Carol Zinn, Outpatient Knee Replacement Patient

Carol Zinn - West Vestaburg, MI

"You're up and walking before you leave… pain was really not an issue."

Outpatient Knee Replacement Got Her Healing as Fast as Possible

As a pharmacy technician, Carol Zinn of Vestaburg knows a lot about treating medical conditions. She has spent over 30 years in the profession, gaining a keen understanding of what’s involved in healing.

During this time, she and her husband raised two children, now 26 and 23 years old. When her daughter and son were younger, however, she began having troubles with a health issue of her own.

Zinn believes the problem may have actually originated earlier, when she was 16 years old and still in high school. She was a very active student, getting involved with different activities like horseback riding. At that young age, she sustained an injury to her knee, perhaps from banging it against a barrel as she rode.

The first injury was mended with surgery, which left a wraparound scar on Zinn's knee. It healed but left behind a significant amount of scar tissue. This didn't cause any trouble at the time but cropped up years later when Zinn and her husband had little kids. "I found myself on my knees a lot," she said, as any parent would understand well.

She tried all the therapies that her doctors at the time recommended, such as steroid injections and viscosupplementation, but without success. At this point, Zinn was convinced that a knee replacement was her only option for managing the pain and stiffness.

As she waited, the loss of function in Zinn's injured knee began taking a toll on her other joints. She began putting most of her weight onto her healthier knee or carrying it in her hips. Eventually, the healthy knee began bothering her as well. "I could hardly walk," she said. "I couldn't even go to the grocery store."

Zinn's knee problems started creating trouble for her at work as well. She would normally spend a lot of time standing at a counter during the day but ended up sitting on a stool all the time instead. Fortunately, her job doesn't involve too much walking, otherwise things could have been more complicated. "I didn't even want to go to the restroom because I didn't want to hobble across the floor," she said. "It was just wearing me down."

Finally, Zinn got the okay from Orthopedic Surgeon John Murphy, D.O., at MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland to have the knee replacement procedure done. Dr. Murphy took some X-ray images of Zinn's knee and found that her cartilage was so worn down that her knee was bone on bone. He decided that Zinn was a good candidate for a new outpatient knee replacement procedure being offered through MidMichigan Health.

Compared to a typical knee replacement, this outpatient technique usually involves less pain following surgery and a shorter recovery time. It also doesn't require any overnight stays like a typical knee replacement would.

Eager to get her healing underway, Zinn scheduled her surgery for August 2017. Before the day of the surgery, Zinn went into Great Lakes Bay Surgery & Endoscopy Center, where the surgery would be performed, to meet with her entire surgical team – the surgeon, technicians, nurses and anesthesiologists. The team went over all the details of the surgery with her so she knew ahead of time what to expect. They also discussed each of the medications she would be prescribed and explained everything she would need to do for aftercare and pain management. "I had great information," Zinn said. "By the time I had the surgery I was very confident."

On the day of the surgery, everything went smoothly. Zinn was awake and back on her feet shortly after the surgery finished. "You're up and walking before you leave," she said. The team wanted to make sure she was able to walk before letting her go home. Though she wasn't able to drive herself home, she was able to move around the house that same day.

"It was a really great experience," Zinn said. Dr. Murphy called her that evening to check on how she was doing. "I was shocked by that," she said, feeling grateful that her doctor cared enough to take the time to check on her well-being. Other members of the surgical team called the next day to make sure she was recovering well and that her pain was under control.

In fact, Zinn was doing remarkably well pain-wise. "Pain was really not an issue," she said. During the surgery, a block of pain medication was placed in her knee, which dissolved over the following two to three days. To help with the inflammation, she used a specialized knee brace the team had given her. This brace was hooked up to an ice pack by a circuit of cold water, which kept her knee cool as it flowed.

Zinn's recovery has been remarkably rapid. After the surgery, she participated in physical therapy to regain the strength and flexibility in her knee. Six weeks after the surgery, she was back at work part-time, initially using a cane to get around. On Sept. 30, her daughter got married and Zinn was able to attend the wedding without the assistance of the cane.

One year after the surgery, Zinn had her final follow up appointment. She is happy to report that everything looks good. "I can't express how much this surgery has improved my life," she said. "I feel 20 years younger." Zinn hopes to have the same surgery done soon on her other knee. She now has first-hand experience in the difference it can make.

Those who would like more information on Dr. Murphy or MidMichigan Health's orthopedic services may visit www.midmichigan.org/bonesandjoints.

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