Issue 8 Stories
Feature

Unstoppable

Joint Replacement Surgery Helps Patients Get Back Into Action

As a school principal, Angela Patterson-Jones strives to be fully engaged with her faculty and students. But during the past few years, severe arthritis pain in both knees made walking difficult, causing her to spend most of her working hours in the school office. Though steroid injections in the knees helped for a while, those treatments eventually became ineffective. Over time her gait began to change, and soon she couldn’t even straighten her knees.

“My job is demanding, and it took everything I had to be at work each day,” says Patterson-Jones, 48, principal of Buckingham Primary School in Dillwyn. “I wanted to be able to visit the classrooms and walk in the hallways greeting students, but the pain in my knees made that difficult. It totally consumed my life, and I was feeling ineffective as a principal.”

Arthritis runs in Patterson-Jones’ family. She recalls that her grandmother had such a severe case of arthritis that she eventually needed a wheelchair to get around.

“Thoughts of my grandmother were running in my mind,” Patterson-Jones says. “I wanted to be able to walk into my golden years, so I knew I needed to do something about my knees.”

Her family doctor referred her to John Edwards, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics, and in March Dr. Edwards performed joint replacement surgery on both of her knees at the same time. During her two-night stay at the hospital, Patterson-Jones participated in group and individual physical therapy sessions to start off her recovery.

“Most surgeons don’t do both knee replacements at the same time,” says Dr. Edwards. “However, Angela was very healthy otherwise and had been successful in losing weight before her surgery. These factors, in addition to having a good support system at home, made her a good candidate for having both joints done at once.”

Patterson-Jones has been happy with the results of the procedure. Now she’s able to ride her exercise bike and spend time with students on the playground during recess, and she has even returned to singing in her church choir.

“Everyone at Sentara Martha Jefferson was so caring, and I’m so glad I had this surgery,” says Patterson-Jones. “This procedure has changed my life—it’s like night and day. People tell me how much better I’m able to walk now. I tell them it’s thanks to the good Lord and to the best surgeon in the world, Dr. John Edwards. I’m pain-free and very thankful. It’s a whole new life for me.”

Highly Experienced Joint Replacement Team

Whatever their lifestyle, patients living with joint pain can find relief at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, which is a leader in hip, knee and shoulder replacement and resurfacing procedures. With specialized training to care for patients undergoing joint replacement surgery, the hospital’s experienced doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists work closely with each patient to deliver personalized care that reduces pain and decreases the risk of future injuries.

Getting patients home quickly—and safely—is a priority for Sentara Martha Jefferson’s joint replacement program. On average, patients who have hip replacements at Sentara Martha Jefferson stay one day in the hospital, while those undergoing knee replacement procedures typically stay a day and a half. For some patients, same-day discharge is an option. In recent years, the development of better medications has helped facilitate shorter hospital stays.

Several factors are considered in determining when a patient can be discharged after joint surgery, notes Dr. Edwards. Before going home, the patient must have good pain control, be free of nausea and be able to walk safely with a walker. The medical team consults closely with each patient and his or her caregiver to determine the appropriate time for discharge.

The joint program also follows certain protocols to help reduce the chance of complications. Before surgery, for example, a medical optimization visit with the patient’s primary care physician helps to identify any health conditions that could lead to complications during or after surgery. A Joint Camp class also gives patients an overview of how to prepare for surgery, what to expect during their hospital stay and what to do once they return home.

Sentara Martha Jefferson’s joint replacement program ranks second in the Sentara Healthcare system in terms of numbers of patients treated, says John Hall, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics.

“We do significantly more joint replacements than most hospitals our size,” says Dr. Hall. “Research shows that the more of these procedures you do as a surgeon and as a hospital, the lower the rate of complications and the better the results. Patients can feel comfortable coming to Sentara Martha Jefferson, knowing that we have an experienced team of surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and other professionals to care for them.”

