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Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - Coach No Longer Sidelined with Bad Knee

 

Once sidelined with a bad knee, joint replacement now has coach back in the swing of things
   
  Saunders, flanked by wife Susan and former student, Jim Scheer, All-State Linebacker from Oak Ridge’s 1980 State Championship Team.

Sports are a big part of Barry Saunders’ life.

As an assistant athletic director at Oak Ridge High School, Saunders attends every home swim meet, softball and soccer game, plus many other sports games at Oak Ridge. Plus, he helps coach the high school’s football team as well, working with the team’s kickers and receivers.

But about a year ago, knee pain had just about sidelined Saunders, 63.

His left knee was injured in 2005, and during surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the doctor found that arthritis was wearing away the cartilage in Saunders’ knee. Cartilage acts as a cushion between bones, and when it’s gone, that leaves painful bone-on-bone friction.

Saunders delayed a knee replacement for several years, making do with medications.

“After awhile, it was progressively more difficult moving around on the football field,” he said. “I wore a brace, but it was getting worse every year. At one point this spring, I would look out my classroom door to the library, and it felt like the Appalachian Trail. It was too far to get down there.”

A difficult golf game finally convinced Saunders to have a knee replacement.

“I went with Coach (Scott) Blade and the rest of the coaching staff to play golf,” said Saunders. “I embarrassed myself that day. I couldn’t swing, I couldn’t stand. That’s when I knew I needed to do something.”

Saunders had a complete knee replacement in June 2011 at the Joint Replacement Center at Methodist Medical Center, with Dr. Cletus J. McMahon doing the surgery.

The 12-room center offers a new approach to joint replacement, using a team approach to care in which patients, doctors, nurses and physical therapists all work together for the best possible outcome. The first step in joint replacement is to attend a pre-operative class at the center led by nurses and physical therapists.

“That was very helpful,” said Saunders. “They told us everything we would be looking at. Facing surgery like that, you’re very apprehensive, and they did a tremendous job getting us prepared.”

Saunders was also grateful for the coaching he received through his friend, Michael Clement who was a fellow joint replacement patient. 

“I am so thankful to Michael for mentoring me through the whole process, especially the beginning, and to my wife Susan for all her care.”

Patient coaches are one of the unique concepts offered at Methodist’s joint replacement center.   Family members, loved ones or volunteer coaches participate in the rehab program with the patient so they can better prepare for the transition home. 

Because joint replacement patients are typically healthy, the center staff gets them up and out of bed shortly after surgery. This helps speed recovery and reduce side effects. Physical therapy begins in the hospital and continues after the patient goes home. Saunders stayed three nights.

“They had some pills for me to take for pain, but I didn’t take more than one or two,” he said. “I kept ice on it and did my exercises.  I followed through with my exercises at home, too. I was back at school when it started, and back on the football field this fall.”

He was also back in action in the classroom where, in addition to his coaching responsibilities, he teaches five daily classes of algebra.  It’s a job that keeps him on his feet – either standing or moving around the class - during his instruction time.

His students were the first to notice how well Saunders could walk. “I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten, till the kids said, ‘Gosh, you’re walking. You were limping before.’”

Now Saunders said he’s looking forward to a golf rematch. “Now I don’t have any problem walking anywhere. I look forward to playing golf this spring.

“Having to go cover sporting events and stand around for hours, the pain was killing me. Now I have no problem standing, walking, and now I look forward to those. Being able to move on the football field is a big thing.”

Saunders said he recommends the Methodist Joint Replacement Center to anyone who needs a hip or knee replacement.

“The nurses were just fantastic,” he said. “The physical therapists were outstanding to get me back to the point where I could do things on my own. The care was tremendous.”