Knee Replacement Helps Woman Stay Active
Martha Bryan doesn’t like to sit still.
A retired first-grade teacher and reading specialist, the Goldsboro resident stays active serving as secretary for her husband Jimmy’s business and volunteering in her church, Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, Meals on Wheels, and a Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation committee. “I also love to get out in the yard and do things,” she said.
But about three years ago, an injury to her left knee started slowing her down. She tripped and fell, and the lasting pain made it hard to get around. “I couldn’t exercise. It hurt to walk, bend, or go up and down stairs.”
So she made an appointment at UNC Orthopedics at Goldsboro with William de Araujo, MD, also known as “Dr. D.” The physician did an X-ray and recommended steroid injections to relieve pain. Each injection helped for a few months, but also wore away knee cartilage cushioning the joint. After getting injections for two-and-a-half years, she and Dr. D. agreed it was time for joint replacement.
Martha’s mom, brother, and minister had all done well after knee replacement surgery, so she felt confident scheduling the procedure for herself at Wayne UNC Health Care. “My brother said, ‘When you come out of surgery, you won’t have knee pain anymore. You’ll only have surgical pain’” that will fade.
While preparing for surgery, Martha regularly did recommended “prehab” exercises to strengthen her leg muscles and speed up her recovery. She also took Total Joint Class, Wayne UNC’s free prep program for knee, hip, and shoulder replacement patients. There, several care team members and a former patient explained what to expect and how to ease recovery. “It was very informative,” she said.
Smooth Surgical Experience
On the morning of her procedure at Wayne UNC’s new Surgery Center, she chose to get an epidural and sedation rather than general anesthesia so she’d recover sooner. “I didn’t feel anything,” she said. Surgery lasted less than two hours, and she returned to her recovery room by 12:30 p.m. At 2 p.m., she made her first walk down the halls with a walker and support from hospital staff.
Martha stayed overnight in an area of the hospital reserved for joint replacement patients. “It was so nice and quiet,” she said. Staff often asked if she needed anything. “All the nurses knew what to do. I couldn’t have asked for any better service.”
Especially helpful was the joint replacement nurse navigator—Wayne UNC’s dedicated guide and advocate for patients. When Martha called with questions, the professional “was always very responsive.” The nurse helped make sure Martha had arrangements for home health care before leaving the hospital, so she’d get the help she needed during recovery.
Martha went home the morning after surgery, following a session of physical therapy. Caregivers said they could tell she’d done the prehab exercises because she did so well at therapy.
‘Back to Normal’
Medicine and ice helped her keep postsurgical pain under control. “I never had pain I couldn’t stand,” she said. She participated in two weeks of in-home physical therapy, and then graduated to outpatient rehabilitation. Four weeks after surgery, she was driving again. After a couple months, she returned to delivering Meals on Wheels, which required going up and down steps while carrying food.
She’s had several follow-up appointments with Dr. D. and checked in with her nurse navigator. The area around her surgical scar feels numb, which the doctor told her is normal. And pain temporarily flared up after a few days of “overdoing it” on stairs while visiting family. But otherwise, she said, “I’m back to normal.”
Martha has even returned to the joint replacement program as a speaker for Total Joint Class, telling future patients about the importance of exercise before and after surgery. “If you do what they tell you to do, you’ll have less pain,” she tells them. In the long run, she advises, joint replacement is the best solution for many patients.