More Than Miles
Walking from Munhall, where Bob Bodnar grew up, to Scott Township, where he now lives, covers just over half of a full marathon. Google Maps tells you that charting that course would take almost five hours out of your day. Upon being told this, Bob laughs.
“I was never a fast runner, just a determined one. I was never concerned with my place in a race or my finishing time. My best marathon was 4 hours and 51 minutes—but I never stopped. My goal was always to finish.” Starting in 1990, Bodnar was a runner. He caught the fitness bug following his divorce, seeking to channel his energy into something positive. After five years of lifting weights and dabbling in a 5k here and a 10k there, Bodnar knew there was more he could do.
“The more I got into it, the more guilty I felt because here I was putting in all this effort…and then I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The reason I started really tracking my miles was because on July 1, 1995, I decided to quit being a walking contradiction—I quit smoking cold turkey. It wasn’t a 40th birthday thing, that was just a coincidence. I had seen all the health problems my dad had over the years and knew I had to do it.”
On November 9, 1995, Bodnar’s father died. “That solidified my position to kick it up a notch, because there’s no time like the present. I was determined to go from a pack-a-day smoker to running a marathon.” As Bodnar kept logging his miles, he tapped into another coincidence for added motivation while chasing the kind of training that could help him build up to complete a 26.2-mile marathon course.
“I didn’t start out to do it like Forrest Gump, but that’s my favorite movie of all time and it just kind of happened that way. I ‘ran across the country’ one loop around the neighborhood at a time. And then I did it again, comparing my mileage to him. That’s when I started thinking bigger, ‘What about going around the world at the equator?’ I looked it up on Google and found my new goal: 24,901 miles.” In October of 1997, Bodnar went the distance at the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington, DC. Known as “the best marathon for beginners,” the MCM is also the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money.
“That’s why they call it, ‘The People’s Marathon,’ and it really checked all the boxes. It’s within driving distance, so the family could make a little trip of it. It’s a very scenic place where you take a loop around The Pentagon and get to see all of the great landmarks while you’re running. And my dad was a Marine—another wonderful coincidence. That wasn’t what motivated me necessarily, but I do wish he was alive to know that I’ve done that.”
Bodnar wanted to make sure crossing that first finish line wasn’t a fluke. He ran the MCM again in 1998, 1999—when he also completed the Pittsburgh Marathon, navigating 26.2 miles twice in six months—and 2001. For more than 15 years he remained active and healthy, but struggled to get beyond 10 or 11 miles as severe tendinitis forced him out of organized races. “I switched to fast walking in 2018 to keep grinding toward my goal of going around the world at the equator. But in 2020, a hip X-ray confirmed that I was bone on bone. I tried a conservative approach at first, getting a steroid injection, but after a couple of weeks I was back to hurting again. From January of 2021 through January of 2023, I tried to grit through it but I was down from walking 20 miles a week to 10 miles on a really good week. When the pain forced me into struggling with single digits, and the hip pain started causing knee pain as well, I knew I had to take a more aggressive approach to healing.”
Running into Brett C. Perricelli, MD, FAAOS, Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at St. Clair Health, was no coincidence. “I lost count of all the runners and walkers around the neighborhood who said he’s just the best,” Bodnar says.
“It’s one of the most powerful things about the communities we serve,” Dr. Perricelli says. “When your team takes great care of people, they point others in need in the right direction—and more often than you might think, that leads them right to my front yard! I was out pulling weeds, blowing leaves, and I see Bob walking his laps waving at me. He tells me he’s got a bad hip and I asked him if he wanted to slow down.
‘No way—I’ve got 5,000 more miles to go!’ he said. That’s when he told me about his goal.” Understanding a patient’s goals is the first key to unlocking the best treatment plan on a case-by-case basis.
“Especially when you’re already active, or have a history of heightened activity, that’s the first thing I want to understand—because you’re going to have options before surgery. Bob had been through all of that, so we focused on what he wasn’t able to do because of the pain he was having. Once we know the goal, we then figure out how to get you exactly where you want to be. For some patients it is going to a grandchild’s activity, for others it is extending a work career. For Bob, it was to hit a walking/ running goal,” Dr. Perricelli says. Total hip replacement surgery can be done three ways: from the back (posterior), the side (lateral), and the front (anterior). For Dr. Perricelli, the direct anterior approach is the best option. “I have done thousands of hip replacements from the posterior approach. In my opinion, the direct anterior approach has more benefits compared to other approaches,” he says. Dr. Perricelli on those benefits:
“The DA approach is a less invasive surgery to replace the damaged hip that doesn’t cut through any of the nearby muscles, tendons, or bone attachments to the proximal femur (top part of the thigh bone). The surgical plane (approach) goes right between two muscles— the rectus and the tensor fascia lata—instead of going through them. That’s going to give you a quicker recovery time, less pain, and a lower rate of dislocation.” But Dr. Perricelli also notes that, “It still takes time to heal, you can’t speed up Mother Nature!” There are challenges associated with the approach: it’s more technically demanding on the surgeon, has a different set of potential complications, and requires specialized equipment, instrumentation, and training. To stay at the cutting edge of care, St. Clair has invested in a surgical table specifically designed for use in anterior hip replacement procedures, the Hana® table.
