LEXINGTON, KY (October 4, 2022) – Michael Stalker comes from generations of Eastern Kentuckians – living and growing up in the small town of Mouthcard, Kentucky. A lover of the great outdoors, Stalker has always had a busy blue-collar job doing some of his favorite activities: hunting, fishing, and especially tending to his 50 beehives—a job his family has enjoyed for generations.
But an active lifestyle like Stalker’s comes with risks.
In 1997, Stalker, 42, was installing a roof for someone’s work. The next thing he knew was that he slipped, fell a few feet to the ground, and endured injuries that changed his life forever.
Stalker suffered multiple broken bones and required multiple surgeries. Surgeons at a local hospital soon operated on his ankle, wrist and hip – but his worst injury was on his right elbow.
“The elbows are terrible,” Stoke said. “They did it about nine times trying to fix it for me.”
For the next 24 years, as his elbow deteriorated, Stalker eventually had to endure daily life with a painful elbow that was difficult to move.
“I couldn’t straighten it, I couldn’t fold it,” Stock said. “I couldn’t even hold it in my mouth and scratch my head or even feed myself – I’m right-handed, so I had to really adjust to this new life. I had to teach myself completely how to be left-handed.”
Stalker was forced to retire early due to injury — but he’s resilient. He has learned to adapt so he can continue to do what he loves. Beehive keeping is an activity that has been passed down in his family for generations – when Stalker was young, his grandfather kept bees and taught him everything he needed to know in order to have his own beehive.
“My grandfather kept cattle and my dad kept cattle,” Stock said. “I grew up with this, and my grandpa taught me how to do everything. As a kid, we would go to the mountains to get them, and I’ve had them for as long as I can remember. I can’t tell you how long.”
In June 2021, Stalker was doing just that – taking care of his beehives, and he had another accident. Stalker tripped and fell over all his hives, landing directly on his previously injured elbow.
“It was really bad for my swelling, so I went to the doctor here first,” Stock said. “At first, I didn’t even realise it was broken. The doctor saw my elbow and said it was too far away and they couldn’t do anything with it anymore, so they sent me to a specialist in the UK. “
At UK HealthCare, Stalker met Srinath Kamineni, MD, a US board-certified, Royal College of Surgeons-certified UK specialist in orthopaedic surgery and upper extremity sports medicine.
“When I made an appointment with him, he told me how bad it was,” Stoke said. “He told me I needed to completely replace my elbow. But he was confident and explained everything he could do for me.”
Kamineni said Stalker’s injury was so severe that he hardly knew how he was coping, even the time it took to be referred to the UK.
“It’s severe grinding, bone-on-bone,” Caminini said. “No cartilage was left. Especially after the second accident, it was very deformed and unstable. He has been dealing with this for a long time, and our next step is to look at Michael’s life and set something about what we can do expect.”
Kamineni investigates Stalker’s lifestyle and discovers what he wants and needs to get him back to normal activities.
He then discussed options with Stalker. He can rebuild his elbow with an allograft using cadaver tissue and bone, fuse his joints together so that there is zero motion in the elbow, or he can have a total elbow replacement. There were pros and cons to each option, but Stalker ultimately told Kamineni that it was important for him to use his elbows as normally as possible so he could continue hunting and tending his cattle.
Together, Kamineni and Stalker decided to replace the elbow entirely. This will provide stability and mobility to Stalker’s joints and relieve the terrible pain he is experiencing.
“With elbow swaps, Stalker is forever limiting how much he can carry with that arm,” Kamineni said. “But when we talk about that and set expectations like this, Stalker is excited to be giving it his all again. Feeding himself, acting on his own, doing things he couldn’t do before.”
Surgery was performed two months later, and Kamineni helped provide Stalker with home rehab instructions, which Stalker followed carefully. For three months, Stalker was required to wear a brace with zero elbow motion to ensure the health of his new joint.
“With a procedure like this, some patients have a hard time following the very careful instructions we give them to care for their new joint at home,” Kamineni said. “But not Michael. He’s very hardworking, very genuine, and very committed to living a full life again – and it shows in his eagerness to follow instructions to take care of his joints. Ultimately, I want to make sure that Michael basically spends the rest of his life There is no need for any additional surgery on this joint.”
“Now I don’t have any problems with it,” Stock said. “It doesn’t hurt, and I move just fine. I can almost straighten it, eat by myself, scratch my head, etc., which I simply couldn’t do before.”
Stalker will continue to limit the amount of weight he can carry with his right arm, but he describes the recovery movement itself as huge.
“This elbow replacement changed my life,” Stock said. “It’s using my arm more than ever. I’m really happy with what they’ve done, and Caminini is really good and good for me.”
After Stalker recovered, he returned to a normal life. After his first hunt, he sent Caminini a photo of the first deer he could shoot, a video of the fish he caught and a video of his thriving beehive.
“Patients like Michael Stalker are the joy of my work,” Kamineni said. “They are the reason for healthcare. He is a genuine, honest lad with such a fun life and I am honored to be able to help these patients. So again to receive photos of him safely doing his favourite activities and Video, that’s pure gold.”
Of course, Kamineni also recognizes that success stories like this are a team effort.
“It was by no means an individual effort,” Caminini said. “We couldn’t have been as successful as Michael had it not been for the entire nursing team (of which I am a part). And, in fact, Michael was probably the most important person in this team, otherwise affectionately known in the UK” “Diamond Freak”.”