Everyone has a breaking point – a moment in time when they cannot continue doing what they’re doing. Vickie Bradley’s breaking point came when she could no longer help care for her grandkids. That’s when knew it was time to have a long-overdue knee replacement.
Vickie was first told she needed a knee replacement more than seven years prior. “I was too busy to have it done,” she said. “I was still teaching and didn’t want to take the time for the surgery and recovery.” Vickie was a teacher at Riddle Elementary School in Mattoon.
She was managing the pain with the use of anti-inflammatory medication. As the pain was worsened, however, she made an appointment with SBL Orthopedic Surgeon Louis Mendella, DO. “By then, it was the middle of the pandemic, and I had plans to take care of my son’s baby in Indianapolis so he didn’t have to go into daycare. Dr. Mendella gave me a couple of cortisone injections, and that bought me some time so I could help my family for a couple of months.
Vickie points to years of tumbling in her youth and 60 years of abuse on her joints for the deterioration. A fall in the school parking lot and a run-in with her large dog added to her distress. By the time she sought help, her leg was bowed, due to there being no cartilage or meniscus in her right knee, and it was horribly painful to walk.
“I just don’t sit down. I retired five years ago after a co-worker passed away unexpectedly. It was a reminder that we only have so much time on this Earth – the clock’s ticking -- and there were a lot of things I still wanted to do. I left work that year so I could be with my grandkids,” Vickie said.
Yet, every year since her retirement, the pain in Vickie’s knee grew worse. “I got to the point that I couldn’t take care of my grandkids or walk my three dogs. It just broke my heart,” she recalled.
Vickie is quick to sing the praises of Dr. Mendella. “He’s great. He knew I needed to have this operation, but I kept putting it off to take care of the grandkids, help my parents, bring in my garden and can tomatoes and salsa. There was always something or someone who needed me. He was very flexible and accommodating and continued to tell me that I’d know when it’s time for the procedure.”
Vickie had the total knee replacement in September— her first operation in more than 30 years. “I was a bit scared not fully knowing what to expect, but I had the most calming pre-op nurse who took the time to talk with me and to introduce to me the operating room staff. It made me feel so much better,” she explained.
Vickie’s family members became her caretakers, supporting her throughout her recovery. Her daughter-in-law, a physical therapist in Indianapolis, made the two-hour trip to Mattoon to check on her progress. Vickie completed eight weeks of physical therapy and credits her therapist for pushing her to improve.
In hindsight, Vickie regrets delaying the knee replacement. “I should have done this so much sooner. I just kept finding one reason after another not to proceed until the pain became unbearable,” she said.
“Dr. Mendella told me that I would have pain during recovery, but when I saw him for my two-week check-up and asked him about when to expect the pain, he said I had already had all the pain I would have,” Vickie quipped. “I guess I was just living with so much pain that the discomfort associated with surgery wasn’t that bad.” She anticipates a knee replacement operation on her left knee, but she knows that it is a few years down the road. “I’ll know when it’s time,” she said.
With her husband, Bert, retiring in December, Vickie looks forward to traveling while they both are healthy. The pair will, of course, be attending their grandchildren’s school and sports events, as well!
For more information on orthopedics or to make an appointment with Dr. Mendella or any of the SBL orthopedic surgeons, call Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at 217 238-3435, or the SBL Bonutti Clinic at 217 342-3400.