Golf tournament champion credits four joint replacements with continued success

“Bionic” woman has been playing golf for more than 60 years

Donna Thomason can’t remember a time when golf wasn’t part of her life. At 71, she remembers growing up in a house across from the first hole at the city country club and sneaking under the fence with her sister to watch their father play.

“Golf chose me long before I ever chose it,” said Thomason. “My dad loved golf and I loved watching him play. It was already a part of me.”

Thomason began playing the sport at age 10 where she’d watched her father play. Soon she developed a love of her own.

In fact, she entered the women’s tournament at the club and went on to win 16 championships spanning across the 1970s to 2010. But as her love for the sport grew, so did her physical setbacks.

She began experiencing pain in her right knee that made walking the golf course and swinging the club difficult. She met Dr. Robert Schmidt, orthopedic surgeon at Texas Hip and Knee and on the medical staff at Texas Health Hospital Clearfork, to find out how she could stop the pain and continue playing golf.

“I’ve cared for a lot of joints over the years, but Donna is very active and is an extremely skilled golfer,” said Dr. Robert Schmidt. “It was important for me to partner with her and understand her unique challenges and concerns and develop a care plan that would allow her to return to playing.”

Initially, Donna was able to keep playing, but golf continued to take a toll on her joints. Eventually, Thomason underwent a right knee replacement with Dr. Schmidt but after therapy was able to return to playing in as little as six months. A few years later, when she began experiencing hip pain, she returned to him again and underwent a right total hip replacement. Thomason went on to have Dr. Schmidt replace her left hip and left knee as well. And, each time she had surgery, Thomason and Dr. Schmidt worked together with a common goal in mind – reconnecting her with her long-standing relationship with the sport she loved.

“Last year, nearly 3,000 patients trusted us to care for their joints so we understand what it means to deliver care that is efficient and meets the needs of the individual as well,” Schmidt said. “A large part of Donna’s success and ability to return to the game of golf dealt with a mutual understanding of the role we each played in achieving the best possible outcome.”

“As the US population continues to age, the prevalence of arthritis will increase,” Schmidt said. “Arthritis that leads to joint replacement.”

The most common reasons for joint replacement are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and traumatic arthritis. Quality of life in addition to reducing pain and increasing mobility are key benefits to joint replacement surgery.

For Thomason, joint replacement surgery meant keeping golf as a major focus in her life. She and her family travel annually to Colorado to host a tournament and she recently traveled to South Africa to enjoy the game in an international setting.

“Golf is part of mine and my family’s identity,” said Thomason. “I needed a doctor who understood that just as much as the medical challenges I faced.”

That’s exactly who Dr. Schmidt was and because of that, what began with playing the sport she loved with her dad, has grown into a more than 60-year relationship.

For more information on joint replacement at Texas Health Resources or to learn more about your joint health, visit www.texashealth.org/orthopedic-services  and take the Hip & Knee assessment.

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