Published: June 2024

It wasn’t your typical road trip. Then again, 2020 wasn’t your typical year. But when the opportunity arose for John Bruce to have double hip resurfacing surgery at The Ottawa Hospital, he didn’t want to turn it down, even during a pandemic. So, in September of that year, he and his wife, Tiffany Hamilton, and their 3-year-old daughter decided to make the most of a 4300-kilometre cross-country RV trek from Vancouver to Ottawa.

“To get the best surgical treatment for his situation, we decided to take our COVID safety bubble on a cross-country RV road trip.”

— Tiffany Hamilton
In 2020, Tiffany, John and their 3-year-old daughter set off on a 4300-kilometer cross-country RV trek to The Ottawa Hospital

“To get John safely to Ottawa where he could get the best surgical treatment for his situation, we decided to take our Covid safety bubble on a cross-country RV road trip.”

The “best surgical treatment” that Tiffany is referring to was found at the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at The Ottawa Hospital — their ultimate destination.

John, who was an active 52-year-old at the time, was in severe pain. Even a short walk was nearly impossible. “It was painful,” says John. “I thought at first that I had sciatica. I’d done a lot of running over the years and have a large frame, but an x-ray showed severe osteoarthritis in both hips– I was taken very much by surprise.”

Seeking expertise on orthopaedics

But how does someone from Vancouver end up as a patient at The Ottawa Hospital?

“It’s not unusual,” says Dr. Paul E. Beaulé, former Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at The Ottawa Hospital and Director of Research and Innovation for the University of Ottawa Orthopaedic Program. He was also the orthopaedic surgeon who performed John’s hip resurfacing. “Patients will seek surgeons with expertise in a particular field,” he explains.

Dr. Beaulé certainly has that expertise. He has spent his career specializing in the preservation and replacement of hips. With more than 350 papers and 200 lectures and workshops in orthopaedic research to his name, Dr. Beaulé is among the top 2% most-cited authors in the world in the field of orthopaedics. In addition to his current roles at The Ottawa Hospital, he is also the Chief of Staff at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

Hip resurfacing is a specialized kind of hip replacement where a minimal amount of bone is removed from the head of the femur. It preserves more of the bone and increases stability. “A crown vs. a dental implant,” is how Dr. Beaulé compares the two.Resurfacing is best suited to young adult males with good bone quality. The Ottawa Hospital does about 150 hip resurfacing procedures a year compared to 350 to 400 total hip replacements.

While the procedure is done elsewhere, it was not presented as an option for John in B.C. He heard about Dr. Beaulé through a colleague of Tiffany’s, so he researched The Ottawa Hospital’s orthopaedic program and discovered that “Dr. Beaulé and his team are very much world experts in this procedure.”

Looking ahead and better than ever

Now, four years later, he says it’s as though he never even had arthritis.

“There’s an old saying that when you repair something expertly, it’s better than from the factory,” says John. He believes the surgery has helped add years to his life, allowing him to become very active again, to improve his overall physical and heart health as well as family, work life and mental health.

“I think he lived in pain probably longer than he remembers,” adds Tiffany. “And that pain robs you from being fully present and from enjoying life.”

“I am so grateful for the care I received by Dr. Beaulé and his team.”

— John Bruce

John and Tiffany have recently made a meaningful donation to The Ottawa Hospital to help ensure future patients will be able to receive specialized care like John did. In fact, the new hospital campus will be home to one of the most state-of-the-art surgical facilities in Canada.

“Being an engineer by training and involved in innovation my entire career, I am fascinated by how research in biomechanics can help solve some of these major problems in orthopaedic surgery,” says John.

“I am so grateful for the care I received by Dr. Beaulé and his team,” he adds. “We need to actively support and enhance this kind of specialized care so that it can be available to all Canadians – It got me wondering about the need for and benefits of further developing Canadian national centres of excellence for specialized treatments such as what I received. The Ottawa Hospital’s orthopaedic department is indeed a national treasure.”

Tiffany, John, and their daughter on a stop during their cross-country trip from Vancouver to Ottawa