Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

Carefree Cruisin'

Posted by Bone & Joint Team on Aug 15, 2016 3:08:38 PM

It was “a trip of a lifetime” more than five years in the making. In 2011, Kathy McMahon and her husband, Mike, set sail on a 7,000-mile journey that would take them on a circumnavigation of the eastern United States via the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Great Lakes and inland rivers. They planned to spend three years completing this so-called “Great Loop.” Then, partway through their nautical adventure, McMahon began having trouble with her left knee. “My knees had been hurting for a couple of years,” the now 71-year-old recalls. “But after a year on the boat, the pain in my left knee had gotten much worse. I had to get a cane to get around. My husband got tired of hearing me complain, so we went back home to San Antonio so I could have knee replacement surgery.”

The couple left their boat in Kentucky and went back to Texas, where McMahon had the surgery in October 2012. After the surgery, they moved to Dataw Island, their favorite port of call among the many they visited during their inland odyssey. They were enjoying life in their new home and planning another cruise (they had ultimately completed their “Great Loop,” in three legs) when, last summer, McMahon’s right knee started acting up.

  Kathy McMahon loves being on the water.

Finding Beaufort Memorial

Several friends recommended that McMahon make an appointment with Beaufort Memorial orthopaedic surgeon Kevin Jones, M.D., an expert in minimally invasive total knee and hip replacement surgery. An MRI showed the shock-absorbing cartilage in her knee had worn down to virtually nothing. “If you don’t have any cartilage in the joint, you get bone rubbing on bone,” Jones says. “The pain can be pretty severe.”

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis, is one of the most frequent causes of physical disability among older people. About the time people reach their mid-60s, the pain may require medical attention. Most physicians will start by prescribing anti-inflammatory medication. The next course of action is cortisone injections or viscosupplementation, a kind of lubricant that is injected directly into the knee. “When the pain begins limiting even simple activities, such as climbing stairs, shopping or gardening, it may be time to consider total knee replacement surgery,” Jones says. 

McMahon didn’t hesitate. “We had scheduled a river barge cruise in Germany for November,” she says. “I wanted to get it done before I went. I didn’t want to have any problems walking.” 

Cutting-Edge Orthopaedic Care 

To ensure the best results, Jones performed the surgery using an innovative technology that allowed him to custom-fit McMahon’s prosthesis to her particular anatomy. The personalized knee replacement system uses three-dimensional MRI images of the knee to create an individualized positioning guide the surgeon can use to place and align the implant more precisely. “The computer determines the optimal alignment,” Jones says. “You get a better range of motion, and the knee will last longer because it’s balanced better so there’s less wear on the implant.”

 Christen Catoe and Dr. Jones visit with Kathy at the Joint Replacement Center  

Based on a wellness model, the innovative program encourages quicker healing and shorter hospital stays. Studies have shown that making the recovery process fun motivates patients to work harder, resulting in better outcomes. McMahon spent just two nights in the hospital compared with five nights with her first surgery. McMahon’s right knee replacement was performed Sept. 16, 2015, at Beaufort Memorial, whose Joint Replacement Center has been awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for knee and hip replacement. At the state-of-the-art facility, patients are attended by a dedicated team of highly trained professionals specializing in orthopaedic care. They enjoy amenities more like what you’d find in a hotel than a hospital. They “check in” to their rooms, dress in their own clothing and participate in fun activities designed to get them moving.


Back on the Water

McMahon began her road to recovery the afternoon of her surgery. Not long after being brought to her room, a physical therapist helped her get out of bed and walk the corridor. The next day, she began occupational therapy and group physical therapy, designed to inspire patients with a little friendly competition.


The in-home therapy was followed by three more weeks of treatment at one of Beaufort Memorial’s outpatient rehabilitation centers. “I think I recovered faster than some people do because I’ve always been active,” McMahon says. “It’s a lengthy process and it’s not easy, but it’s really worth it.” She and her husband are planning to take their 26-foot powerboat down to Florida this summer and cruise St. Johns River. “We love boating,” she says. “My husband is interested in fishing and crabbing. I just like cruising around.”Before she was discharged, Beaufort Memorial’s care coordinator arranged for two weeks of in-home physical therapy. “By the time I got home, I was walking pretty well,” McMahon says. “When the physical therapist came to the house the first day, she didn’t realize I was the patient.” 

Help for Aching Joints

To learn more about the Joint Replacement Center, click here. For an appointment with orthopaedic surgeon Kevin Jones, M.D., call 843-524-3015.

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