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‘A miracle’ | Rehab, knee surgery help Garden City woman get back on her feet


‘A miracle’ | Rehab, knee surgery help Garden City woman get back on her feet

Health With the help of her expert care team at Tidelands Health, Debra O’Dell is walking without pain for the first time in years.

With the help of her expert care team at Tidelands Health, including physical therapist Alyssa Rice, at left, Debra O’Dell is walking without pain for the first time in years.

Physical therapy before and after her total knee replacement helped Debra O’Dell return to pain-free walking much sooner than she imagined.
“I consider it a miracle,” says the 69-year-old semi-retired history teacher and grandmother who lives in Garden City. “For the past five years, I’ve had a horrible time with severe pain. I could no longer put weight on my knee. I had started using a cane.”

A growing problem

O’Dell was forced to slow down because of the intense pain she was experiencing in her right knee. Gardening and beach walks — two of her favorite activities — were impossible to enjoy.
“I just quit doing anything,” she says. “I just sat around.”

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O’Dell was born with her kneecaps off-center. As she aged, her right knee became nearly bone on bone, causing excruciating pain while walking. Cortisone shots helped for a while, but ultimately weren’t enough. Unable to maintain her quality of life, O’Dell decided to pursue surgery with Tidelands Health orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Rowley.
“She had a lifelong deformity of her knees, which placed additional stress, and her right knee just wore out at a much younger age,” Dr. Rowley says. “We were able to correct the deformity at the time of the surgery.”

Physical therapy before and after surgery

Knee replacements, which are often necessitated by arthritis, are common in the U.S. Nearly 800,000 knee replacements are performed each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Patients are typically standing and moving the same day as surgery and begin physical therapy immediately to help them recover as quickly as possible.
O’Dell’s son-in-law, a physical therapist in Florida, encouraged her to seek physical therapy before surgery to strengthen her weakened muscles because she’d been inactive for so long.

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Alyssa Rice, a physical therapist at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services, our region’s largest network of outpatient rehabilitative care, says that prior to surgery, O’Dell had limited range of motion in her knee and weakness in the muscles around her hip and knee.
“For Debra, it was important to restore as much of her range of motion as possible to increase her potential to improve after surgery,” Rice says. “Debra worked hard and was able to regain most of her knee range of motion prior to surgery, which helped her tremendously after surgery to restore her walking.”
O’Dell began physical therapy three times a week in February ahead of her April 14 surgery. After the procedure, she completed another several rounds of physical therapy and experienced very positive results.

Hard work pays off

Two weeks after the surgery, O’Dell was free of pain and could walk without the assistance of a cane or walker.
“I think the physical therapy beforehand made all the difference in the world,” she says. “At my first follow-up with Dr. Rowley after the surgery, when I walked in, he said, ‘There’s my star patient.’ I told him, ‘You gave me back my life.’”

Debra O'Dell and Alyssa Rice, her physical therapist at Tidelands Health.

Without rehab prior to surgery, O’Dell would have been at greater risk for falls post-surgery “because of weakness and not being able to achieve as much extension with standing,” Rice adds.
“Especially for a patient like Debra, who was lacking a significant amount of range of motion, it helped her to restore almost all of this prior to surgery,” Rice says. “As a result, she was not lacking this movement as she was recovering.”

Getting back to normal

Now that O’Dell is mobile again, she’s most looking forward to spending time with her two grandsons, traveling and gardening. She plans to take a trip with her husband, Ken, to visit her daughter Lori and grandson in St. Augustine. Her other daughter Jennifer and another grandson live nearby.
“We do a lot with our grandsons,” she says. “I’m so grateful that I’m able to walk and drive again. I have to say Dr. Rowley and his staff were wonderful. I really appreciate them, and my physical therapist was great, too.”

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