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Taking a simple walk was becoming too painful

Patient Spotlight June 09, 2015 By Main Line Health

After eight years of suffering from knee pain as a result of his arthritis, Don Gallo was ready for relief.

“Taking a simple walk with my wife became too painful for me. I was only 58; I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m too young to have these problems,’” says Gallo.

With some help from his wife, a nurse practitioner, Gallo found Dr. Robert Good, an orthopedic surgeon with the Rothman Institute at Bryn Mawr Hospital. After hearing Dr. Good was among the region’s leaders in knee replacements, he knew he had found a surgeon he could trust to help address the arthritis pain that had plagued him for years.

On November 18, 2014, Gallo underwent a total knee replacement on his right knee at Bryn Mawr Hospital. The surgery was a success, but even Dr. Good was shocked at the severity of arthritis, having removed golf-ball sized nodules from Gallo’s knee.

Understanding his patient’s unique needs, Dr. Good was eager to get Gallo started in a joint rehabilitation program as quickly as possible. On Friday, just four days after his surgery and one day after he was discharged from Bryn Mawr Hospital, Gallo reported for his first day of outpatient rehabilitation at Riddle Hospital.

Gallo, a Boothwyn resident, was no stranger to Riddle. He had used them for surgeries and medical emergencies before, and been pleased with his care. A career in the postal service and many walks with his wife awaiting him when he was back on his feet, Gallo was eager to get started.

A Long Road Ahead

Most joint replacement patients might expect to be spending four to six weeks in an outpatient rehabilitation program. Gallo expected a similar timeline. But from the beginning, it was clear that his recovery was going to take longer than most.

“After the first few weeks of therapy, I was getting frustrated. I kept going, but I wasn’t noticing results,” says Gallo. “Instead of getting better, my knee was very unstable.”

A post-operative x-ray with Dr. Good revealed the source of the setback: Gallo’s kneecap had shifted out of place and was now aligned to the right of his knee, rather than the center. Armed with a new knee brace to help stabilize his kneecap and prevent it from shifting any further, Gallo returned to therapy, hopeful that easier days were ahead.

Unfortunately, Gallo’s struggles with instability continued. Although Gallo continue to be frustrated with his lack of progress, he knew his therapy team was doing everything they could to find a solution. Then, in mid-February, a suggestion from physical therapist Michelle Bochanski triggered a breakthrough in Gallo’s therapy.

“One day during therapy, Michelle told me to take off my shoes and walk across the room,” recalls Gallo. “Just by observing my gait, she was able to determine that I had a pronated right foot. That was what had been holding me back the whole time.”

“It was evident that Don should have seen improvements in his function since his kneecap location was improved, his quadriceps and hip strength had increased, he had built up his endurance, and he was complying with his home exercise program,” explains Bochanski. “By working with his primary therapist, Nicole, we took a closer look at Don’s kinetic chain—from his foot to his back—to determine what the problem was, and found that the arch of his foot was collapsing with his gait.”

Relieved to finally be on the path to recovery, Gallo says Michelle’s discovery was the perfect example of why, even when he struggled, he was so impressed with his care at Riddle.

“Whenever I was frustrated, they helped me understand everything. They knew I was upset, but they were so nice, caring, and knowledgeable about every aspect of the rehabilitation process. They asked all the right questions, and were very patient and supportive during what was a long and frustrating recuperation for me,” Gallo says.

Much to Gallo’s pleasure, the next three months were easier and more successful than the first. Thanks to new orthotics to correct the pronation in his right foot, Gallo was making great progress in his weekly rehab sessions, and the stability and alignment of his kneecap was improving, too.

In early May, six months of rehab came to an end. Although it had been a long road, Gallo was sad to see it end and admits that it was difficult to say goodbye to the outpatient rehab team.

“I was going there three times a week for six months; they were like family to me at Riddle,” says Gallo. “I was very emotional when I had to say goodbye to them. They motivated me and challenged me every step of the way, and I’m very thankful for that. Without them and without their care, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

And where is Gallo today? Eight months after his knee replacement, and only one month after completing outpatient rehab, he recently returned from a cruise with his wife. Although much of the credit is owed to Gallo for his determination and perseverance throughout the surgery and recovery process, he thanks Dr. Good and the team at Riddle for working together to contribute to his recovery.

“I would highly recommend Dr. Good to anyone looking to have knee surgery, and the team at Riddle was fantastic. They were always working together to try and figure out how they could make my recovery easier, and I couldn’t be more grateful to them.”