Ludington, Michigan, resident Pat Marley is a man of action.
“The early bird gets the worm,” Marley said. “That’s how I run my life.”
In 1976, he stood third in a line of 500 applicants competing for a UPS job. It landed him a spot as a driver, which became a 40-year career.
He met his wife, Patti, on a dating website for Christians. She sent him a virtual smile and he responded in kind the following day. After a few email exchanges, they went on a date.
He hid a rose on the back seat of his vehicle on that outing. He planned to give it to Patti if things went well. They did. He remembers it happened on a Saturday, because he drove back to Patti’s house to take her to church the following morning.
They got engaged two months later, then married.
In 2012, Marley’s left knee began to cause him constant pain.
More than 30 years of loading and unloading packages and getting in and out of a delivery truck had begun to take its toll.
He suspects the knee problems began long ago. He remembers hurting his left knee at about age 10, when he ran into a street curb while playing tag with some neighborhood children.
“I distinctly remember hitting that curb and, when I went down, my knee locked,” he said. “I think the problem with the knee started way back then.”
After high school he landed demanding work—two years in the Marine Corp, then later as an assistant manager at a hardware store before landing his UPS job.
“You’re called industrial athletes,” he said. “I’m sure that didn’t help the knee.”
“It got to the point where I was limping like Chester on Gunsmoke,” Marley said, laughing.
He had surgery at one point to repair a meniscus tear, but the doctor then warned him he’d likely need knee replacement surgery down road.
Marley retired from UPS in 2016.
But he wasn’t about to sit still. He did 100 leg lifts every other day, swam laps in the pool at his home, lifted weights, rode a bike and stayed busy with landscaping work at his home.
But when the pain in his left knee kept him from doing the things he enjoyed in retirement, he knew it had come time for a proper fix.
In early 2020, he scheduled total knee replacement surgery at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.
Orthopedic surgeon R. Joseph Grierson, DO, would perform the work.
“He’s a high-energy doctor, loves conversation and takes time to listen to your story,” Marley said.
Finding a local care provider became a priority for Marley.
“I’m very, very happy that I went there,” he said.
“We believe we can provide at least as good of care and as good of outcomes as they will get anywhere,” Dr. Grierson said. “We want to be able to do the things we do well right here in town at our community hospital, to keep care local.”
Dr. Grierson gave Marley instructions and exercises to do ahead of surgery.
Marley, 68, also had his own stipulations.
“I told the doctor, ‘I’m not one to sit in a chair very long,’” Marley said. “I go from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed.”
As an avid hunter, Marley also told Dr. Grierson he had a whitetail deer hunt scheduled for November 2020 in Saskatchewan, Canada. He needed to heal by then so he’d be ready to go.
“Our goal is not just for patients to have pain relief, but also for their prosthetic joint to feel natural, and for them to be able to resume the quality of life they desire,” Dr. Grierson said.
The surgery, originally scheduled for March 2020, got pushed back to May 11, 2020.
After the procedure, Dr. Grierson called Patti to say everything went fine.
“Just don’t let him climb a ladder stand,” the doctor told her.
“He’s not going to be climbing a ladder until November,” Patti assured him.
Marley stayed one night in the hospital.
An in-home rehabilitation specialist visited him for about six weeks after surgery, working with him on stretching and bending exercises.
“She had all kinds of weird stuff I had to do, but she was very good, very patient,” Marley said. “The exercises are not very comfortable, but you have to look at the end game. Where do you want to be?”
His rehab therapist brought a special Aircast device, which used pulsating cold water to compress and decompress the knee joint.
“It was better than a pain pill,” Marley said. “Your knee will instantly feel better. It’s beautiful.”
As part of his rehab, he spent a lot of time walking around the inside of his house.
“Dr. Grierson said the first three weeks were going to be bad,” Marley said. “But it’s not the pain, it’s the lack of sleep. Eventually you get over it. You just have to be ready for that.”
He just kept looking forward to that hunt in November.
“Nothing will motivate me like hunting,” he said.
“What they put in in terms of effort after the surgery directly correlates with their success,” Dr. Grierson said. “This was certainly the case with Mr. Marley.”
His summer flew by and his knee healed quickly.
“By the third week in September, I was dragging a doe out of the woods here and climbing a ladder stand.”
Unfortunately, his Canada hunt got canceled. He’s still planning the trip for later this year.
A year after surgery, Marley said his knee is feeling great.
“There’s a night-and-day difference,” Marley said. “Oh my gosh—I can walk, I no longer have a limp. I can climb a ladder stand pain-free.
“I’m a Christian,” Marley said. “I have to give God a lot of credit.”
He also appreciates his doctor’s skills applied in surgery.
“My wife prayed for me every day to heal,” he said. “It’s an answer to prayer that I’m even walking.”
The Marleys are active in the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Ludington, where Marley serves on the facilities team watching over buildings and grounds.
These days, he spends a lot of time clearing paths in the woods behind the home he and Patti bought in 2015. He recently spread landscaping rocks around the house.
“I’m active,” he said. “I planted 100 pine trees out in the field and twice a week I go out and water them all.”
“We love it here,” Patti said.
From their home, they can hear the surf of nearby Lake Michigan. They enjoy their pool, their yard and the woods around their property. Marley has 20 acres on which to hunt—and he gets around just fine, thanks to his knee repair.
“Life is good,” he said.