Lifelong Volunteer Regains Mobility After Joint Replacement

Alice smiling as she sit on the front steps of her home.
Determined to be in top notch shape for her next adventure, lifelong volunteer Alice Carter had both her hip and knee replaced after serving in the Peace Corp in her 80s.

“I was visiting a friend in Vermont, and we went to a party where there were a lot of 1960s Peace Corps volunteers, and I remember just asking ‘well what’s the age limit?’”

As it turns out, there simply isn’t one.

Alice Carter has never been one to idly sit by without a volunteer project up her sleeve, so when she announced to her six children that she’d joined the Peace Corps at the age of 86, surprise wasn’t their first reaction.

“My kids thought for sure the Peace Corps would let me join, but would never send me away at my age,” Carter said with laughter. “They said ‘sure, Mom, join the Peace Corps so you can say you did.’”

“My little granddaughter just kept saying ‘No Peace Corps! No Peace Corps!’”

But shortly after she joined the Peace Corps, she was invited to join a team of volunteers for a two-year mission in Morocco. Before she headed to Africa, Carter packed up all of her belongings and shipped them from Boston, Massachusetts, for storage in Corvallis, Oregon, where one of her children lived and she planned to retire after her mission. 

“I’d visited Corvallis a handful of times and just knew there was no better place to retire when I was done adventuring,” said Carter.

Once in Morocco, Carter was welcomed by a host family and began a three-month training alongside 100 Peace Corps team members. 

“We were welcomed with open arms,” she recalled. “My host family insisted they cook for me, taught me about the local community and treated me as family.”
As Carter became acclimated to the Moroccan culture and her role as an educator, she did her best to keep up with a variety of activities. Her fellow volunteers encouraged her to join them on sightseeing adventures, and her active students kept her busy teaching everything from American and Moroccan history to creative writing and conflict resolution. 

“One day, I asked them ‘would you like to climb Mount Toubkal?’” she recalled. “Of course they all did – it’s 13,000 feet plus a few more – so we gathered and began training for the climb by going on hikes every Sunday.”

As Carter taught her group of 60 kids about leadership, cooperation and community, she noticed it became increasingly difficult to keep up with the adventures. So when it came time for the great climb, she had to watch her students tackle the mountain from the sideline.

“My Peace Corps doctor begged me to go home and have my hip fixed, but I just wouldn’t,” she recalled.

Despite her lack of mobility and extreme pain, Carter was unwilling to give up and completed her mission in Morocco. Once home, her condition worsened to where she could only sleep in a recliner chair. She immediately began looking into getting her hip fixed. 

Then in March 2019, at the age of 90, Carter enlisted the help of James Ryan, MD, who replaced her hip at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.

“They did a beautiful job. It was great to find myself in a quiet, private room and I loved the staff,” said Carter.

After one night in the hospital, Carter returned to her home in Corvallis to focus on healing and planning her next endeavor.

“My life isn’t about what’s happened to me medically, it’s about the work I’m doing for the homeless, for my church,” she explained as she pulled blueprints for her next community project from a corner desk in her home.

Carter returned to Samaritan Albany General Hospital for a knee replacement under Dr. Ryan’s care in November 2019. Now recovered and ready for adventure, she recently traveled to Boston to study medical respite facilities for the homeless population.

“I wanted to be top notch before traveling to Boston,” said Carter, who plans to bring her learnings back to Corvallis to continue her work locally. “My new joints give me the ability to work better for my community.”

“I’m looking forward to being the bionic woman – I’ll be able to roller skate!” she laughed.

Orthopedic Surgeon James Ryan, MD, finds great reward in seeing his patients get back to the life they had before pain slowed them down. Meet Dr. Ryan in this video about his practice and the world-class care he provides right here in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of wearing down the hip joint. Learn more about one of the largest and most important joints in your body – the hip joint.

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