“On the specialized table I can use intraoperative X-ray to determine the best fit and orientation of each implant, accounting for all of the different measurements we look at in real time. I’m able to dial in exactly what the patient needs during surgery,” Dr. Perricelli says. It also allows the surgeon to be able to adapt to augmented reality and artificial intelligence, as those tools are rapidly evolving in orthopedics.
Bodnar remains effusive in his praise of Dr. Perricelli’s acute attention to detail in outlining the benefits of his preferred procedure. “I’m one of those people where, if I’m going to buy a toaster, then I do a ton of research. I read all the reviews and make my gameplan— so with major surgery, you better believe I’m going to look into it. Brett takes a very analytical approach and he answered every question I brought to the table,” Bodnar says. “And he’s also extremely personable—he called me the day before my surgery to make sure I was totally comfortable. With Brett, I felt like I had a friend doing my operation.”
Fostering a deep connection with the community is a privilege Dr. Perricelli takes personally. “Talking to patients the night before surgery is important to me—people are nervous, so I focus on reiterating the plan and putting them at ease. Ironically, the most common question I get is, ‘Are you going to get a good night’s sleep?’ What I get to do is so rewarding because it really is a two-way street.”
Far beyond calming any last-minute nerves ahead of joint replacement surgery, Dr. Perricelli is adamant that at St. Clair Health, the all-in approach is a total team effort. “Teamwork is the biggest thing—and it’s a big team that surrounds each patient’s overall care. We train together, we learn together, and we grow our expertise together. I trained on the direct anterior approach in fellowship and have now converted my practice from a posterior approach to the DA approach for those patients who are candidates for it. It is critically important that every member of your care team is up to speed. From coordinating with our office through your surgery and post-operative care, everything we do from translational research review to attending and lecturing at conferences across the country is geared to function as one team operating around you.” Another big part of Bob Bodnar’s care team is Lauren Bodnar Craig, RN, BSN, a proud Collier Township resident and St. Clair Health nurse whose son was born at St. Clair. She’s also Bob’s daughter.
“Lauren encouraged me to get my hip replaced for a long time,” he says. “I was stubborn and kept trying to push through the pain, and she kept reminding me, ‘You don’t have to wait to start living again.’ She was right, with doctors like Brett, you don’t.”
“Watching my dad go from someone who ran marathons to having trouble getting around was really tough. It was gradual until it wasn’t— and that hit like a ton of bricks,” Lauren says. “He was back out there six weeks after surgery and it’s like he’s back to being himself. And now we’re back to spending time together without the moment being overtaken by him being in pain anymore.”
Direct anterior hip replacement helped Bob Bodnar catch the fitness bug again. “I’m out walking 20-to-24 miles a week, putting me on pace for 1,000 miles a year. It’s such a great stress reliever, and because of Brett, I’ve got that back. The endorphins are flowing and I feel good. I love the outdoors, just taking it outside to walk the Panhandle Trail. I’ve got 3,365 miles to go and my goal is to walk around the world the year I turn 70.”
At St. Clair Health, orthopedic patients like Bob Bodnar have access to the MyMobility® app that can link to your preferred smart device allowing your care team to track your progress before and after surgery and communicate with secure messaging. “I love it because it’s another example of how we’re using technology to help you through the whole process and come out better on the other side. We can log in at any time and review your messages and get back to you faster,” Dr. Perricelli says. Bob Bodnar’s life has been a remarkable concurrence of events. Some might call it fate or luck and others serendipity. “Brett’s taken care of the whole neighborhood! Expert care from people who care…that’s no coincidence,” he says.
BRETT C. PERRICELLI, MD, FAAOS
Dr. Perricelli is Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at
St. Clair Health and is board-certified by the American Board
of Orthopaedic Surgery. He earned his medical degree at
the University of Pittsburgh and completed residencies
in general surgery and orthopaedic surgery at UPMC. Dr.
Perricelli then completed an Adult Reconstruction fellowship
at OrthoCarolina Hip & Knee Center, Charlotte, NC. He
practices with South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Associates
and was named a Top Doctor by Pittsburgh Magazine in 2023.
To contact Dr. Perricelli, please call 412.283.0260.