Lincoln Resident Feels ‘Great’ Following Knee-Replacement Surgery

Gretchen Plotner

Two years ago, Gretchen Plotner was visiting her son in Florida when her left knee started going out.

“It was becoming difficult to even walk,” said the 77-year-old Lincoln resident. “I knew I needed to get home and see my doctor.”

She and her husband, Les, came home early and made an appointment with Rodney Herrin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the Orthopedic Center of Illinois. X-rays revealed there was only a small amount of cartilage remaining in her left knee. To improve her strength and mobility, Gretchen started physical therapy with the Rehab Services team at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

The next year, however, her right knee started acting up. “It was in the same shape as my other one so I knew I needed to have surgery,” she said. “The doctor said if the cartilage wears out on the inside of the leg, I would become bowlegged. I didn’t want that.”

Gretchen underwent a right-knee replacement. She spent three days in the hospital recovering before going home.

“I felt so blessed I could have the surgery at my hometown hospital,” she said. “The staff knew exactly what I needed before I even did.”

As a knee-replacement patient, Gretchen received care through the hospital’s joint replacement program, now Memorial JointWorks. Recently introduced at ALMH, Memorial JointWorks was developed and introduced at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield nearly 10 years ago. The program is designed to build a partnership between hip- and knee-replacement patients and their healthcare team. Patients and their families attend an education class to learn exactly what to expect before, during and after their surgical procedure. With evidence-based plans of care and a personalized, aggressive therapy approach, the multidisciplinary JointWorks team helps patients reach their goals of decreased pain, maximized function and mobility, and an overall improvement in quality of life.

“After surgery, Gretchen started therapy right away,” said Todd Mourning, PT, DPT, manager of Rehab Services at ALMH. “We start with an evaluation to test the range of motion, strength and to watch how they transfer up and down and in and out of bed. Our goals are to reduce the pain and get the patient out of the walker.”

To increase range of motion, Gretchen’s team had her concentrate on exercises to improve function, regain strength and assist walking and balance. She spent time on the center’s new sitting elliptical, the Octane X-ride, a machine that caters to knee-replacement patients and made possible by the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation.

Patients typically receive treatment two to three times a week for about four weeks. But exercises must continue once the patient is home.

“They own their own recovery,” Mourning said. “They chose to have the surgery and need to maintain that feeling of ownership. We recommend they perform their exercise at home up to four times a week but that does depend on the patient. Ultimately, the sooner they build their strength, the quicker they can get back to daily activities.”

Each year, nearly 1,500 people undergo hip or knee replacement surgery through Memorial JointWorks. Now that it has been incorporated at ALMH, Mourning expects that number to rise.

“I think we’ll reach an ever wider variety of people and really make a difference in Lincoln and Logan County,” he said.

It has certainly made a difference for Gretchen. The retired jury commission clerk can now do everyday activities around the house and town with ease. Eventually she will have her left knee replaced as well. But for now, she’s enjoying life and taking it one step at a time.

“We just have two steps to get into our house,” she said. “After surgery, I went right up with no problems. I was lucky. And I really do feel great. I know the treatment I got had a lot to do with that.”

Gretchen’s story is one of many featured in the 2012 Memorial Health System Annual Report. Visit to read more patient testimonials and highlights from the past year.