Mattoon man gets life back quickly after knee-replacement surgery

"I had no life. I was depressed and angry."

That was Donald Kercheval's outlook in 2015. The 71-year-old Mattoon resident (pictured left) had two bad knees and could only sit or face excruciating pain if he tried to move.

"My knees were bone on bone. I couldn't walk the dog, go to the store with my wife, and I had to skip events at my church," Kercheval said.

"I tried to lose weight, but I couldn't exercise because of my knees."

It was time for knee replacement surgery. He consulted with Erick Kawakita, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Carle.

Dr. Kawakita uses a newer technique when performing knee-replacement surgery.

"We have to move the kneecap aside so we can replace the knee joint with an artificial plastic and metal structure," Dr. Kawakita said. "When I make my cut, I go in underneath the muscle instead of cutting through the muscle to move the kneecap.

"This procedure is less painful and hopefully allows the patient to recover a little faster.”

The patient leaves the hospital after two days and begins physical therapy right away. In many cases the patient doesn't need a walker after seven to 10 days and doesn't need a cane seven to 10 days after that.

Dr. Kawakita (pictured left) warns knee-replacement candidates that the new joint does not work miracles.

"We cannot give you 21-year-old knees no matter how successful the surgery," he said.

"While the patient won't run marathons, they will be able to hike, bike, and do many activities without pain."

Kercheval will take it.

"I can go shopping with my wife, take walks in the country or in parks, and I can walk up the steps at my church," he said.

"Now, I can exercise. I can't run, but I can walk and bike. I can't lift free weights, but I can use the machines."

Kercheval encourages others who have knee pain to talk to their doctor about knee-replacement surgery.

"I wanted to be a whole person again, and after knee surgery I am,” he said.