Peggy Medlin, a 67-year-old grandmother, was terrified of having surgery to fix the arthritis in her knee. She finally settled on a knee replacement after trying multiple nonsurgical treatments that offered no relief.

News, Your Health | one year ago

Active Grandmother Is Back on Her Feet Three Weeks After Knee Replacement

If you’ve ever felt anxious about having a joint replacement, you’re not alone. Peggy Medlin, a 68-year-old grandmother, was terrified of having surgery to fix the arthritis in her knee. She finally settled on a knee replacement after trying multiple nonsurgical treatments that offered no relief. Learn how the staff at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute gave Medlin the personalized, compassionate care she needed to get her back on her feet in just a few weeks.

At age 68, Peggy Medlin was in good health. She was an active grandmother who often took her three grandchildren to the pool. One day, while doing some cleaning at home, she heard something pop in her knee.

With no history of joint issues, Medlin thought that she could have pulled a muscle. But as her knee pain gradually worsened, she decided to see a specialist.

In January 2021, Medlin consulted Kevin Weiss, D.O., an orthopedic surgeon at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute who specializes in hip and knee replacement surgery. She was shocked when Weiss diagnosed her with arthritis, especially since she had only experienced joint pain for a short time. “Pain is so variable – everyone experiences it differently,” he noted.

Conservative approach to treatment

Medlin saw Weiss three times before she decided to have surgery. For months, she tried nonsurgical treatments, including anti-inflammatory medications and joint injections. But none of these methods helped ease her pain.

“Dr. Weiss was very understanding about my concerns regarding surgery,” she said. “At the time of my diagnosis, my mother had just been released from the hospital and needed my care. Plus, I was scared to death of having surgery. I didn’t want to do it.”

Weiss starts treating most patients with conservative treatments, with the goal of managing symptoms without surgery. “However, it got to the point with Peggy that we needed a more definitive treatment,” he explained. “We made sure she understood all her options and was able to make her own decision about surgery.”

He finds that many patients do better when they go through and understand the nonsurgical possibilities first. “Mental readiness is just as important as physical readiness when it comes to surgery.”

Personalized surgery prep

Medlin spent two months preparing for her procedure under Weiss’ guidance. “He was absolutely fantastic. He explained everything to me, including showing me my X-rays and describing my procedure in detail.”

He also gave her some exercises to do ahead of time, including walking around the pool and peddling a stationary bike. “He assured me that these activities wouldn’t make my knee worse,” Medlin noted. “The exercises not only helped me physically but also helped me mentally prepare for the procedure.”

On her last preop visit, just two weeks before surgery, Weiss reassured Medlin that he would be with her every step of the way to help put her mind at ease.

Compassionate, efficient surgical care   

Weiss performed Medlin’s knee replacement in September 2021. During the procedure, he resurfaced her knee joint. He got rid of the damaged ends of the bones, where the knee joint is located. And he put metal and plastic parts on the ends of the bones to give the knee a smooth surface for movement. This process was used to remove the bone-on-bone arthritis in her knee.

Medlin’s compassionate nursing team made a deep impression on her. “From the moment I arrived at the hospital, the friendly nurses bent over backwards to take care of me. They explained everything that was happening to help me prepare. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long in the waiting room before my procedure.”

“The nurse in my recovery room was an absolute angel,” she continued. “She did everything she could to help me get ready to go home as soon as possible. She acted like she knew me my whole life. She had an exceptional bedside manner.”

Medlin was amazed by how quickly and smoothly things went the day of her surgery. In fact, she arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. and was back home by 4:30 p.m.

Seamless, holistic care

The entire staff at Atrium Health is focused on personalized care – including the surgeons, office assistants, physician assistants and surgical schedulers. “Everyone who’s involved in making the surgery happen and following up with the patient works together to deliver seamless, personalized care,” Weiss explained.

“Our surgical team is with the patient throughout their entire journey, from the day we first meet them until they complete their recovery,” said Weiss. “Throughout the process, we work with them to ensure they’re hitting their milestones while preventing any setbacks.”

Through his surgical practice, Weiss has seen how important it is to tailor each patient’s treatment to meet their individual needs. His treatment plans take into account the technical aspects of the procedure, how the physical therapy will be done, where the patient will go after surgery and who will care for them during recovery.

“When I perform a total joint replacement I tailor the surgery to the individual,” said Weiss. “Not every knee joint is the same and so my surgical technique is patient specific.”  

Speedy, supportive recovery

Medlin’s recovery only took about three weeks. Although she used a walker for a little while, her husband noticed she was going to the kitchen without a walker within the first week.

Medlin did physical therapy for a few weeks. She ended her in-home therapy early since she was bending her knee well on her own.

How did Weiss and his team support Peggy’s recovery? “The entire staff was so encouraging, including the nurses and physician assistants,” she explained. “Dr. Weiss told me exactly what to do and how to do it. And he told me how I would feel. He was always right. He told me that therapy was going to be hard but worth it. And it was.”

Return to activities and minimal scarring

Weiss’ goal was to get rid of Medlin’s pain from arthritis and allow her to return to her daily activities without discomfort.

How did she do? She’s been pleasantly surprised with her good results following surgery. “Now that the pain’s gone, I can get on with my life and do the things I want to do. Before surgery, I couldn’t go grocery shopping without having constant pain. Plus, I would wake up at night in pain.”

“I have three grandsons to keep up with – ages 16, 14 and 8,” Medlin continued. “They’re very active and energetic. Before the surgery, it was really hard to attend their sports competitions. Now I can go and enjoy them without pain.”

Medlin does notice some issues with her knee if she sits for a long period of time. So it helps for her to stay active throughout the day.

Was the surgery worth it? “It was worth every bit of it,” she said. “Thankfully Dr. Weiss put my fears away. Even my scar’s not that bad. He told me to get scar cream to put on it and that really helped.”

Tips for other patients

“Many people ask about when they should see an orthopedic surgeon, wondering if it’s too soon,” explained Weiss. “The truth is there’s never a wrong time to see one. Just because you’re seeing a surgeon doesn’t mean you’ll end up having surgery. It’s helpful to get all the information and explore your options.”

Medlin recommends Weiss and his surgical team to her friends. “I have a friend whose husband had knee replacement surgery shortly after I did,” she said. “But his recovery was a lot more difficult. In fact, he’s still in therapy many months later. My friend recently said, ‘My knees are bothering me – I’m going to see your doctor!’”

Medlin agreed, “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

Learn more about the personalized orthopedic and sports medicine care available at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute.