Ara Ann Duty is always on the go, never letting anything slow her down. So the 70-year-old Wichita grandmother of 11 continued to shop and travel despite the increasing pain in her knee when going up and down stairs or keeping up with her grandchildren.
“I just chalked it up to old age,” says Ara Ann.
But after finding it difficult to get on and off the bus while on a trip to Albuquerque, N.M., she decided it was time to consult with her family physician.
The X-rays of her right knee revealed osteoarthritis, a condition that deteriorates the protective cartilage on the surface of joints.
“Once the protective cartilage is too thin to protect the joint, symptoms begin such as joint pain or stiffness, limited movement and altered walking patterns,” says John R. Schurman, II, MD, the orthopedic surgeon to whom Ara Ann was referred.
After confirming that she had done all she could do to treat her symptoms without surgery, it was determined that her best option was a total knee replacement, which then was scheduled for Feb. 19 at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.
“With this kind of surgery we remove the arthritic surface and replace it with a metal and plastic implant, fixing the alignment and restoring the mechanical function of the knee,” says Dr. Schurman.
Prior to surgery, Dr. Schurman recommended that Ara Ann participate in a one-hour joint replacement preparation class offered in Wichita at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis and St. Teresa. That way, he says, she would have realistic expectations about her recovery and would know what her role in her recovery would be.
“The class gave me some good really good insight on the surgery itself, but also on what needed to happen before, during and after,” says Ara Ann.
The class also helps alleviate anxieties about the unknown, says Schurman, adding considerable improvements have been made in in the process in the past several years especially helping patients manage their pain.
“Today, patients typically can stand up and walk to the bathroom the day of surgery,” says Schurman. “They also start working with the physical therapist the following day and are ready to leave the hospital by the second or third day.”
Physical therapy and doing the exercises are key factors in the recovery process.
“I can reconstruct the mechanical part of the knee,” says Dr. Schurman, “but it’s the patient who has to make it work again by putting it to use.”
During Ara Ann’s brief hospital stay, her physical therapist showed her the exercises she needed to do in order to strengthen her new knee. Within two weeks, she was getting around without having to use a walker.
“I had extra motivation,” she says. “I was scheduled to take a three-week trip to Alaska in May and I did not want to miss it.”