Award-winning JSU alumna publishes book about her mother’s fight to live


This article was written by Julie Skinner in Jacksonville State University’s Office of Public Relations. It was originally published for the Town and Gown column in the Jacksonville News.

Jacksonville State University alumna Christa Davis grew up listening to her mother, Patricia Davis Harton, play the piano. From “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters, to gospel hymn “How Great Thou Art,” Patricia could play it all. However, when Patricia’s hands and arms began to go weak, Christa knew something was wrong.

Patricia was diagnosed with cardio myopathy, a condition that caused her muscles to become inflamed and in time, would cause her muscles to eventually stop working. As time passed, Patricia began having trouble doing daily tasks for herself, including bathing, eating and dressing, and Christa decided to leave her dream job in Augusta, Ga., to move back to her hometown of Centre, to help take care of her mother.

Christa wanted answers. She wanted to know why her mother, at age 68, who was always a strong, active woman, was now debilitated with such an illness.

“When you see someone hurting, and they can no longer use their arms to feed or dress themselves, you start reaching and grasping for every solution possible,” Christa says. “The first thing I started doing was reaching out to my faith.”

Christa and Patricia clung to their faith in the darkest of times, knowing that no matter what happened, it would somehow be alright.

After much prayer, meditating and questioning, Christa decided to research why her mother was going downhill so quickly. Everything changed when Christa stumbled upon a data registry in the United Kingdom documenting everything that could go wrong during orthopedic implants. Then, Christa began placing the pieces of the puzzle together. Her mother had both a knee and hip replacement, and perhaps her debilitating weakness and muscle loss a mere three years later was related to the implants, and more specifically, an allergy to the metal used in the implants.
Together, Christa and Patricia visited the original orthopedist about having the implants taken out, which included the metals chromium, nickel and cobalt, and replaced with a titanium implant. But their fight wasn’t easy, and the orthopedist wouldn’t perform the procedure. A tired and frustrated Christa trudged forward, remembering Mark 9:23, her favorite Bible verse. Even during Patricia’s darkest days, Christa would read Mark 9:23 to her mother and tape it on the wall if her mother happened to be in a hospital room sleeping, and unable to hear or see the words.
After searching far and wide, they found a doctor who believed in Christa’s theory that it was the metal in the implants causing her mother to be so sick. He agreed to do the implant revisions. In total, Patricia has had revisions done on a knee implant, hip implant and a pacemaker. In fact, after her knee implant revision, doctors found that the prosthetic had not attached to her muscle or bone in the past 37 months, and was thus a failed prosthesis. 

After the surgery, Patricia seemed to instantly gain strength back, and only went up from there. Today, she is strong, independent and when muscles in her arm began to grow back in February of this year, her case was deemed a medical breakthrough.

While Christa says it was hard to think about the time in which she tried convincing doctors of her theory and findings, especially her mother’s original orthopedist, she didn’t want to waste time being angry. She wanted to educate the masses.

“I realized that doctors didn’t understand my mother’s condition, and it came to me that I had to write this book,” Christa says. “It all just came to me.”
Christa’s book “Steel Standing” documents the long, painful, frustrating yet faithful battle she and her mother endured to obtain answers. Christa was so driven to write the book that in 10 days, the first 10 chapters were written.

Christa decided to self-publish Steel Standing, in order to get her mother’s story out faster. It officially was released on May 7 of this year, and Christa was recently honored by the Alabama State Senate with its highest commendation for helping shed light on her mother’s medical condition.

“Being honored was a pleasant surprise,” Christa says. “I had no idea that was going to come about.”

While this article isn’t able to include all the colorful, descriptive details of Christa’s book, a copy can be easily ordered at www.steelstanding.com or through Amazon. It’s deeply personal and something everyone can relate to in some way.

Christa, who lists several names of people who helped make Steel Standing possible, says there’s one person who isn’t credited in the book, but forever credited in her heart.

“Dr. Meehan was my advisor at JSU,” Christa says. “He’s not credited in the book, but in my heart he’s credited. He always encouraged me so much to not give up, and that’s the reason I stayed in school.”

Today, Christa’s mother, Patricia, is improving daily and still playing the piano. In fact, according to her physical therapist, it’s the best exercise she can do for her hands and arms after all she’s been through.

Though Christa grew up enjoying comic books and tossed around the idea of becoming an author, it took her mother’s story to jumpstart her need to write.

Christa believes her mother was chosen to go through her ordeal in order to help other people.

“Some people are destined to go through something because they have the ability to go through it,” Christa says. “My mother has the most positive outlook on life and has never been one to complain of pain or her situation. She maybe became frustrated or a little down, but at times, she just needed encouragement. She was always looking ahead, because we believed there would be an answer, and there was.”

While Christa feels lucky to have her mom, JSU feels lucky to call Christa an alumna.

About the photo: Christa Davis and her mother, Patricia (courtesy)

07/10/2012