In Her Own Words

Desire for Double Knee Replacement Transforms Woman’s Health Journey

Farfalena feels great appreciation for her healthcare team, who she says, “Gave me back my freedom.” Shown here left to right are Misty DeHaven, FNP-BC; Megan Christensen, MSN, RN, CNL; Tamisha Bonvillain, FNP-BC; Judy Cullor, FNP-BC; Farfalena (seated); Keri Wall, RN, BSN, CPAN; Greg Dammann, MD; and Brittany Mordini, RN

In 2019, Farfalena was unable to walk and required a wheelchair or walker on and off for mobility. She had pain and weakness from “bone-on-bone” arthritis in her back and knees, and depended on friends and family to help her complete almost every task of daily life

When she decided to pursue double knee replacement surgery, FHN orthopaedic surgeon Greg Dammann, MD, did not feel she was up to the challenge. He urged her to make significant changes first, like losing weight and focusing on her fitness levels to increase her chances of success.

Dr. Dammann shares, “Extra weight can sometimes cause surgical complications, risk of infection, and less successful outcomes. In Farfalena’s case, I truly thought immediate surgery was not the best approach.”

Roadblocks Present Challenges

For Farfalena, it was a frustrating situation. Her knee pain made it impossible to exercise. Sometimes the challenge felt overwhelming.

FHN rheumatologist Rovinder S. Singh Saini, MD, helped her take the first steps toward a new tomorrow. “I prescribed medical cannabis to ease her unrelenting pain after traditional medications proved unhelpful, and to help ease her anxiety and improve her sleep,” he explains.

He also suggested a personalized weight-loss plan to get her started. “Pain, anxiety, mood, and sleep are all interrelated, and can impact weight loss and motivation.”

These changes helped Farfalena lose 30 pounds and she was feeling enthused, but then the pandemic struck: Farfalena caught COVID-19. She was hospitalized and on a bi-pap ventilator that provided two-level positive airway pressure for two weeks, and on oxygen for several more weeks. In her words, “It was pretty rough. I was just so sick. Sometimes you need a crisis to change your life. This was my turning point.”

As she started to feel better, Farfalena felt like she had been given a second chance. She emphasizes, “I didn’t want to suffer in silence any more. I needed – and wanted – to do something to improve my life.”

As a person with diabetes, she continued her weight loss journey under the guidance of FHN Diabetes Program Coordinator Megan Christensen, MSN, RN, CNL, who provided instruction and support that helped her lose 30 more pounds and dramatically improve her test results.

Diabetes Education Changes the Trajectory

Farfalena says, “Megan was instrumental in helping me understand good choices and provided tremendous support. I learned to concentrate on what I COULD eat – a nice variety of foods – rather than focus on what I was omitting. I gained confidence, continued to lose weight, and decided to consult again with Dr. Dammann, who agreed my progress greatly increased my odds of a favorable outcome. He felt I was ready to proceed with surgery, and his staff, including Nurse Navigator Keri Wall, RN, thoroughly explained everything I needed to know. With their help, I felt prepared and ready.”

Farfalena had total knee replacement arthroplasty on both knees, six weeks apart. She distinctly remembers standing up soon after surgery and says, “I was just thrilled to be able to walk. The team had given me exercises to start before the procedure, and that strength training really made a difference ... I was up and moving again! I was very motivated and followed directions to the T.”

Thanks to regular check-ins with her primary care provider Tamisha Bonvillain, FNP-BC, continued therapy at FHN’s Burchard Hills Rehabilitation Center, and encouragement from many professionals on her physical therapy team, Farfalena increased her strength, improved her balance, and fine-tuned her flexibility.

Grateful for ‘A Whole New Life’

Now, Farfalena’s future is extremely bright and she is thrilled with her progress:

  • She has lost a total of 95 pounds
  • Her A1C dropped from 10.2 to 5.4
  • She no longer requires insulin
  • She no longer needs her CPAP machine for sleep apnea
  • She is ambulatory. She has gone from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to needing no support much of the time. She can even go up and down stairs.
Farfalena is ecstatic about her transformation. She enthuses, “I feel so energized! I am constantly on the go and I feel amazing, both physically and mentally. I am so grateful to do all the simple things I couldn’t do before, like cook, go grocery shopping, do the dishes, make my bed, take a shower, and get dressed.

“I so appreciate everybody who helped me get to this point: Dr. Dammann, Dr. Singh, Misty DeHaven, Megan Christensen, Tamisha Bonvillain, Keri Wall, Judy Cullor, Brittney Mordini, and all the nurses, therapists, and receptionists who were so kind and helpful. And, of course, my children, my siblings, and my friends Pamela Jacobs and Marie Liddell – I couldn’t have done it without them. I feel incredibly lucky, and proud of myself, too. What a blessing!”