Knee pain leads to a community of dedicated professionals

Sunday, January 31, 2016
PHOTO BY RUSS MITCHELL / Dr. Christopher Rierson helped Doris Welle get back on her feet following knee replacement surgery.

The majority of us will have joints in our bodies that develop problems as the years go by. We may have an accident that causes fractures or we may overuse and misuse them through our athletic endeavors. Still others of us are the 'victims' of our hereditary gene pool.

Many years ago my right knee was scoped for what were described as minor repairs following a fall. I thought all was well and good until my mid-60s when that knee steadily became more painful. Being somewhat of a stubborn Dutchman, I walked with that pain for two years before succumbing to the realization that it wasn't going to get better and I needed to see a joint specialist.

What came after that decision not only made my life much better, but opened my eyes to the many fields of medical care open to people besides being a doctor or a nurse.

I learned that total recovery and healthy wellness is a community job and we here in northwest Iowa are blessed with many, many people dedicated to making us better plus they all work extremely well together.

Dr. Christopher Rierson and the staff at Northwest Iowa Bone, Joint & Sports Medicine were so thorough and patient with me. Not only did they immediately show me the X-rays of my troubled joint but showed me mock ups of the types of replacement appliances available. They loaded me up with pamphlets of information as well as places to go on the Internet. I went home and studied my options. I truly believe no one needs to go into any type of major surgery in ignorance. There are so many sources of information and an informed patient is a better patient in the long run.

The staff at Lakes Regional Healthcare so were very kind and helpful from the moment I entered the hospital for surgery until I went home. They took the time to answer any questions I had and did everything they could to keep me comfortable.

After three or four days, I was able to return home following a total knee replacement. I am fortunate to own a totally handicapped accessible condo so did not have to go to a nursing home therapy wing for a couple of weeks before going home. I was blessed with good friends and neighbors who were willing to get me to the hospital for therapy until I could drive. I am also blessed with a loving family who helped me make the transition back home.

The first mistaken theory I quickly learned to cast aside is that once a new part replaces an old one, you are just fine. I discovered that physical therapy would make all the difference between a failed replacement and a totally successful one. You have to dedicate yourself to do the therapy so all those muscles and tendons that had been moved, repaired or bothered during surgery can be retrained to do their jobs again. I was joined by a fine team of therapists in reaching my goal of walking without a limp, dancing again and eventually navigating staircases.

Jason Munden and Joe Verschoor at Lakes Regional Healthcare Rehab Services were a joy to work with. Joe was not afraid to put me through my paces and kept me moving when I really wanted to sit in the recliner with my feet up and watch a Hallmark "feel good" movie. I found out quite soon that Rehab Services has a working relationship with the Bedell Family YMCA. Jason would meet me at The Y at an appointed time and help me do my therapy in the pool.

Doing knee exercises is much easier in the water. It doesn't hurt to do them under water. However, you can really feel that you gave that knee a workout when you walk out of the pool. The staff at The Y was friendly and welcoming.

I reflect back now through the past two years since Dec. 5, 2013 when Dr. Rierson gave me a new knee. I made several new discoveries. I learned that several components of the health and wellness community all work tirelessly together to make our lives more pain free and mobile. I have learned that you have to make up your mind to put in the hard work of rehab because those medical people can not do it all for you. It boils down to just how much better you want your life to be. You have to be willing to do your part.

I also see much more clearly just how many medical and health-related fields there are for young people to consider when choosing their courses of study.

If a person wants to help people but doesn't think they have the stomach to become a doctor or nurse, consider therapy as an occupational choice.

Therapists help all ages, not just us senior citizens. They help athletes through their injuries, people who have broken bones in accidents, and people who develop occupational health issues through repetitive motion.

X-ray technicians play a key role in medical treatment. Athletic trainers can steer people to healthier lifestyles. The occupational opportunities are many. I encourage those who want to help people one on one to thinks about those opportunities.

In this day of modern medical science we live in, it takes the entire village working together to make a person well again. I very much appreciate our village here in Dickinson County for their up to date practices, desire to make their patients and clients well and the caring attitude with which they do their jobs.

I know now that I waited two years longer than necessary to fix my knee problem. With so many people to help you, no one should be afraid to fix that knee, shoulder, hip or whatever is hurting. It can be made well again.

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