A year ago, Donna Gerling, 54, sought help for severe knee pain that impacted her quality of life. The doctor she saw of her diagnosed her with osteoarthritis in both knees, a common joint problem that causes pain, swelling, and an inability to perform many of her life’s activities. The doctor said that while a total knee replacement – surgery to replace the damaged joint surfaces with metal and medical-grade plastic – might be a good option for her, she wasn’t a candidate yet because she was overweight.
“I was devastated,” Donna said. “I cried a lot.”
Donna said her knee pain was so severe it affected her ability to keep up with her teaching job.
“I remember sitting at my desk at school while planning one of my few out-of-room trips for the day, making sure I did everything I could while I was away, like going to the bathroom, making copies, calling a parent, talking to a teacher, find supplies, ”he said. “All because I didn’t know how many trips I had on me that day.”
Donna knew something had to change, and when the same doctor advised him Joint health program of MU, Donna decided to try it. The Joint health program MU combines group exercises designed for patients with joint pain, dietary counseling provided by a registered dietician, physical therapy, and health behavioral counseling that helps patients achieve their goals for coping with pain, improving function, and opens up treatment options to improve their quality of life. This six-month program is led and supervised by an integrated team of healthcare professionals who work together to help each individual patient, with the option for patients to re-enroll at the end of the six-month period.
After a year, Donna says the Joint Health Program has revolutionized her life.
“It made me make taking care of myself a priority,” she said. “Exercise has become a way of life for me now.”
Donna lost more than 20 pounds during her year on the program, accounting for 10 percent of her starting body weight. But more than that, her knee pain has decreased, her balance, strength and function have improved, and most importantly, she feels like she has taken her life back.
“It has made me so much more confident and able to do the things I want to do and to live the kind of life I love,” she said.
With his new skills, he has a plan in place for continued success. She has made exercise a part of her daily life, often known to take her kayak with her for day trips.
“Now I have up to two hours on my bike and I can really get in and out of the kayak!” she said.
Donna said the best part of JHP was the people, referring to the integrated multidisciplinary care team she worked with throughout the year.
“All the staff I’ve worked with made it a priority to get to know me, not just from a health perspective, but as a person,” he said. “I feel appreciated, cared for and understood”.
She said the team has been incredibly accommodating, especially with her busy life as a teacher and graduate student. While every specialist on the team has provided Donna with valuable tools and skills, she credits JHP health psychologist Dr. Renee Stucky for helping her implement the important changes recommended by the team.
“It keeps me focused on my goals and constantly reminds me to celebrate my success. Dr. Stucky empowered me, “Donna said.” Through her, I learned to love myself and consider myself worthy of all the good things life has to offer.
Donna said she is just getting started and encourages others to consider joining or already participating in JHP not to give up.
“Even when you are tired and it hurts… celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or laugh at yourself. Use the staff and their knowledge to help you achieve your goals. “