Sue Blasi was in one of her favorite places, the golf course, when her left knee gave way in the summer of 2020. The injury was the final straw for the former Jersey operating room nurse Shore University Medical Center, who knew that progressive wear-and-tear arthritis affecting the joint would eventually prevent him from playing his beloved sport and taking long walks with his beloved beagle, Journey.
“My knee was the size of a grapefruit and became too sore to even walk my dog, which is very important to me,” recalled the 62-year-old Sea Girt, New Jersey resident, who spent 15 years in Jersey Shore before changing careers by opening a consulting firm and becoming a spiritual advisor.
But Sue’s 15 years on staff at Jersey Shore, where her father had been a surgeon, provided key insights into treatment options and the expertise available. She called in orthopedic hip and knee surgeon Greg Roehrig, MD, after noninvasive measures such as anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy were not effective.
Partial replacement, total solution
Dr. Roehrig determined that Sue was a candidate for partial knee replacement surgery. A series of specialist X-rays revealed that the knee damage was limited to an area inside the joint, which could be replaced with a metal and plastic component while leaving the healthy part of the knee intact.
“Even though partial knee replacement surgery isn’t as well known as total knee replacement surgery, it’s been around for decades and there’s a lot of research backing up its effectiveness,” says Dr. Roehrig. “We had a great opportunity to save the two-thirds of Sue’s knee that didn’t need replacing and just replace the third that needed it.”
A big advantage of partial or total knee replacements is its minimally invasive approach that only requires a small incision. Sue’s operation in November 2020 lasted around an hour and she went home later that day without any complications such as infection, blood clots or loss of blood.
“It was uncomfortable, but bearable,” she recalls. “And I got out of there using a walker.”
A few days later, Sue was already immersed in a four-week outpatient physiotherapy course, strengthening muscles and restoring full range of motion to her knee. “My biggest concern as an athlete was overdoing it, so even though I could have swing a golf club four weeks after surgery, I put it off,” she explains. “I wanted to give my body the best chance to heal.”
His unwavering approach paid off. Sue can’t even feel the artificial part of her knee joint and was back on the golf course, where she is very competitive in local tournaments, three months after the operation. “I go to the gym, work out, play golf, and happily walk my dog 3 miles at a time,” Sue reports. “I feel like I have no limits.”
Jersey Shore’s hip and knee replacement program sets itself apart by offering orthopedic patients preoperative classes to learn ways to safely control pain and speed recovery, notes Dr. Roehrig.
“For Sue, it was a bit like coming home,” he says. “There was a level of comfort as a former team member, coming back to an environment that she knew so well. But the same environment is available to patients who are not team members, because our team is welcoming, compassionate, diligent and meticulous and does everything the right way.
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