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Lisa Phillipson will tell you that her story is not exceptional, but that’s exactly why she wants to share it. At 56 years old, the Southern Illinois resident is not much different than a lot of women her age who find themselves suffering from arthritis in their knees and are looking for relief.
Full of life and enjoying nothing more than being around people, Phillipson found herself hanging back and not living the life she treasured. But she wasn’t ready to give up the things she loved most simply because of her knee pain.
“About two years ago, I was going to the zoo, and I was 54 years old and had to rent a scooter because it hurt to walk from the parking lot,” she says. “In August of 2016, I was going to a bachelorette party for a friend’s daughter at my favorite place on the planet — Busch Stadium. I’m an over-the-top Cardinals fan, but the party was up high, and I was miserable.”
Events like this led Phillipson, who has been director of community relations and education for Hospice of Southern Illinois for 15 years, to ask a co-worker about her own knee replacement surgery. The colleague referred her to Paul Lux, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.
“I called Dr. Lux’s office, and they asked if I could come in the next day because they just had a cancellation,” she says. “I have a friend who calls these moments ‘God’s winks,’ and I knew it was a positive sign. I went the next day and scheduled my first knee replacement for Nov. 16, 2016."
Dr. Lux, who has been in practice for almost 30 years, says 99 percent of his new patients are referred by a former patient.
“People with arthritis ask friends and members of their church or co-workers, ‘Who did your joint replacement?’” he says. “People come to me because they’ve tried everything, such as shots, medications and therapy. When all conservative measures fail, then we start talking about a knee replacement, which is actually not a new knee, but a new surface on your knee.
“People come to me for different reasons, but it usually comes down to the straw that broke the camel’s back, something they can’t do any longer like golf, travel or go to a Cardinals game. There’s always something that makes the patient say, ‘I am not going to go through this anymore.’
“Knee replacements are elective, so ultimately it becomes the patient’s decision because they want better quality of life,” Dr. Lux adds.
Dr. Lux and his colleague, Jeffrey Martin, MD, perform all of their total joint replacement surgeries at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. They are part of a team of Washington University orthopedic surgeons that also includes John Clohisy, MD, chief of service; Ryan Nunley, MD; and Rick Wright, MD, who perform knee and hip replacements at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
“Lisa was a typical patient with osteoarthritis of both knees. The cause is multifactorial but really genetic; both her knees simply wore out,” Dr. Lux says. “The average age for patients seeking knee replacements today is 55 years old, where 30 years ago it was 72. People are more active, and the longevity of a knee replacement has greatly improved.”
Phillipson’s first surgery in November 2016 was on her right knee. The knee replacement operation lasted approximately 45 minutes, and she was on the road to recovery and starting physical therapy the next day.
“I was nervous, but I was in and out of the hospital, and I had exceptional care,” she says. “I did everything I was told to do, including pain medications and regular physical therapy. I was back to work in four to five weeks.”
Although Dr. Lux uses cementless technology and the procedure he does is referred to as minimally invasive because he does not cut the muscle, he reminds patients it is still a big operation and they will have to work hard or they will not be happy with the results.
Based on a successful first operation, Phillipson decided to have her second knee replacement surgery on Feb. 5, 2018, at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital with Dr. Lux.
With this surgery, Phillipson first attended a joint replacement class. The classes, taught by nurse coordinators, are for hip and knee replacement patients and their joint replacement coaches (friends or family members who help care for patients).
“I didn’t think I’d need the class because I had the surgery before, but I learned a lot,” she says. “One thing that also impressed me was telling my anesthesiologist that after my first surgery I felt so sleepy. I asked him if there was any way to make adjustments and he said ‘yes’. I appreciated him listening and making changes, so I didn’t feel as tired after the second surgery.
“I had great experiences. The nurses and everyone working there really care about you. I still call one of my nurses, Aubrey, during Nurses’ Week because we connected. I also sent emails to the presidents at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital telling them my care was great, and they both responded. It’s a really personal experience to be in the hospital, and they all understand,” she says.
Dr. Lux says Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital is an ideal location for joint replacement because it is a compact, convenient hospital for patients with a specially-trained team of clinicians focused on the thousands of hip and knee replacement patients they see every year.
After two successful knee replacement surgeries, Phillipson is grateful. She’s back at Busch Stadium, hanging out with loved ones and she’s “wearing fun shoes for the first time in 10 years.”
“After my first surgery, I brought Dr. Lux a thank you note and told him, ‘You have a gift. You give people their life back,’” she says. “My mom died when I was young, and I work in hospice care, so I realize this life is not a dress rehearsal. My story is not exciting, but I think it’s very real."
Barnes-Jewish, along with our Washington University orthopedic physician partners, have designed a patient guide to prepare you on what to expect before, during and after your joint replacement. To download, visit our Joint Replacement Patient Journey Guide.
If you or a loved one is interested in taking the first step to living a healthier lifestyle with a new hip or knee, please call 314-514-3500 or request an appointment online.
Physicians who have patients that could benefit from a hip or knee replacement can fax patient demographics to 314-878-7678 or call 314-514-3500. A Washington University School of Medicine referral coordinator will contact the physician regarding next steps.