OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Helga

April 01, 2018

Meet Helga – a twelve-year employee of OAA Orthopaedic Specialists and a surgical patient of Dr. Kevin Anbari of OAA’s Joint Replacement Center. Helga works in OAA’s Human Resources department and plays an important role in hiring the staff that many of our patients have come to know during their visits to OAA over the years. When not working, you can find Helga exercising at Steel Fitness Premier after work, going to antique markets, dancing, or traveling.
Helga suffered from arthritic pain in both of her knees for an extended period of time, but sought out care when it began to really have an impact on her quality of life. When Helga was asked to reflect on her pain, she shared, “I was at a point where the chronic pain was keeping me from doing things that I enjoy. When I would go to an antique market, I would have to stop and sit down often and take some over-the-counter pain medication. After a few hours of walking I would be in extreme pain. It would take a few days for the pain to subside, but some pain was always present in my knees regardless of how active I was. I knew that this way of life could not continue, as I am too young to be sitting on the sidelines.”
Knowing that Helga did not want to be held back any longer, she turned to her colleague, Dr. Kevin Anbari. Dr. Anbari is fellowship-trained in adult reconstruction and devotes his entire practice to hip and knee replacements. He regularly performs the direct anterior approach to hip replacement surgery, as well as partial and total knee replacements. Dr. Anbari is constantly reminded how rewarding his job is, as he derives the most satisfaction from witnessing the positive effects that joint replacement can have on his patients’ quality of life.
“I met with Dr. Anbari to discuss my options, and we both wanted to start with conservative treatment options. While cortisone injections and viscosupplementation can help many patients, unfortunately these injections did not provide me with the relief that we expected. From there, we decided together that surgery was our next course of action. I initially approached Dr. Anbari with the hope of doing both knees at the same time, but he suggested that we do each knee separately. I agreed with his thought process and had the utmost confidence in him that my surgeries would go well. I scheduled my left knee replacement for March 2017 and the right knee replacement for June 2017,” Helga shared.
When the time came for her first knee replacement, Helga was prepared and anxious to move closer toward her goal of enjoying life without knee pain. After surgery, Helga remembered, “A physical therapist came to my hospital room the day after surgery and asked me to get out of bed. I laughed, and was looking for the wheel chair that she was going to push me in, but she wasn’t joking. I had to get out of bed and walk with her down the hallway to the therapy room using a walker. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. She informed me that the key is to get the knee moving after surgery. From there, I made sure that I did all of my at-home physical therapy and outpatient physical therapy exercises religiously. I really believe that doing the recommended exercises is an important part of having a good surgical result.”
Helga recovered nicely from her first knee replacement, and found herself back in the operating room three months later to have surgery on her second knee. At this point, she already knew what to expect, and was even more motivated and excited for the life without knee pain that was waiting for her after she recovered from her second surgery.
While doing day-to-day activities and hobbies pain-free was enough motivation for Helga, she had some extra motivation and something to look forward to after her two knee replacement surgeries – a trip to Germany!
“My knee replacement outcome was a success, and I worked very hard in physical therapy after each surgery. Because of this, I was able to attend my niece’s wedding in Germany. Traveling to Germany required me to fly in and out of very large airports, and it also involved a lot of walking. I couldn’t believe that I could walk through these airports and had no knee pain.  I was able to celebrate, drink some good German beer, and even dance at my niece’s wedding. What a joy!!!!”
Helga is quick to offer advice to anyone suffering from arthritic knee pain, and finds herself telling her story to many friends and acquaintances. “I not only tell people to not put off a knee replacement, but I also tell them about all of the work that I did before my surgeries; I exercised twice a week for over a year before my surgery to strengthen my body. I believe that strengthening the muscles in my legs and core helped me have such a great outcome. For the people I meet that have some questions or fears, I always suggest attending one of OAA’s info nights. They can be very helpful for individuals that want to learn more,” Helga elaborated.
While Helga may be biased, she is a big supporter of OAA as a place to receive high quality orthopaedic care, and as a place to work: “The physicians and staff in this practice are excellent at what they do. I know that people may think because I work here, that I would never say anything negative about the practice, but after working at OAA for twelve years, I have gotten to know our physicians and staff very well. Our main focus has always been the patient and getting them back to good health. Just look at me, I am enjoying life and feel twenty years younger!!”
Do you or a loved one have a similar story?  Share your story with us, and you could be next month's patient ambassador!