Debilitating joint pain not only impairs one’s mobility and function, making normal daily activities extremely challenging, but it also limits the sufferer’s ability to get out in the world and share his or her gifts and talents. For Bradley Baker, who recently underwent total replacement of his left hip, that gift is a transcendent baritone singing voice that has enriched and inspired listeners and students the world over.
Bradley, 54, a Toledo native who moved to Los Angeles at age 19 to study music, attended the University of Southern California and performed in the LA and Orange County areas for over 25 years. His rich voice has also graced several operas, musicals, concerts, and guest-artist performances in more than 35 countries. Bradley even has two world-premier opera openings to his credit, including “Israel” by Mark Peterson and “Costaso” by William Grant Still. In addition to performing on stages around the world, he has trained aspiring singers for nearly three decades, both in the United States and internationally.
Unfortunately, while Bradley’s voice soared to new heights, his overall health began to deteriorate. He put on considerable weight, and his joints paid the price. Noting how unhealthy he looked while directing the musical “Big River” in LA, his Toledo family decided it was time for an intervention. “One day, I got a call from the whole family and they said, ‘Don’t get mad, but we think you need to come home and get well,’” he recalls. “Looking back at how sick I was, I know I would be dead right now if they hadn’t intervened.”
Returning to Toledo and moving in with his sister, DeMita Baker, Bradley was, for the most part, bed-ridden. The pain in his left hip was excruciating, and he left home only when necessary for medical appointments and church. DeMita did everything she could to ease his pain, including buying a new, more easily accessible vehicle, but nothing seemed to make much difference in his suffering.
Bradley knew he needed a hip replacement, but doctors told him he would have to lose weight and reduce his body mass index first. With help and motivation from DeMita, he did just that, shedding a total of 90 pounds. Then on December 5 of 2017, he underwent hip-replacement surgery. Afterward, he was less than optimistic about his prospects for full recovery. “On the second morning, I woke up and tried to move my toes, and that caused the worst pain of my life. I was sure I’d never walk again,” he recalls. His concerns proved to be unfounded.
Four days after surgery, he came to The Laurels of Toledo, where the physical and occupational therapists went right to work. “When Bradley first came here, he was in a pretty rough place,” says Laurels licensed certified occupational therapy assistant Cristina Nickle. “He needed assistance from two people to transfer in and out of bed, and he had verbalized that he didn’t think he’d be able to walk. He also had issues with a blood clot, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and asthma. But within a few days we told him, ‘We’re getting up.’ At first it was hard for him to grasp that he could do it, but his pain was being managed so it was easier than he thought. He still had two people supporting him, but he was able to stand up and walk about 30 feet that day.”
Laurels physical therapy assistant Bre Cajka adds, “I feel we bonded really well with Bradley. He put his trust in us and kept working on the techniques he was taught, so each day he felt a little more like himself.”
The goals Bradley set for himself included transferring into and out of a car safely; managing the four large stairs that lead into his sister’s house; getting back to Northpoint Church of the Nazarene, where he serves as choir director; and teaching voice lessons again.
“From the standpoint of occupational therapy, the biggest thing we worked on with Bradley was transfer training as well as making sure he had all the adaptive equipment he needed in order to follow post-surgical precautions, such as a reacher, a sock aid, a long-handled shoehorn and sponge, and a commode over the toilet,” says Nickle.
Cajka remarks, “Physical therapy focused primarily on mobility, getting around the household and community, boosting his confidence when climbing stairs, and following those hip precautions. Fear of falling on the stairs and in the shower was an issue for Bradley, but with the proper techniques and adaptive equipment, he was soon able to overcome it.”
Despite his initial worries, Bradley is up and walking again, using a walker as of this writing. He even made it to Northpoint Church of the Nazarene on December 24 for a Christmas production he was directing. “I was determined to get there and sing ‘O Holy Night,’ which has become my trademark. So my sister came by to pick me up in her SUV. At church, I sat on a stool to sing, but I was able to get up and walk down the aisle,” he says. Thanks to the efforts of the Laurels rehab team, he’s also able to tackle the stairs at his sister’s house safely and confidently.
Looking to the future, Bradley anticipates the need for additional joint-replacement surgeries, including both knees and his right hip. Of course, he plans to go to The Laurels of Toledo for rehab following each procedure.
The Laurels of Toledo, located at 1011 Byrne Road, accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and all private commercial insurances. A physician’s order is required to obtain outpatient services. For more information, call 419-536-7600 or visit www.laurelsoftoledo.com.❦