As a 911 dispatcher, Altheia Adusei was use to staying calm under pressure. She used those same skills to deal with her own health and subsequent surgery.

Sentara OrthoJoint helps dispatcher who's use to helping others

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Altheia Adusei believes, “You have to want to get better. You have to want to heal. You have to want to regain the mobility that you lost.”

This strong and determined woman knows her positive attitude had a lot to do with her recuperation from recent knee surgery at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. She also credits the staff at Sentara, who partnered with her every step of the way in her journey back to mobility.

Altheia’s knee problems began six years before her surgery when she broke her right leg. To compensate for that injury, she naturally began to rely more heavily on her left leg. In Altheia’s case, her body overcompensated and caused a severe injury to her other knee. Though an active person all her life, her knee injury forced a change in her activities. Over time, the pain and loss of mobility caused Altheia to completely alter her much-loved routine.

Before her knee injury, Altheia’s life was full and rewarding. She loved her job as a dispatcher for the Prince William County police and fire departments. Even more than her job, she loved her role as an active grandmother. In the past few years, Altheia had begun placing a tremendous priority on her health. Through a routine that included regular trips to the gym and walking five miles a day, she lost 70 pounds.

When she started to have knee pain, she didn’t stop moving; she simply changed activities. She switched to water aerobics to take the pressure off her knee while still getting a good workout. Though she enjoyed water aerobics, she missed her daily walks and visits to the gym.

During this time, Altheia and her doctor tried small, non-invasive procedures in an attempt to return her to the activities and life she enjoyed before her injury.  Unfortunately, the procedures Altheia and her doctor attempted didn’t work; the relief they provided was minor and only temporary, so her doctor referred her to Dr. Wylie Lowery, an orthopedic surgeon at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. Dr. Lowery’s compassionate drive to empower patients proved to Altheia that he was the right doctor for her.

“The decision to have knee replacement surgery is a personal one that the patient needs to make,” said Dr. Lowery. “As a surgeon, my job is to present the options and explain each one thoroughly. In that process, I help my patients figure out what kind of lifestyle they want to have going forward. That choice of lifestyle, and the mobility needed to achieve that lifestyle, empowers patients to make the choice that is best for them.”

After talking with Dr. Lowery, Altheia decided it was time to have surgery. She was ready to get back the lifestyle she was missing.   Before her surgery, Altheia used Sentara’s patient and caregiver education program to educate herself so that she knew what to expect during the surgery and her recovery process.
 
“The prep for the surgery was great,” Altheia said. “It was easy to understand and very comprehensive. One week before my surgery, I met with the Sentara team, and that meeting was so helpful for my family and me.”

On the morning of her surgery, Altheia arrived at the Sentara OrthoJoint Center®. An hour later, the medical team began to her prep. By midday, the surgery was finished, and Altheia was resting in her private room. As soon as she woke up, her nurses asked if she would like to sit in a chair. While this may sound surprising, Altheia knew from the Sentara education program that moving as soon as possible after knee replacement surgery is a high priority. When done safely and under the guidance of a professional medical team, this early movement helps build range of motion and decrease recovery time.

The day after her surgery, Altheia started physical therapy. Three days after the surgery, she could walk up and down the stairs; Altheia had conquered her first recovery hurdle, and she was well on her way to regaining the activity level she had before her injury.

“The pre-education work we do with patients and caregivers helps to shorten hospital stays and helps patients heal more quickly,” said Dr. Lowery. “Our surgical techniques, as well as our innovative medications, drastically decrease both bleeding and pain after the surgery. This makes it easier for patients to start moving immediately after surgery and quickly progress through a physical therapy program.”
 
“The incisions we make at the surgical site are much smaller now than they used to be,” Dr. Lowery added. “This means that the wound left after the procedure is so small that we’ve virtually done away with any need for wound care. The wound no longer limits a patient’s ability to start physical therapy right away.”

Altheia worked hard at physical therapy, and it paid off. In just a few short months after surgery, the extent of her recovery was astonishing.

“I couldn’t believe it myself,” she said. “I was back up to about 60% - 70% of my previous activity level and I wasn’t taking any pain medication. I was just so happy to feel good.”

Reflecting on her surgery, Altheia views her experience as the textbook definition of teamwork.

“I couldn’t have asked for better care,” said Altheia. “The entire staff at Sentara is just amazing. I’m especially grateful to the nurses. They were so encouraging. It also takes a lot of willpower to get through something like knee replacement surgery. Luckily, I’ve got plenty of that!”