After years of debilitating knee pain and two meniscus repair surgeries, 68-year-old Terri finally agreed to a total knee joint replacement procedure. Preparation for her surgery at a top-notch orthopedic clinic included a joint replacement education class, several preoperative appointments and a lot of internet research. Terri is a fit senior without other serious health issues. She’s also an avid mobile technology user, using her laptop, iPad and iPhone to stay connected with friends and family on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest.
Despite this level of connectivity and her high-level understanding of her pending procedure, Terri still faced some very serious mental and physical challenges during and after her knee replacement surgery. “Before my surgery, I felt really prepared and thought I knew how my recovery would go. I knew there would be hard parts and pain, but the reality of it was very different than my expectations.”
A well-prepared patient who is proactive in her own health, Terri took good steps in organizing her life for surgery. She attended joint class, ordered home health supplies and made sure her house was set up for recovery. She informed friends and family so that they could be available when and if she needed help. Although Terri was understandably nervous about the surgery, she was also excited to get it done and enjoy increased mobility. She had faith in her surgeon selection and the hospital facility.
To get organized and communicate with her family, Terri used email and Facebook to count down to the day of surgery.
Terri’s primary caregiver when she was discharged from the hospital was her daughter, Karen, whose main role was to communicate with the hospital staff, advocate for her mom’s needs, keep extended family and friends informed, and to take care of her during her first weeks home. She was aware that her mom would need extensive monitoring and felt prepared to do so, but there were several challenges she hadn’t expected.
Karen comments, “In addition to folders stuffed with pre-op instructions, every day I received additional paperwork and instructions from everyone involved in my mom’s care. There were icing instructions, medications to monitor, safety sheets, emergency sheets, appointments to schedule and more. By the time Terri was discharged after a three-day stay, I’d probably talked to 20 caregivers and had 50 pages of documents. It was a little overwhelming.”
“The care team was great and I know my mom received excellent care. But I wish we’d had a better way to coordinate her recovery. One day a home health nurse would come and tell me that she needed to ice her knee more. The next day, the physical therapist would come and say that we needed less ice so the blood could flow to the joint. We didn’t know whose advice to take because we trusted both of them!”
After a week home and with the reduction in pain medication, Terri was able to take a more proactive role in her own recovery. She began working her exercise plan and trying to reach important milestones, including more walking, bending her knee to greater degrees and strengthening her supporting muscles. But it was a tough process.
Terri explains, “I had so much more pain than I’d expected, even after taking the class. I was afraid at every point that something was wrong, that I was getting an infection or that I wasn’t recovering quickly enough. It was pretty depressing and confusing. If I had to take a satisfaction survey during that time, I would have ranked everything very low because the experience was so different than what I expected and I was overwhelmed.”
A few days after Terri was home, she developed a bothersome rash. “Luckily, my home health nurse was able to identify it during a weekday visit soon after it developed, otherwise I probably would have had my daughter take me to the ER, afraid it was a staph infection or something. Turns out, the surgery triggered a mild case of shingles which soon subsided.”
As with the majority of joint replacement patients, Terri began to feel better each day and hit the milestones necessary to discontinue physical therapy and regain her independence. But her first 2-3 months were very intense, fraught with anxiety about the pace of her recovery and pain management.
“To know exactly what to expect each day and each week would have given me peace of mind that I was on track and that my PT and the nurses were looking out for me.”
She is now eight months out walking well with only mild soreness. With each passing week, Terri’s perception of her recovery becomes more positive.
Terri’s story is not unique. More than one million U.S. patients go through a joint replacement surgery every year. Even the most prepared and well-informed patients experience anxiety, depression and insecurity during their journey to better health. We believe that providing a platform that delivers quality education, tracking and communication along the episode of care can dramatically improve patient care.
Wellbe gives patients everything they need to know, do and act on in small bits delivered at just the right time. All the information is available 24/7 on the web for on-demand access. Patients and care teams work through their care plans in partnership and any issues that arise can be addressed quickly and easily.