready for his next deployment to South Korea. "Hopefully the recovery is enough that I can continue to serve for at least my 20 years and maybe go a little bit longer," he said.
That is a task Dr. Cascio says he is honored and happy to help make possible. "The soldiers need care and the thing we need to do for them if we're going to send them to war is take care of them when they come home," he said.
SSgt. Weston will head to South Korea next year where he will move cargo from ports to units across the country.
Access to specialized surgeons in the area can be limited for service members on Tricare, but Orthopaedic Specialists does accept it.