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Lisa Luskey-Lestrud, 47, was no stranger to living with chronic pain. At just 15, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. While some may have given up on keeping an active lifestyle, Lisa continued doing the things she loved, which included playing softball on her high school team.
Lisa had arthroscopic surgery performed twice on her left knee with hopes of alleviating some of the pain caused by the rheumatoid arthritis and old softball injuries, but the procedures were effective for only a short period of time; eventually, the pain returned with a vengeance.
Fast forward 30 years, and Lisa would say that softball finally caught up to her.
Lisa decided to get a second opinion and made an appointment with Brittni Lair, a physician assistant in Orthopedics at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Before committing to total joint replacement surgery, Brittni and Lisa agreed it would be best to first try all available conservative options.
Over a period of six months, Lisa got a cortisone injection and a series of hyaluronic acid injections, and completed a round of therapy at a nearby rehabilitation facility in Iowa. “By the end of the six months, I just couldn’t take it anymore,” says Lisa. “I was in so much pain, my entire leg was swollen and my knee kept giving out on me. I was afraid to leave the house for fear I would fall and that I wouldn’t be able to get back up again.”
Prepping for total joint surgery
Lisa’s surgery was scheduled for June 14 with orthopedic surgeon Michael Eckstrom, M.D., and Lair as his assistant. Prior to surgery, Lisa attended the total joints education class at the medical center offered by a multidisciplinary team comprised of registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and social workers. The class, which is a prerequisite for all patients scheduled for total joint surgery, provided Lisa with a comprehensive overview on what to expect prior to surgery, and in the hours, days and weeks following surgery.
Lisa says that the class team stresses the importance of strengthening muscles around the joints prior to surgery and provides patients with a list of exercises to do at home. “I did these exercises religiously with hopes that it might speed up my recovery,” says Lisa.
According to Lisa's health care team, surgery went extremely well, and she spent the next two days recovering in the hospital. “They had me bending my knee an hour after I was out of recovery, and walking with a walker just a few hours later,” says Lisa. “I couldn’t believe how well my body responded after having major surgery. I am so glad I took the time to do the exercises before my surgery to help prepare my body for recovery.”
Doing the things she loves again
During her first week home, she used a cold therapy machine to help keep the swelling and bruising down, took a minimal amount of pain medication, and had her husband, son and puppy to assist her with exercises and drive her to and from her therapy sessions. Within a week of the surgery, Lisa was off all pain medications and driving herself to those appointments.
“Lisa was far too young to be debilitated by chronic joint pain,” says Brittni. “She has so much to live for, and I am so happy that she’s able to enjoy doing the things she loves most.”
Since having surgery, Lisa is back to work at the casino and post office. She was also able to participate in her friend’s annual triathlon games of horseshoes, beanbags and ladder golf with no pain, and attend the Renaissance Festival this fall. “I was most excited about getting back on the bike with my husband,” says Lisa. “It had been years since we were able to take a long road trip together with the motorcycle, and I missed spending that time with him.” Lisa and her husband put on over 700 miles as they made their way through Wisconsin and home again.
Lisa credits Dr. Eckstrom, Brittni and her entire team for her seamless recovery. “I have had a lot of surgeries in my life, but I have never been taken care of by such a compassionate team as I was this past summer,” says Lisa.