From the time Mike and Diane Schmalz’s three girls were young, their family was always on the go. Years later, when knee issues threatened to slow Mike and Diane down, they each turned to Phillip Ludkowski, M.D., a board certified orthopedic surgeon on staff at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) to get them back to being active grandparents.
The Schmalz’s eldest daughter, Marla, now 46, visited Dr. Ludkowski in 2012 for injections to relieve pain in her right knee. She took a trip with her husband and children to downtown Chicago and realized she could no longer keep pace walking with them. Marla saw how well her father’s surgery had gone. “I thought I was too young for knee replacement, but I didn’t want to wait 20 years until I was my father’s age to do something about this,” she notes.
In May 2016, Dr. Ludkowski performed a partial knee replacement on Marla’s right knee. She was able to start working from home within days.
Marla is not alone. A 2014 study presented at the annual American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reported knee replacement surgery rates jumped 120 percent over a 10-year period with the largest increase, 188 percent, found in 45- to 64-year-olds.
In 2002, Mike, now 74, saw Dr. Ludkowski for the first time when he twisted his right knee. He learned his tibia was bowed, which resulted in less cartilage on one side of his knee. Dr. Ludkowski performed a procedure to relieve pressure on the knee joint, providing temporary relief.
In January 2016, Dr. Ludkowski performed a total knee replacement on Mike’s right knee with excellent results. After surgery, Mike took up walking when his grandkids gave him a Fitbit. He just earned the Fitbit “India” badge for walking 1,997 miles—the same distance as a walk across India. “I could never have done that before surgery,” he says.
Diane, now 73, had pain and limited cartilage in her left knee as early as 2001. Dr. Ludkowski had been relieving Diane’s pain for years with regular cortisone shots until they were no longer effective and surgery became her only option.
“The goal is always to improve joint function and reduce pain,” Dr. Ludkowski says. “Surgery is the option of last resort for most people with knee or hip pain, but it is the right option for people who have tried more conservative treatments and still have significant pain or can’t be as active as they want to be.”
In March 2017, Dr. Ludkowski performed a total joint replacement on Diane’s left knee. Within two days, she was home, followed by home healthcare and physical therapy. For Diane, being able to have care in her own home was important.
“I like to be in my own bed, in my own environment,” she adds. “I think that was a psychological motivator for me to recover more quickly.”
Now, with three family members having undergone knee replacement at NCH, the Schmalzes are back to being active.