Hartzel Bruno’s left leg was gradually getting weaker and weaker. The part-time livestock farmer dismissed it for two years, assuming it was part of getting older. “Like a lot of people my age, I kept tolerating it,” the 67-year-old Springfield resident said. “That was a mistake. I wish I hadn’t waited two years.”
Hartzel, who is also the director of operations for Steak ’n Shake in Springfield and Jacksonville, had a misaligned leg for most of his life. More recently, his leg was steadily growing weaker and would often buckle. His meniscus, a cartilage disc that cushions the knee, had torn.
After a while, his pain intensified to the point where he could no longer play with his four grandchildren or climb on farm machinery. If he walked more than a block, he needed to sit down to rest. “It was becoming a real problem. I realized my quality of life wasn’t there,” Hartzel said. It was time to do something about it. He scheduled an appointment with Dan Adair, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician with Springfield Clinic and co-medical director of Memorial’s SportsCare.
But the news from Dr. Adair wasn’t good. Hartzel needed surgery, but he was not a good candidate in his physical condition. He needed to build up his leg strength and lose weight. Hartzel knew he was overweight but wasn’t aware of how much he had gained. “I weighed 399 pounds,” Hartzel said. “When I got on the scale at Memorial, it scared me. It was a gigantic wake-up call.”
Dr. Adair recommended Hartzel for Memorial’s Patient Optimization program, which partners with the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center and Memorial SportsCare with the goal of lowering surgical risks and increasing positive post-surgical results.
“The program was excellent,” Hartzel said. He went to Memorial’s SportsCare two or three times a week, doing a variety of exercises, such as recumbent stepping, squats and working on a balance ball. “There were days I thought I was physically stressed from the exercises,” he said. “They would change the exercises if the pain was too great.” He also exercised at home, and his wife, Mary Jean, was his coach.
In about three months, Hartzel had lost 60 pounds. Dr. Adair told him he was ready for surgery. On Sept. 28, 2013, he received a total knee replacement and had his leg straightened.
“I will tell you that Dr. Dan Adair saved his life,” Mary Jean said.
Hartzel continues to work on his weight loss. He has lost a total of 83 pounds and has set a goal to weigh 275 pounds. “I’m able to enjoy life again. I can ride the bicycle with my grandkids now,” Hartzel said. “I haven’t done that for 10 years.”
NOTE: Daniel Adair, MD, passed away Sept. 7, 2015.
Libby Rambach considers the Patient Optimization program one of the “best-kept secrets in Springfield.” This program, offered through the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center, works to develop a personalized, medically managed wellness plan for patients who face different health challenges.
In Libby’s case, the 63-year-old’s mobility had been significantly reduced by knee pain, and she was unable to keep up with her students or her grandchildren. To improve her quality of life, she needed the best possible outcome from knee replacement surgery.
Enter Gabe Stinson, a sports enhancement specialist at Memorial SportsCare, who guided Libby through twenty hour-long sessions, twice a week, ahead of her surgery. He helped her increase her strength in cardiovascular and respiratory areas, which included core and leg strengthening exercises, stability moves, standing and sitting drills, incumbent bicycle workouts and more.
“Gabe was the perfect mix,” Libby said. “He had just the right touch to motivate me to do more, but also to know that I did have issues. He was patient, kind and reassuring. He was basically a coach who knew that I was getting ready to go for the finish line, and he wanted to make sure I finished appropriately.”
That hard work paid off. After surgery, Libby regained her confidence in walking and climbing stairs. She insists there was nothing magical about her situation.
“Just the fact that I was invested in both my pre-work and post-recovery made the difference,” Libby said. “I had everything I needed in the right amount. Gabe was very accessible in that he could work around my schedule so I was able to continue working out even though I have two jobs. The good news is that because I had such a good outcome, I still have two jobs!”
Perhaps the best results are the life changes Libby has made as a result of the program. She now exercises regularly, and she works and plays without pain.
“I feel like I need to be a good steward of the change I’ve had,” she said. “Now I can run and participate with my grandchildren. I think what the Patient Optimization program does is give the patient an avenue to be in control of how their life is going to end up.”
If Libby has anything to say about it, the “best kept secret in Springfield” will not stay secret for long. “I’ve encouraged others at work to do this,” she said. “Because I’m not in pain anymore.”