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Patient Story: Life-Changing Surgery with Knee Replacement

Mary Jo Schmerr knows about healthcare. Aside from being a patient at McFarland Clinic, her research at Iowa State University allows her to observe healthcare practices in hospitals around the globe.

So when Mary Jo decided it was time for two total knee replacements, she knew the care she received at McFarland Clinic would meet the high expectations she was used to.

Knee replacements are the most common joint replacement surgery done in the United States. Because knee pain can persist for many years, non-surgical treatment options–such as medication and activity modification–are used for as long as possible. Surgery becomes an option for people who have bad arthritis pain during activities and at rest.

Mary Jo’s journey to knee surgery was long, as she worked with McFarland Clinic Orthopedic Surgeon Thomas Greenwald, MD to exhaust her other treatment options before considering surgery. Four times a year, for five years she received cortisone injections from Dr. Greenwald.  While these injections helped to alleviate some of the pain, it was getting harder and harder to get around.

“I was in pain but I didn’t want to admit that. I traveled to China the fall before I had surgery and couldn’t walk up the steps and do things normal people can do,” says Mary Jo. “Dr Greenwald was very patient with me. He spoke about the surgery and recovery honestly, letting me know that it would not be a cake walk and that I would have to work really hard to get back into shape.”

Mary Jo had the first surgery in January 2010. “It was an interesting experience. I woke up and my knee didn’t hurt. I was surprised that I could put weight on it right away,” adds Mary Jo. Her second knee replacement was in March 2010.

“Mary Jo had very, very bad knees at a fairly young age. Once the pain started to interfere with her life, it was time for her to have surgery,” says Dr Greenwald.  “She worked vigorously with her therapist through rehab and had an excellent outcome.”

Physical Therapy is an important part of recovering from a knee replacement. Mary Jo did a combined 12 weeks of therapy, six for each knee, with McFarland Clinic Physical Therapy.

“McFarland Clinic is lucky to have someone as experienced and proficient as [my physical therapist],” says Mary Jo. “Therapy could be very painful, but [she] knew exactly what needed to be done and acted very professional. She challenged and encouraged me through the process. I feel very fortunate to have had her as my therapist.”

Physical therapy for knee replacements consists of one-on-one care that works on regaining range of motion, strength and functionality. Upon completion of formal therapy, the therapist works with you on developing a home exercise program to continue progress towards your personal goals.

“I went through a transformation towards the medical profession. I’ve always felt like doctors were policemen trying to tell you what to do. But I realized that they are trying to help you and that I needed to work with and trust them,” says Mary Jo. “Everyone at McFarland Clinic, from greeters and clerical staff to the nurses and doctors, remembered me and always treated me with caring and respect.”

Since having surgery, Mary Jo has continued with her home exercise program. “I feel ten years younger and very strong again. I can stand for long periods of time while working in the kitchen or when gardening,” says Mary Jo. “The surgery is truly effective; it’s the difference between day and night, heaven and hell.”

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