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Resurgens Orthopaedics Patient Featured In National Design Magazine

Holly Irwin Gains Recognition as a Painter After Multiple Surgeries on Her Hands

We tend to take our hands for granted. Reach for this; grab that; shake hands. But when pain or injury limits the use of our hands, life can change dramatically. 

For Resurgens Orthopaedics patient Holly Irwin, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) limits her ability to do the things she loves. 

Diagnosed with RA and scleroderma (hardening of the skin and connective tissue) in 1993 at the age of 36, Irwin struggled with pain and limited use of her feet and hands. As the disease progressed, she left her job in marketing and returned to painting, which she had studied before “getting a grown-up type job” in the business world. 

Now, thanks to her determination and numerous surgeries at Resurgens Orthopaedics, Irwin is gaining renown as an artist and sells her work through dk Gallery in Marietta. 

“Art has been such an important part of my healing. It’s been therapeutic. I took a long break from art, but went back to it when I had to quit my job.” 

“The art is my passion and my purpose. It’s helped me deal with my illness,” she says. 

Featured in the winter/spring 2012 issue of House of Fifty design magazine, Irwin says her work is more abstract now than in the past. She uses a pallet knife and a rubber spatula, doing “bigger movement rather than fine details.” 

In the magazine, she talks about how her work celebrates women, children, relationships, and home. In a quote that could well sum up her own struggle, Irwin says, “I’m amazed at the strength of women. In the face of adversity and obstacles, we somehow persevere. I think that strength comes from having purpose and passion and faith in your life.” 

Her first experience with Resurgens was ten years ago when she interviewed several foot surgeons and selected Dr. John R. Gleason at the Resurgens St. Joseph’s office. The RA had progressed to the point that she needed joint replacement surgery in her feet in order to continue walking. Dr. Gleason performed three surgeries in 2002 and 2003. “They don’t look perfect, but I can walk without pain. I can take a walk in the morning and I can stand on my feet without pain,” she says. 

Hesitant to have work done on her hands because the RA was complicated by the skin-thickening condition scleroderma, Irwin says she “waited five years, which was almost too late.” 

When she decided it was time to begin work on her hands, Dr. Gleason recommended Resurgens hand surgeon and practice co-president Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick. 

Irwin calls Dr. Kirkpatrick “amazing” and praises her enthusiastically. “I just love her. She’s patient, strong, and confident. I feel so close to her; she’s been so good to me,” Irwin says. 

Dr. Kirkpatrick returns the praise for Irwin. “Holly has been such an inspiration to me. Her positive attitude and determination to do the things she loves in spite of physical limitations are a great example of how motivation affects healing.” 

Between 2008 and 2012 Irwin underwent eight surgeries on her hands. Dr. Kirkpatrick “did a little bit at a time,”most recently operating to remove pins in her right hand. 

Now, Irwin says, she can hold onto a palette knife and brush between her thumb and index finger, enabling her “to do what I want to do.” 

Having the joints replaced in her hands and feet stopped the progression of the disease in those areas. Between the surgeries and treatment from her rheumatologist, her condition is now stable and under control. 

“It’s been quite a journey,” Irwin says. Images of her painting are on her web site, hollyirwin.com, and the dk Gallery site, dkgallery.us. The magazine article is on page 140 of the winter/spring 2012 issue at http://issuu.com/houseoffifty/docs/house_of_fifty_issue_4

Outside of Atlanta, Irwin’s work is also show at Lyons Share Gallery in Fairhope, AL, and Loretta Goodwin Gallery in Birmingham, AL. 

Resurgens Orthopaedics, Georgia’s largest orthopaedic practice, has 22 offices and six surgery centers throughout metro Atlanta. With 95 physicians, Resurgens provides specialized expertise and broad experience in the areas of sports medicine, joint replacement, neck and back surgery, foot and ankle surgery, shoulder and elbow surgery, non-operative spine care, hand surgery, arthroscopic surgery, epidural steroid injection, general orthopaedics, and trauma care. Resurgens provides comprehensive musculoskeletal care in a single location, from injury diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation services. Learn more at www.resurgens.com

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