U.S. Army Veteran Rick Rader was in severe pain in both knees. “It was bone-on-bone and I couldn’t even walk. I was an invalid in my own home. It wasn’t fun,” he recalls.
When the shots and other treatments he was getting stopped working, Rader opted for surgeries to replace both knees – with a difference. Instead of being hospitalized for three or four days, as is common, he was in and out within two. The reason was a new way of performing joint surgery. The short-stay joint replacement protocol was developed at Lebanon [PA] VA Medical Center.
“Total knee replacement is one of the most common elective orthopedic surgeries in the United States,” says Dr. Kate Deisseroth, the Lebanon VAMC orthopedic surgeon and U.S. Air Force Veteran who operated on Rader. “About 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year.” She says the standard procedure can be painful as well as drawn out.
Thanks to a team approach and specialized pain management methods, Deisseroth had Rader out of the hospital and back on his feet quickly. Once out, he was ready to train for his next goal: competing in the 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games, which VA hosts.
Bringing home the gold
Seven months later, Rader brought home four gold medals: in badminton doubles, the 50-meter backstroke, the 50-meter freestyle and 75-meter medley relay. He also won a silver medal in badminton singles and a bronze for the 25-meter backstroke.
“To compete against some of the best Veteran athletes in the world is a tribute to what’s going here,” he says.
Rader’s success has inspired other Veterans, according to Heather Bratton, who is a physician assistant in orthopedics. Bratton assisted Deisseroth with the new short-stay procedure.
“We’re really excited because we have Veterans now asking for the doctor who helped the athletes for the Golden Age Games. The Veterans are seeing great success. They’re happy to be going home and getting on with their life,” she says.
Rader is pleased. “The doctors did their job and it was just time for me to do mine. I’m so grateful.”
Angela King-Sweigart is a public affairs specialist with the Lebanon VA Medical Center. Photos are courtesy King-Sweigart and the Lebanon VA Medical Center Voluntary Service.