"I'm not the type of person you're gonna hold back."
For thirty years, Thomas Marley sold produce for Adams Market, a small regional chain since absorbed by Big Y. "Working in a supermarket, you're constantly flying," he recalls. "You've got to go unload a truck. You've got to get to the counter. The guy throws you a ten-pound bag of potatoes and then another and another. But I never missed a day of work." After his retirement, Tommy kept active, too, playing racquetball five nights a week.
Then, at age sixty, he realized he could no longer ignore the pain in his right knee "I had kind of let it go, saying ‘Maybe it'll be alright.' But I went to see Dr. DeFelice and he took X-rays. He told me, ‘Tom, the problem with your knee is it's bone-on-bone.'"
The news he would need a knee replacement was a shock. "I'd never been in the hospital in my whole lifetime. It was a little scary when they said they were going to take my knee and throw it the garbage can." But in August 2002, Dr. Anthony E. DeFelice performed a full knee arthroplasty.
Marley remembers saying to himself the day after surgery, "Tommy, that's a new knee you got there, and the only way you're going to get better is to get walking." He reports experiencing little pain with his rehabilitation, but Dr. DeFelice did have a warning for him. "He said to me, ‘Tom, down the road, you may have a problem with the opposite hip because you went so long favoring the knee, which puts the pressure on that hip, wearing that down.'"
The prediction proved to be correct and, four months later, Marley had a second operation. The replacement on his left hip went as smoothly as the knee arthroplasty had, but he still wasn't finished. A bit more than two years later, a persistent pain in his right hip sent him back for a consult. "Dr. Deflice said that hip was gone, too."
Today Tommy Marley happily demonstrates the ease with which he pops up from his chair. "No, I shouldn't cross my legs anymore," he admits, "and I don't lift up heavy objects. No more racquetball, either. But I ride my bike and I've started swimming again and I do nautilus at the Y three nights a week."
Along with his wife, Tom Marley lives in Pittsfield, as he has all his life. A granddaughter (first name: "Marley") lives nearby and he speaks of her with pride. Despite his three artificial joints, Marley approaches life with the same zest he brought to the grocery business. "I'm not the type of person you're gonna hold back," he explains.