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UHS patient climbs mountain after two hip replacements and cancer treatment

June 29, 2024

On April 19, Binghamton native Harold Jones IV climbed Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks, like thousands of other people do annually. So what’s remarkable about it? The fact that he’s alive to make the journey at all.

In 2019, Jones was a lifelong UHS patient with one hip replacement under his belt when he noticed a lump in his neck. UHS’ ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists diagnosed tonsil cancer. “The clinical staff recognized my anxiety and were so caring and competent, providing honest, direct answers to my questions,” Mr. Jones said. 

When he sought a second opinion at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, UHS ENT provided encouragement, medical records and treatment plan recommendations for those doctors to review. “It was wonderful to hear from the Roswell Park oncologists that they agreed with the UHS plan, and that I would receive the same care at home as I would with them,” Mr. Jones commented.  He scheduled a radical tonsillectomy at UHS Wilson Medical Center.

The day of surgery, Mr. Jones realized the additional value of getting care in one’s hometown:  Extra TLC from people you know. “I was alone, and saw a nurse who was a classmate of my son’s,” he said.  “Colleen Smith saw how scared and nervous I was, and stayed with me while my sedation was administered. This is the high standard of care anyone experiencing a serious medical event hopes for, and I received that kind of comprehensive world-class healthcare right here in Binghamton.”

Radical tonsillectomy is more invasive than the standard version of having one’s tonsils out.  The surgeon described it as “taking an ice cream scoop to the tonsils,” Mr. Jones noted.  Post-surgery, Mr. Jones opted for 36 radiation treatments—even though the cancer was only on one side, he chose bilateral therapy after his radiation oncologist shared long-term survival data. The radiation was equally challenging:  By the end of the treatment, he had lost 59 pounds and was receiving intravenous fluids.

But the journey was worth it.  Cancer-free and in remission for more than three years, Mr. Jones said his most recent medical adventure was the replacement of his other hip. He chose the same orthopedic surgeon, Lawrence Wiesner, DO, and Rehabilitation team, based on his positive first experience. Between Mr. Jones’ first and second hip replacements, Dr. Wiesner had traveled to Paris to learn a new technique, a fact that pleased Mr. Jones immensely: “I love the smaller incision scar, and that local physicians are travelling the world to learn techniques and bring them home,” he said.

The physical therapists at UHS Vestal–right across the road from Mr. Jones’ NYSEG office–tailored his three-days-a-week therapy sessions to his recovery goal: Summiting Cascade Mountain 90 days after surgery. “They thought it through with me: They had me climbing up and down 24-inch steps while holding weights, exactly the interval I needed to get up and down Cascade,” he noted.  Mr. Jones summited on Post-Surgery Day 106.  He posed for his photo holding a UHS flag as a thank you to the many medical professionals who helped him recover from cancer and hip replacements and be strong enough to make the trip.

Today Mr. Jones works as a NYSEG supervisor, focused on sharing his knowledge of the local electrical grid with a new generation of line-workers. Outside work, he looks forward to hosting his 16-month-old granddaughter for their weekly playdates. As he described it:  “She goes through and knocks everything over, and I spend the next day picking it all up.  It’s awesome. I’m so glad to be here for it.”

For more information about services provided at UHS, visit nyuhs.org/care-treatment.