Same-Day Discharge

As a singer with the VI-Dells—a Charlottesville-based band that performs rhythm and blues, Motown and country music at venues throughout Central Virginia—

Wilfred Wilson IIIis used to being on his feet entertaining audiences for hours at a time. Several years ago, however, he began to feel excruciating pain in both knees. Performing, as well as everyday activities, became difficult.

“I couldn’t get around without experiencing pain,” says Wilson, 68. “I was getting to the point of just being miserable.”

Wilson’s wife, Ernestine, shared with him an article about joint replacement surgery, which featured surgeon Megan Swanson, MD, of Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics. After reading about her successes with these procedures, Wilson set up an appointment.

In 2014, Wilson underwent total joint replacement in the left knee, followed by a two-night stay in the hospital. Afterward, home visits from a nurse and physical therapist, together with a program of outpatient physical therapy, helped him on his way to recovery.

Two years ago, Wilson had the same procedure done in the right knee, but his hospital stay was much shorter the second time around. In fact, Wilson was the hospital’s first joint replacement surgery patient over 65 to be discharged on the same day as the procedure. His surgery took place around 8 a.m., and he was home by dinnertime.

According to Dr. Swanson, same-day discharge has a number of benefits for healthy patients who meet the criteria. First, getting home quickly increases patient satisfaction. Second, patients tend to rest and sleep better in their own beds, leading to faster recovery. But most important, research shows that the longer a person stays in the hospital, the greater the risk of complications.

“As long as our patients are safe to go home the same day of surgery, we see them do better in the long run,” Dr. Swanson adds. “Patients who have done same-day discharge have been really happy about it and have told me they felt like they got a massive jump-start on their recovery.”

Wilson was certainly happy with his experience. These days, he continues singing with the VI-Dells and enjoys watching his grandchildren compete in football, basketball, baseball and softball. He has recommended Dr. Swanson to friends and family members who are living with joint pain.

“I can stand up through entire games, moving around and talking to people—I’m like a young person again,” Wilson says. “There’s no rating high enough for me to give Dr. Swanson and the other professionals at Sentara Martha Jefferson. They’ve changed my life.”

Sticking With the Plan

An avid outdoorsman,Mike Grabmanhas always enjoyed activities such as hunting, fishing, camping, and pistol and rifle competitions. Once he began experiencing hip pain in the early 1990s, however, his range of motion gradually became limited, making it increasingly difficult to participate in his favorite pastimes. After losing the flexibility he needed to shoot in a sitting position, he even had to give up competitive shooting.

“I kept thinking the pain would get better, but it didn’t—and it compromised every aspect of my daily life,” says Grabman, 57, of Ruckersville. “When I got to the point where it was impossible to do an activity I enjoyed, it felt like it was taking away my identity. That was pretty demoralizing. I had learned to live with it, but it got to the point where I couldn’t function.”

Knowing that the lifespan of joint implants is limited, Grabman wanted to put off surgery as long as possible, given his relatively young age. But last spring, after an afternoon of yardwork, his right hip “locked up” as he tried to get off his riding mower. After consulting with Dr. Hall at Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics, Grabman underwent total hip replacement surgery on the left side in August 2017. Three months later, he had the procedure done on his right hip.

After each procedure, Grabman was up walking within just a few hours after surgery, and each time he was able to go home after an overnight stay in the hospital. Once he got home, he was diligent about following the rehabilitation plan he learned about in the Joint Camp program he attended.

Today, Grabman, a mechanic who works on European cars, is back in action, enjoying outdoor activities with his wife, Amiko Farrar, and their son, Isaac. He has resumed competitive shooting and goes to the practice range several times a week. He doesn’t hesitate to recommend Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital’s joint replacement services to others.

“Dr. Hall is a no-nonsense guy, a straight shooter and at the top of his profession,” says Grabman. “Everybody at Sentara Martha Jefferson treats you as a person and makes sure you have everything you need. Even though this was an invasive procedure, it was very routine for the medical team. If you stick with their rehab program, you should be back to doing the things you love in no time.”

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