Free of Pain! New Knee Means Mobility
Alisa Duncan can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in pain.
Diagnosed at age 12 with rheumatoid arthritis, the 56-year-old Vallejo resident has had her health — and the painful flare-ups — managed by a number of Bay Area providers through the years. But when she came under the care of NorthBay Health in 2018, she felt her needs and concerns were truly addressed and the support she received was head and shoulders above the rest.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. Alisa has been battling pain in her hands, hips and knees for years. “When I was a teenager, the only treatment available was with aspirin,” she recalled. “I’ve had really bad flare ups, especially one when I was in high school that left me flat on my back.”
Alisa was in her 20s when she had both hips replaced. Several years ago, she noticed increasing pain in her knee that was starting to limit her ability to play with her grandchildren, and affected her work as a special education teacher for the Vallejo Unified School District. It was about that time that her health insurance brought her to NorthBay Health. She came under the care of Melissa Schoenwetter, M.D., who prescribed a new and more effective medication, and introduced her to Andrew Brooks, M.D., for orthopedic care.
“My knee was starting to turn in, and I wasn’t really sure if it was the knee, the hip, the muscles or the way I was walking,” she recalled. “But, Dr. Brooks looked at x-rays and asked, ‘How are you even walking?’ It was bone on bone.”
Dr. Brooks presented Alisa with a couple of options: knee replacement or a hip revision.
“He made me feel comfortable and really listened to my concerns and opinions,” Alisa said. “He took the time to discuss the options. We talked about both and he gave me a choice. He made me feel like I was involved in the decision, which I appreciated. I decided to go with the knee replacement.”
Alisa knows that a hip revision is in her future, but greatly appreciated the amount of information Dr. Brooks shared to help her make the decision.
She also appreciated all the pre- and post-op information her care team shared with her as she prepared for the surgery.
“They wanted to make sure I knew what to expect with no surprises during and after the surgery. I was given pre-operative exercises to strengthen the muscles around my knee, and to help me get familiar with the exercises I’d be doing after surgery. I really liked that.”
Alisa also appreciated the fact that NorthBay’s Joint Replacement Program strongly encourages its patients to have either a family member or friend serve as post-operative coach, to provide support before and after the surgery. “It meant there would be a lot of support, which I do have with my husband and other family members,” she said.
On the day of the surgery, Alisa was nervous but reassured by the surgical team. “They made me feel really relaxed, talked about lots of things – everything but the surgery! And, I was happy I was able to go home the same day!”
Dr. Brooks checked in on her that same evening.
“I thought that was very nice. Then, I saw him about two weeks later to make sure I was recovering well.”
Three days after surgery, Alisa met with her Physical Therapist Paul Tepora and Physical Therapist Assistant Paul Miquiabas.
“I was ready for that since they had prepared me so well. I asked a lot of questions and they really explained it to me. I learned how my muscles work and why it’s important to strengthen them. And, I liked working with the same therapist every time. Paul knows where I started and how far I’ve come, so it’s consistent.”
For Alisa, the whole experience was a positive one.
“Dr. Brooks makes you feel like you’re involved in the decisions and gives you options. The quality of care is excellent, the whole staff is so caring, and being able to go home the same day was wonderful.”