Carrying 40- to 80-pound boxes of honey from beehives to his truck was becoming painful for Nick Shilliff in the summer of 2015. His left hip would ache during the day and keep him awake at night.
Shilliff and his family produce about 40 tons of honey each year at their Gridley Hollow Honey Co. in Virgil, two miles east of Greek Peak Mountain Resort where the family skis each winter.
A neighbor who volunteers with Shilliff’s daughters on the Greek Peak ski patrol recognized the symptoms of Shilliff’s deteriorating hip joint and urged him to seek help. She had a hip replaced at Cayuga Medical Center by Dr. Deidre Blake, an orthopedic surgeon with Cayuga Medical Associates, and was now back on the slopes at Greek Peak.
Shilliff told Blake that he had three goals for the surgery: “I want to keep running my business, I want to ski this winter, and I want to walk my oldest daughter down the aisle when she gets married on New Year’s Day.” Blake thought all those goals were possible.
He reached each of his goals and more than two years later, Shilliff says his hip is great, a new grandchild has followed his daughter’s 2016 New Year’s Day wedding, and he still runs the family’s honey business. On a recent sunny afternoon, he was getting ready to ski at Greek Peak.
“When the snow is light and the sun is bright, I just have to get my skis on,” he says.
Regular exercise – both before and after his November 2015 hip replacement surgery – were important factors in his recuperation. After his two-hour surgery at Cayuga Medical Center, his rehabilitation started that evening with some light exercise using his new hip. The day after his surgery, he was on his feet and using a walker. He was surprised that the hip pain that had been part of his every step was already gone.
Three days after his surgery, Shilliff was home. A visiting nurse and a physical therapist arrived three times a week to help Shilliff recuperate and maintain his daily exercises. The first few days of short walks were exhausting, but in two weeks he switched from the walker to a cane and took longer walks. In December, stationary bike exercise and three daily walks strengthened his leg and hip muscles so he could walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
Shilliff was back on his skis at Greek Peak three months after his surgery, back tending his bees hives later that spring and skiing the challenging Black Diamond trails at Greek Peak during the last two winters.
“I want to encourage people. There is life after surgery,” Shilliff says.