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Local doctor becomes the patient - a story of rehab and recovery

Posted March 19, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

This article was written for our sponsor, Hillcrest.

When Dr. Brown's knee started bothering him, he didn't anticipate the journey that lay ahead of him.

Hospitalized on three different occasions, Brown, who preferred not to use his full name, had to get arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical procedure where an arthroscope is inserted at the joint through a small incision to examine any joint damage. After this evaluation, it was determined his knee was infected, and he underwent knee-replacement surgery.

After being discharged from the hospital, Brown, now a patient, had a road of recovery to embark upon and he began looking into different rehabilitation centers. Post-surgical rehab is common for patients looking to regain mobility and function at the surgical site. Rehab is especially important for total-knee-replacement patients in particular, because they need to build strength and flexibility.

"Outpatient physical therapy is typically prescribed after hospital discharge and will usually begin within a week of surgery," states Arthritis Health of TKR patients.

Brown did his research, but finding a rehab facility that worked for him was kind of like Goldilocks searching for the right-sized bed — a game of trial and error.

"After each of those hospitalizations, I went to a variety of different rehab centers. We finally wound up at Hillcrest because they had a longer term bed," Brown explained. Hillcrest Convalescent Center is a Triangle-based rehab facility that specializes in after-hospital rehabilitation.

Brown described the first facility he went to as a "really bad experience" and his second as a pleasant one, however, it ran out of occupancy space and time for him. He called these strokes of bad luck a "blessing in disguise" because it landed him at Hillcrest.

"I was pleasantly surprised when I got there, because it was beautiful, it was warm and it was unexpected. The people were welcoming — it was a great change from what I had received," he said. "The care I got at Hillcrest Raleigh was beyond my expectations."

Brown worked with physical therapists, occupational therapists and nursing assistants to propel his recovery forward. He underwent physical therapy daily and worked with occupational therapists to help strengthen his upper body, to regain function and minimize pain in his healing knee.

He said his team of therapists helped him get stronger. "The physical therapists were superb."

"Before he came to us, he had had a knee replacement and the hardware in his knee got infected. He had to take out that hardware, put in a spacer and couldn't put any weight on his leg for awhile. He was on IV antibiotics for at least six weeks. When he first came to us, he needed a lot of help," said Kristin Brininger, director of rehabilitation at Hillcrest.

Brininger emphasized that it can be hard for patients like Brown, who are used to being completely independent, to rely on someone else to help them do simple tasks like walking.

"He came in pretty dependent and left us using just a walker," Brininger finished.

Brown recognizes that his patient case is unique — he contracted infection in his knee three different times — but said that even so, he expected the recovery to be quicker than it was. He realized true healing takes time and you can't rush your body's process.

"My therapists and nurses reiterated over and over that what I've been through, it will take a long time to recover. I needed to hear that because I'm a Type-A person, and I like to get things done yesterday," Brown admitted.

Hillcrest works closely with many patients like Brown who have had knee, hip or orthopedic surgery, but also sees patients for rehabilitation on a wide range of diagnosis such as stroke, cancer surgery, injury from accidents, as well as recuperation after prolonged illness.

Brown said when it comes to rehabilitation and recovery, "It's not just the care — it's the atmosphere."

This article was written for our sponsor, Hillcrest.

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