Kari, a 46-year old full-time nurse was experiencing knee pain that was affecting her ability to function, and enjoy an active lifestyle outside of work. An athletic teenager and young adult, Kari was a varsity track runner and volleyball player. However, in her mid-20’s during a friendly game of touch football, she tore her ACL. An ACL reconstruction, physical therapy, and nearly 20 years later, this injury along with regular wear and tear, Kari’s knee pain was becoming chronic and was increasingly debilitating.
As a full-time nurse at a busy outpatient endoscopy centre, Kari spends 10 hours a day on her feet. Prior to surgery, Kari was finding herself unable to go up and down stairs like she used to, and was physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day.
As Kari put it, “I wanted to have surgery because I was limited in how much I could do in a day. I was working and then I’d have to go home and continue nursing my knee.”
Upon meeting with her orthopedic surgeon, Kari decided to move forward with a total knee replacement. As a medical professional and athlete herself, Kari decided to get into the driver’s seat of her surgery preparation and recovery. This is when online research led her to discovering and independently signing up for PeerWell’s PreHab and ReHab program for knee replacement surgery.
A Full-Time Nurse: “Am I going to be able to do this?”
As an independent, active person with a physically-demanding nursing job (10 hour shifts, working four days a week), Kari was angling for a speedy recovery. With limited sick leave and an income that relied on her actively caring for others, she knew that she needed a faster-than-average return-to-work time.
Kari explains, “Before surgery, I was concerned because my job is very physical. I was wondering, ‘Am I going to be able to do this?'”. Determined to continue working at her regular level, Kari maintained her regular duties and shift work. However, the cartilage degradation and osteoarthritis had gotten so bad that her knee was beginning to collapse and she was experiencing sciatic pain in her back. In other words, Kari was at the very end of her runway and knew that she had no choice but to move forward with a total knee replacement.
Through her own due diligence and research, Kari knew that her recommended surgeon had above average recovery times. “I had a total knee replacement scheduled with a surgeon that has longer recovery times. I knew I had to do something a little more proactive,” explained Kari. Armed with this knowledge and a desire to recover quickly and return to work at full-duty, Kari began to search for surgery preparation tools.
Enter PeerWell: Daily PreHab Before TKR
“Being athletic growing up, I know that muscles that are better conditioned will heal faster. Professional football players, they’ll turn an ankle and get back into the game very quickly. Someone who is already healthy going into an injury or surgery, heals a lot quicker than the average person.”
With an underlying understanding of “PreHab” and the idea that conditioning your body (and mind) before a stressful physical event can positively influence the outcome, Kari wanted to be proactive in her surgery preparation. An online search or two later, she found PeerWell’s PreHab and ReHab program for knee replacement surgery and downloaded the app.
“I started PeerWell about a month and a half before surgery. I think the PeerWell app was very motivating because everyday you have something to do, and not just exercises. That said, the exercises were very helpful. My doctor was focused on just the sitting exercises, but the standing and laying down exercises helped to break up the monotony,” described Kari.
Kari engaged with her daily PreHab program for 6 weeks leading up to surgery and continued to follow ReHab throughout recovery. Kari explains, “I went into surgery and when I came out, I immediately continued with the PeerWell app and all doctor-recommended exercises.”
“I found that the program’s 6 minute walk test was very motivating. I would walk the same route and do the 6 minute walk test to see how far I got… I also really relied on the range of motion tool to check my knee range of motion and see how well I was doing.”
So, how did Kari’s surgery and post-op recovery go? Well, the results surprised even her.
The Results: Back to Work At 4 Weeks
“I was able to get back to work in four weeks. I wasn’t back to full-time, but on lighter duty and walking around without a cane,” said Kari. Impressively, on the sixth Monday after surgery, Kari was back to work at full-duty keeping up with her duties and clocking a post-op average of about “15,000 steps per shift”.
Kari’s return-to-work at lighter duty at just four weeks, and full-duty and 6 weeks is well below the median return to work time after a knee replacement of 8.9 weeks.
By optimizing for surgery, Kari went in mentally, physically and environmentally prepared. Her active preparation and engaged recovery meant that Kari was able to sprint past key milestones and felt supported through common roadblocks like managing pain, staying committed to exercises, and adjusting without pain medication.
Kari illustrates, “I do have a high pain tolerance, but I was off of pain pills within three weeks and just doing Advil.”
Nine weeks after surgery when we spoke to Kari, she explained that her recovery isn’t all champagne and roses, but is still a work in progress. “I’m feeling better than before but still in some pain. For the most part, it’s a different pain than it was before. It is definitely better, and definitely less, and not as often.”
Two months out from surgery, we think that Kari’s recovery and speedy return-to-work is very impressive. Her dedication to PreHab and pushing through the trials of recovery have brought Kari closer to the active and pain-free lifestyle she’s fought to gain back—inside and outside of work. When a nurse is optimized for surgery and gets back to work faster, the whole system benefits. Once again, Kari is able to offer the highest level of care, and these ripple effects are felt throughout the entire organization.
As a vital player in our healthcare system, we’re proud that nurses like Kari are able to benefit from PeerWell’s PreHab and ReHab programs. To learn more about PeerWell’s digital musculoskeletal surgery optimization platform, click here or reach out.