Justin snow with his family in front of Neyland Stadium after the marathon.
Justin Snow pictured after completing the marathon with his wife Buffy, and their children, Madelyn, Drew and Gabe.

On April 3, 2016, Justin Snow completed his first full marathon. It was his fortieth birthday. While that in itself is a great story, it’s just one chapter for Snow, a bilateral hip replacement patient who underwent physical therapy with Parkwest Therapy Center at Fort Sanders West.         

“I’ve always believed in going big and living the dream,” Snow says with a grin.   

 Snow has been active all his life, and has a passion for sports. After pitching for the baseball team at East Tennessee State University, he settled into the life of a family man, but never slowed down.     

While training for his second half marathon in 2010, Snow began to feel pain in his hips. He ignored the discomfort, pushed through, and finished the race.     

His wife encouraged him to get the problematic pain checked out, but he lived with it for two years before finally going to see an orthopaedic surgeon.     

“He had severe arthritis and bone spurs,” Buffy Snow says. At the age of 35, it was recommended that Justin Snow undergo total hip replacement in not one, but both hips.     

“Hip and knee replacement surgery has been performed for more than 40 years,” orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Edkin says, “and has reached a point of consistent reliability and success for patients with a variety of disabling conditions.”     

The procedure was performed at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on Jan. 23 2012, and the day after the surgery, Snow covered impressive distance with a walker in the halls of the hospital. After a four-day stay and four days of inpatient therapy, Snow was released.     

Snow followed up with recommended sessions at Parkwest Therapy Centerat Fort Sanders West, where he was under the care of center manager Mark Conley. “I had heard a lot of good things about Mark,” says Snow, “and he lived up to all the expectations.”     

Conley humbly returns praise to his patient. “He was an absolute machine with his rehab,” Conley says. “He had the kind of drive to recover that you don’t see every day.”     

Conley jokes that there were a few times when Snow had to be reined in.     

“What I like about Mark is that he pushed me,” Snow says. “It was never easy, he always had a detailed daily plan for the exercises we were going to do for the day, and he always had something different for me to do every time I came.”     

At the end of four weeks of therapy, Snow says he could tell it had absolutely made a difference in his strength, flexibility, and physical ability. Conley, meanwhile, ended the therapy sessions with a feeling he hadn’t seen the last of Snow.     “I remember thinking, this guy is going to do big things, despite what he’s had to endure,” Conley says.  “He just had unwavering confidence and positivity.”     

One day in December of 2015, Snow was online and happened to learn that the 2016 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon would be on April 3. That just so happened to be Snow’s birthday, and a milestone at that. He would be turning 40.     

The orthopaedic surgeon had cautioned against running, but had said Snow could walk as much as he wanted to. Snow called his wife and told her he was going to walk 26.2 miles in the full marathon on his birthday.     

Justin Snow crossed the 50-yard line in Neyland Stadium, and collected his medal. His feet were blistered, and he was tired, but his hips were just fine. After the race he went home, showered, got dressed, got in his car to drive to his daughter’s dance competition.     

It might be good to put a “results not typical” disclaimer on Snow’s story, just because Snow is not a typical person. He’s younger than the average joint replacement patient, and he was in excellent health and very active going into the procedure.     

Still, it’s the ultimate proof of how far joint replacement has come, and how far patients can go with the right therapy after surgery.