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All-inclusive joint replacement care

For nearly 16 years, Karen Dendy has had a strong and trusted friend by her side for support. The 68-year-old Bismarck resident can remember when Lester was introduced to her when she lived in Grand Forks, following the flood in 1997.

“Both my mother and father had arthritis, so it wasn’t surprising when I began experiencing a lot of hip and knee pain,” Karen says. “During the flood, I spent a lot of time sandbagging, which triggered even more pain.”

Time for a change

Combined with her job as a third-grade teacher, it wasn’t long before her hip and knee pain was impacting her quality of life. After receiving an official diagnosis of severe osteoarthritis in her hips and knees, it was time to get help, and Karen knew she needed surgery.

She tackled her hips first and had a total hip replacement on both sides. And that is when Lester appeared, providing much-needed support after her surgeries.

Before Karen brought him into her classroom, Lester had remained nameless. This was because Lester was not a person, but a cane.

“The first day I walked into my classroom with my cane, my kids were so concerned,” she says. “I had to think quickly to lighten the mood, so I named him Lester. The kids immediately fell in love with him.”

Her students quickly became accustomed to seeing Lester at Karen’s side and made him the class mascot. While she made light of the situation, the pain and discomfort Karen felt was still serious.

“While my hips were better, I still had a lot of pain in my knees,” she says. “So Lester was essential to help me get through the day as pain-free as possible.”

A new kind of care

And Lester provided years of support before Karen finally decided to have knee replacement surgery -- even through a move from Grand Forks to Bismarck to be closer to her family.

Her first surgery, performed by Dr. David O’Regan, orthopedic surgeon at Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck, happened in July 2013. Sanford was a Blue Distinction Center for knee and hip replacements with quality and value designations at that time.

But before Karen’s second knee replacement surgery in October 2013, Sanford raised its already high standard of care provided to patients. The Joint Replacement Center opened and was the first program of its kind in the region.

The center is a dedicated unit at Sanford Medical Center with private rooms, tailored to meet the specific needs of knee and hip joint replacement patients.

“Our Joint Replacement Center has numerous benefits to our patients and for our staff,” says Dr. O’Regan. “Our patients are more satisfied in the personalized plan of care they receive, and our team works in a more efficient manner.”

Patients at the Joint Replacement Center follow a wellness model, which means they wear normal clothes instead of hospital gowns and get as active as possible during their stay. They also are given a daily newsletter and individualized goal sheets to help provide guidance through every step of recovery.

Patients can feel confident in the care they receive from the nurses, who all have specialized training in hip and knee replacements.

Another unique feature is an orthopedic nurse navigator, who guides patients through their joint replacement journey. The nurse navigator provides pre-operative education classes and also provides follow-up visits and care after patients are discharged.

“Our nurse navigator is essential to providing an exceptional level of care,” Dr. O’Regan says. “She facilitates relationships between physicians and patients and is always there to answer any questions that may arise.”

Strength in numbers

Another change Karen noticed was the inclusive, group-oriented therapy offered right in the unit.

“There was a definite difference from my previous surgeries,” she says. “I was up and moving and exercising with a group of patients just like me. I truly felt like I was a part of a team, and the camaraderie was great. We were there to support and motivate each other.”

That support is one reason why our knee replacement patients are spending less time in the hospital. Before opening the center, the average length of stay for a knee replacement was 3.48 days. Now the number has decreased to 2.2 days.

“Patients say they push harder and find therapy easier with added support,” says Dr. O’Regan. “A typical schedule consists of me performing surgery on Wednesday morning, and our patients are ready to go home Friday afternoon.”

However, before patients are discharged, a special “graduation” ceremony is held. Patients who have been together during recovery and therapy gather together with the medical team for one last meal.

“This was so very special to me,” Karen says. “Our caregivers also were able to attend, so my husband was able to share in this moment.”

A better life

Now that Karen is home, Lester still has a special place in her heart, but he’s not leaned on for support nearly as often as before.

“In many ways, Lester has been my best friend,” Karen says with a laugh. “He’s been through a lot, and now it’s time for him to rest.”

Karen now has more freedom to move and enjoy her life with family and friends and is certain the Joint Replacement Center helped her return to a better quality life as quickly as possible.

“I didn’t feel like a stranger in a strange place at Sanford,” she says. “Every single nurse, physician and therapist was so thoughtful and caring. I felt so special, so cradled and have never experienced such patient-centered care.”

Call (701) 323-8920 to schedule an appointment or more information about our joint replacement specialists or the center.

Posted Date: May 2014