6/17/19

Joint replacements give Champaign man his life back

Close to 40 years ago, Michael Schuler started having knee problems. Doctors offered surgery, but neither the success rate nor the likely best outcome of such a procedure back then was anything like it is with today’s technology. Because Schuler felt his knees were still strong with a limited range of motion, he opted to avoid going under the knife.

But as time went on, the stiffness and pain in Schuler’s knees increased, and his range of motion declined. As a carpenter, Schuler is on his feet all day, but it wasn’t until his hips started hurting too that he decided to take action.

“I tried to accommodate my knee problems by reducing my activity level in the things I enjoy doing – practicing karate, dancing and riding a bike. Like others who have a sports and martial arts background, I was taught to persevere no matter what,” Schuler said. “Eventually, one of my hips became more painful than my knees, so much so that it made work and daily routines almost impossible in spite of my many workarounds.”

By the time Schuler contacted Michael Moran, MD, he had become very serious about seeking help.

“At our first appointment, he asked me how I had made it to his office. I didn't understand the question until he explained why he had asked,” Schuler said. “My x-rays were worse than 95 percent of the people he sees.”

Schuler did his homework before choosing Dr. Moran.

“I looked into surgeons’ track records and talked to friends and acquaintances who had undergone joint replacements,” Schuler said. “Along the way, I also learned Dr. Moran invented some of the specialized tools he uses for his minimally invasive methods.”

Of all the joint-replacement surgeries Dr. Moran performs, half of them are outpatient.

Outpatient total hip or knee replacements can be performed on patients who:

  • Are without severe medical problems
  • Are without severe difficulties with other joints
  • Are without severe problems with balance
  • Have good home support

“The recovery is fast, and our management at Carle has made outpatient surgery safe. The anesthesiologists provide anesthesia in a manner that makes patients ready to walk immediately after surgery without nausea or dizziness,” Dr. Moran said. “We have a surgical team, perioperative nursing staff, physical therapists and others who all work together to make outpatient joint replacement surgery possible. Also, our office nursing staff keeps in contact with patients before and after surgery to be sure all their needs are met.”

In Schuler’s case, both his hip and knee problems were more complex, so he needed to stay overnight in the hospital.

“The most important surgical principle is to maintain the muscle connections as much as possible. If you maintain them around the hip and knee, the joint is going to work, and it’s going to work on the same day as the surgery,” Dr. Moran said.

Now nine months since the initial surgery, Schuler didn’t realize until after how the lack of mobility affected his mental health.

“Until I lost my physical abilities, I didn’t realize how much my sense of worth and identity were tied to them,” Schuler said. “I felt like I had an identity crisis.”

Schuler feels his hip is good as it ever was. As for his knee, that surgery took place in February, and he’s back to his carpentry.

“Although recovery has been slower and more difficult than my hip, which I had been advised would be the case, I almost have total relief from pain in my daily activities. I am confident the leg will become almost as strong, and maybe more flexible than it was years ago,” Schuler said.

To show his gratefulness to Dr. Moran and his team, Schuler wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that was published in The News-Gazette.

“My care team was beyond professional,” Schuler said. “I felt truly cared for and didn’t expect that.”

Dr. Moran was surprised by the Schuler’s gesture in the paper but wasn’t surprised by his wit.

“He captured what occurs with a joint-replacement patient. He is a very compliant, very motivated patient,” Dr. Moran said. “That’s part of the reason he had such good results from his operations. Also, his outcomes wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding staff at Carle. Every piece of the puzzle has to be in place for everything to go smoothly, and it did.”

Schuler has now gone on to recommend Dr. Moran to a few people, including his best friend, and he’s wondering whether a finder’s fee might be coming.