In late summer 2011, Bastrop County began to burn. For 36 days, fire tore across more than 34,000 acres of Central Texas, burning homes, destroying small businesses, and eventually becoming the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. With that wall of fire racing towards his home, Bastrop resident David Warren found himself running towards safety carrying whatever belongings he could hold. As he ran, Warren felt himself aggravating an old hip injury, the result of a bicycle crash when he was 25 years old. The pain, says Warren, was immediate and intense. It would be nearly five years before he would feel relief.
After the fire, Warren lost his massage therapy business and relocated to Austin. “I was in chronic pain and found it was increasingly difficult to work,” explained Warren. Eventually, even walking became unbearable, and the self-proclaimed outdoorsman found he was unable to do the things he loved. Gone were the days of long hikes in West Texas and camping in the New Mexico wilderness. Instead, Warren says, he became increasingly depressed and even contemplated suicide. “I didn’t have health insurance,” he explained. “I was in a cycle of physical therapy, pain pills and antidepressants.” Though losing his home in Bastrop was heartbreaking, moving to Austin meant Warren was now eligible to enroll in CommUnityCare. “The CUC was important in getting me counseling and onto the right track.” In 2015, the CUC placed Warren on a list to get his second hip replacement surgery. Due to the overwhelming need in the community, it would be another 12 agonizing months before Warren got relief.
In early June 2016, Warren finally got the phone call that would change his life. UT Health Austin’s Musculoskeletal Institute, led by faculty from the Dell Medical School, had begun treating patients in the Paul Bass Clinic at University Medical Center Brackenridge. A team of medical specialists, including Karl Koenig, MD, Devin Williams, NP, and Kelsey Wulf, NP, had reviewed Warren’s x-rays and were eager to get him scheduled for surgery.
On June 12, 2016, Warren became the first surgical patient treated by DMS faculty. “Two weeks after surgery, the pain was gone,” said Warren. “The surgery pain, my hip pain [was] gone.” In the months that followed, the once home-bound Warren found his depression lifting and his interest in art and other activities renewed.
A year later, Warren returned to the Paul Bass Clinic for his 12-month check-up. After hugging different members of the team, (“They gave me my life back,” Warren later mused), the patient jumped onto the exam table and stretched his hips into the Lotus position, something he hasn’t been able to do since he was in his twenties. In the months that followed his surgery, Warren began practicing yoga again and was even able to pull his kayak out of the garage for a paddle around Lady Bird Lake.
Perhaps most importantly, he began hiking again. This spring, he returned for a trip through his beloved Big Bend National Park, and has taken day trips to explore Enchanted Rock and McKinney Falls. “Without this surgery, I’m not sure if I’d be alive right now,” he said. “I’m simply not hindered anymore.”