When Teresa Hillstrom, 65, retired from a career in healthcare and moved to Evergreen, CO with her husband Steve, she was eager to spend as much time as possible walking outdoors, enjoying nature. “Being surrounded by the beauty of Colorado truly lifts my spirit,” she explains.
However, severe knee pain created an unpleasant bump in her path.
“I’ve always been healthy,” she says. “But the pain was constant anytime I walked. I just wasn’t ready to give up hiking, exploring the outdoors and gathering with my long-time friends and family.”
So, on a recent visit to Illinois to see children and grandchildren, Hillstrom was determined to seek solutions from the best experts available. She consulted with Dr. Joshua Blomgren, a Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush sports medicine physician, who ordered an x-ray which clearly showed bone-on-bone arthritis in her right knee. Without hesitation, he recommended a total knee replacement as the best permanent solution for her pain.
Acting on her daughter’s (a nurse) suggestion, she scheduled an appointment with Dr. Denis Nam, a joint replacement surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “I liked his manner right away,” she says. “Having worked in healthcare for several years, I have a sense for the kind of doctor I want to care for me.”
She also liked his adoption of the Mako™ Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery which he now uses in most hip, knee and partial knee replacement procedures.
“I choose to use this technology because it is clearly more accurate and precise than manual techniques,” Dr. Nam explains. “Robotics provides the information and accuracy to tailor each surgery specifically to each patient in a way that manual techniques cannot. I knew Teresa would make an excellent candidate.”
The Mako robotic system uses a 3D CT-based planning software which allows the surgeon to understand a patient’s unique anatomy prior to surgery in order to create a personalized joint replacement surgical plan. It also guides the doctor during surgery, allowing the him or her to cut less by cutting precisely what is planned.
Hillstrom agreed to undergo surgery and requested to schedule it as soon as possible to alleviate her concerns about any delays due to potential new COVID restrictions. Within weeks, she was in the operating room at Rush University Medical Center.
“Dr. Nam’s whole team was excited about my surgery,” Hillstrom. “They assured me that the procedure with the robot technology take less time in the OR and I would feel great afterward.”
When she arrived in the operating room, Hillstrom shared a joke with Dr. Nam. “I asked him, ‘where’s the robot?’ He showed it to me, and I asked if it had a name yet. He said no, so I suggested ‘Jarvis’ which is the name of the artificial intelligence in the Ironman movies.”
All joking aside, Hillstrom’s surgery was a success and took only one hour to complete.
“I have never had major surgery before, so I was thrilled that I could get out of bed, stretch, and walk right away the next day.”
Today, she has completed her at-home physical therapy and begins outpatient physical therapy to continue to improve her mobility and function. Already, her range of motion is at a 95 out of 100. Her pain is managed by an occasional Tylenol.
“I feel terrific,” she says. “And I can’t wait to get back to my nature hikes.”