Ellen Pavie of Sumneytown is looking forward to playing pickle ball with her partner at the Montgomery County Senior Games in May.
“We did win a medal last year, so I’m not terrible,” the 69-year-old former elementary teacher in the Pennridge School District said.
That Ellen is able to play at all is a credit to orthopedic surgeon Wei Shen Lin, MD, of St. Luke’s Orthopedic Care, who replaced both of her knees, and to her physical therapist, who in a surprising This Is Your Life twist turned out to be someone Ellen first got to know years ago.
“The person who is going to be my partner was asked by someone else, and she said, ‘oh no,’ she’s sticking with me,” Ellen recalled.
Ellen retired from teaching in 2010, but still tutors and proctors GED exams for people looking to gain their high school equivalency diploma. You can’t slow her down if you try, even after her operation.
“I actually did her right knee replacement surgery in 2014,” Dr. Lin said. “She had terrible arthritis in that knee and her leg was kind of deformed. We did the surgery and she recovered really well and went back to pickle ball, but she also had osteoarthritis in her left knee that wasn’t as bad at the time.”
Ellen described her knee condition as bone-on-bone with all the cartilage worn down. Her left knee deteriorated over time. She even found that getting up off the sofa would make it difficult to walk.
Dr. Lin tried a cortisone injection at first after seeing Ellen in October of 2018, and when that didn’t work, she decided it was time for surgery.
“Knowing how well I did with the right knee replacement, I wasn’t going to play games with my left knee,” Ellen said.
“I just love him,” Ellen said. “Dr. Lin is fabulous. He’s honest. He’s up front. He tells you ‘This is what I see. This is what you should do.’ You have to respect his honesty and you have to respect his abilities.”
Dr. Lin said that Ellen did a great job through surgery and recovery but cautioned that joint replacements in the 65-plus crowd may carry higher risks.
“Other than medical issues a patient may already have, they do well,” he said, “especially if they already have a high activity level. Surgery is mainly to get rid of the pain. People not as active still do well because their pain is relieved.”
Ellen prepared for the surgery by doing pre-hab, which is rehabilitation before the operation to strengthen the areas surrounding her knee that would be subject to trauma and atrophy.
To her delight, Emily Kaempf, DPT, a former grade school student of hers, turned out to be the physical therapist Ellen would work with at Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s. The teacher would now become the student before and after surgery.
“She was my teacher and she was always so fun and charismatic,” Dr. Kaempf said. “It took a little getting used to, not just with the role reversal, but I really appreciate how she put her trust in me and was on board with anything I suggested.”
Ellen said that she is recovering much quicker after this knee replacement. In 2014, it took her four months to get full extension in her right knee.
This time out – under the supervision of her former student – she was one centimeter away from being straight after just two months, and the ability to bend her knee 120 degrees.
“It makes me so proud to know she’s come so far in her life,” Ellen said of Dr. Kaempf. “We’re getting this knee ready to play pickle ball!”