Gina’s Story: Dancing Again. ‘It’s Heaven!’

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Gina Kelley hopes most people needing total knee replacement surgery have the same positive experience she had.

She believes her surgery, performed by Donald Delcamp, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Premier Orthopedics, part of Premier Physician Network, is a key reason she was able to walk on her own only 11 days after her total knee replacement surgery on January 13, 2014.

In addition to being “an excellent physician,” something Gina has trumpeted to everyone in her Liberty Commons apartment complex in Tipp City, “he’s an excellent teacher,” she said.

The way Dr. Delcamp taught Gina about the nature of her problem and the surgical solution is a textbook example of what Gina says a patient should look for in a doctor.

“First off, he’s a gentleman. He’s a quiet-spoken person, and he takes the time to go in depth to explain to you what your problem is.”

For Gina, 74, her knee trouble started 20 years ago on a patch of ice.

“I fell, and all my weight – all 240 pounds – landed on that left knee. It was quite painful. Arthritis set in, and it got to the point that it was bone grating on bone.”

She had to get a car with an automatic transmission because she could no longer work the clutch. She could walk with the help of a cane, but for no more than a block.

And with her overall mobility “severely compromised,” her one-time passion was out of the question. “In my day,” said Gina, “I was quite a dancer.”

It was as she was about to transition from a cane to a walker that Gina’s primary care physician gave the OK for her knee-replacement surgery. Two years earlier, he had referred Gina to Dr. Delcamp for cortisone shots to ease her pain.

The relationship she established with Dr. Delcamp, and knowing her treatment would be close to home, put Gina at ease as surgery neared. “I was very comforted by being able to go to a hospital that’s close to me and one where my primary care physician and my surgeon both practice,” she said. “Upper Valley Medical Center and Premier Health are the best in this area, in my opinion.”

But she said even the best medical professionals need their patients to be part of the treatment team, which is the second part of advice she has for patients. “If they say something I don’t understand, I stop them and say ‘Hey, put it in English,’ and they do. All you have to do is ask them. They are there to help you. It’s a cohesive operation between you and your physician.”

Dr. Delcamp, who was born in Miami County and trained at Premier Health’s Miami Valley Hospital, chose a titanium knee “that will last as long as I do,” Kelly said.

By the time her surgery date arrived, Gina was confident she had chosen the right surgeon. Dr. Delcamp also had the right patient – one ready to tackle rehabilitation as soon as surgery was over.

“You have to work through the pain, so you just keep working through the rehab. And the more you do, the better it gets.”

She called the rehabilitation staff at Upper Valley Medical Center thorough and encouraging.  “They watch you walk. They teach you how to get in and out of a bathtub without falling down and injuring your new knee. They ask you about your pain level.”  They also “encourage you to take that little extra step, [they provide] that little extra oomph to get through your therapy, because, like I said, the faster you heal, the better you feel in the long run.” After going home, Gina started six weeks of in-home therapy three days a week and only needed medication the first week.

When all that was done, the woman whose laugh has boomed for years at Liberty Commons took steps to reclaim her passion. “I don’t polka anymore, and I certainly don’t do the jitterbug anymore,” she said. “But I have a friend, and we do waltz.  That happens once or twice a month now at an Elks Lodge or Eagles Aerie, and her first return to the dance floor was memorable.

“It was heaven to go dancing the first time … to have him hold me in his arms as we twirled around the dance floor,” Gina said. “And I didn’t have to stop after five minutes because my knee was hurting.”

The woman who for years dragged a sore knee around with her isn’t having trouble adapting to her titanium replacement.

“I just get up and go,” she said. She didn’t need Dr. Delcamp to teach her that.