Joint replacement patients celebrate recovery by dancing

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Deborah and Thomas Pruitt, center, dance Saturday during the first Trailblazers Celebration for the Saint Francis Medical Center for Joint Replacement at Plaza Conference Center in Cape Girardeau. Deborah Pruitt, who has been dancing most of her life, has had both knees replaced. (Kristin Eberts)

More than 200 joint replacement recipients took to the dance floor Saturday night at the Trailblazers Celebration for former patients of the Center for Joint Replacement at Saint Francis Medical Center.

While the center has sponsored a quarterly reunion lunch for several years, this was the first year for a reunion dance.

"We like to bring them back and see how well they are doing now that they have been out long enough to see the benefits and how [the joint replacement] has changed their life," Dr. Brian Schafer said. "A patient ... told me how much she has been out in her garden this year and she couldn't do that before her joint replacement. This is to recognize them and what they've done and what they've come through at this point."

Schafer performed either a hip or knee replacement on many of the patients at the dance.

Joint care coordinator Amy Brentlinger said one of Schafer's former patients was the inspiration for the group dance. Before their surgery, all patients fill out a survey asking what they are not able to do that they would like to again. Deborah Pruitt of Poplar Bluff, Mo., gave one of the most popular answers: dancing. When Brentlinger saw Pruitt shortly after she was able to dance again, the emotion Pruitt displayed gave her an idea.

Pruitt "came to a reunion lunch and told me with tears in her eyes that she had been dancing," Brentlinger said. "I thought we could have a dance. It is something others might also enjoy."

Before the deterioration of both of her knees, dancing was one of Pruitt's favorite activities. As a hairdresser, however, the stress of hours on her feet every day took its toll.

"Both of my knees were in total collapse," Pruitt said. "I tried the pain shots. I tried the roosters' comb injections and that worked for about a year."

Brentlinger said the rooster comb injection, formally known as a Synvisc injection, contains rooster's comb and is a therapeutic shot that lubricates the knee. She said it does not help the body grow cartilage but does provide some relief from the discomfort. She said the injections -- as well as antinflamatory drugs, physical therapy and steroid injections -- only provide temporary relief for a patient that still has some cartilage.

"Those are Band-Aids until the cartilage is completely gone," Brentlinger said. "Then the patient's joint is bone on bone."

Usually at this point, Brentlinger said, surgery is the best option because the pain is effecting the patient's quality of life.

By the time Pruitt had her first knee replaced in September 2008, she said she was in so much agony that she welcomed the surgery. Pruitt had surgery on the other knee three months later.

"I was so ready for it," she said. "I was in so much pain that I couldn't even work."

Pruitt admitted the recovery process was also painful, but said she may have pushed herself too much after that first surgery.

"It was very painful," she said. "The therapy in the hospital was wonderful, but I overdid it. I had to stay an extra day."

Once she was released from the hospital, she continued to receive therapy.

A total recovery does not happen quickly, Pruitt said. She said it took her a full year to feel completely healed from the surgeries. Nearly two years later, she no longer has any physical limitations on what she can do.

Pruitt said her husband, Tom, provided her with constant motivation during her recovery, giving her support to get through the pain. He reminded her to do her exercises and told her to cut back when she was pushing herself too hard. She said he was truly a coach and a cheerleader, because he certainly was not a cook.

"I thought he was going to starve me," she said. "My son would have to bring me dinner."

Tom Pruitt said even though the process was an arduous one, his wife was now better than ever.

"She is 200 percent better than she was when we got married 16 years ago," he said.


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