At age 55, Donna Richard-Langer maintains a level of physical activity that would tire some people half her age. Biking. Softball. Volleyball. Tennis.
“There are just so many things that tennis does for me,” Donna said. “It’s a social outlet. It keeps me in shape. I don’t know what I would do if I weren’t able to play.”
A United States Tennis Association (USTA) member, Donna competed at the state level, often playing up to five days a week. But in 2010, after decades of dealing with knee pain, her ability to endure that pain had reached its limits.
“I was limping onto and off of the court,” she said. “My knee was crooked. I was bowlegged. And the pain ... the pain would wake me up at night.”
As a teenager, Donna injured her right knee in a softball game. The injury never fully healed, despite Donna’s best efforts.
“I did a lot of physical therapy on and off for several years. I had arthroscopic surgery. I saw an orthopaedist. I wrapped the knee. It was never perfect, but I could function. So I kept going.”
Donna’s never been a quitter. So when she quietly told friends that her days of playing tennis might be over, they couldn’t believe it. One friend in particular refused to believe it.
“She was insistent that I needed to see Dr. Mahoney about my knee before giving up on tennis,” Donna said. “I wasn’t so sure. I’d already been to a couple of doctors. But she didn’t give up. She said, ‘I’m telling Dr. Mahoney that you’re coming to see him, so you’d better go!’”
Dr. Craig Mahoney was the first health professional to tell Donna that she needed a knee replacement — and that she needed it soon. “He said I needed it done within three to six months. I said, ‘How about three to six years?!’”
Although not looking forward to the prospect of a knee replacement, Donna realized it was her only chance of returning to the tennis court. She talked it over with her favorite mixed-doubles partner — her husband — and other tennis friends, too. “Everyone was very supportive,” she said. “I heard a lot of, ‘You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.’”
Another thing Donna heard about was the vital importance of post-surgical care. Mercy is the only Iowa hospital to offer Joint Camp: an innovative rehabilitation program that speeds recovery time for joint-replacement patients like Donna. Mercy’s Joint Camp program gives detailed, one-on-one instruction to patients on regaining a healthy range of motion with new joints like hips and knees. By learning and practicing exercises specifically developed for their unique health conditions, patients like Donna can recover more quickly and get back to enjoying their lives.
Of course, not every Mercy joint-replacement patient is a competitive tennis player like Donna — or has Donna’s drive to succeed.
“I quit my job and made recovery my new full-time job,” she said. While receiving Joint Camp instruction three times a week, Donna also devoted two hours a day on her own to mobility and strengthening exercises. “The prospect of sitting on the couch with my leg up and doing nothing ... that was enough to make me cry,” she said. “It was awful to use a walker, and I’m not a crutch person.”
With the instruction she received from Mercy Joint Camp and her commitment to recover, Donna was back on the tennis court in record time, playing her first doubles match just three months after her knee-replacement surgery. “Miraculous,” said Donna.
Any misgivings Donna had about joint-replacement surgery have disappeared — along with her knee pain. “I can go to sleep now and know that I’m not going to wake up in the middle of the night with pain.”
Today, Donna can play tennis as much as she likes — including competitive USTA matches. “I have to work on my serve, but those short ones at the net — I can just scramble and get there; it’s so fun! I feel good about being able to cover the court.”
“I’m just forever grateful to Dr. Mahoney and Mercy for helping me get a new knee ... and my life back. Recovery took a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. The payoff is incredible.”
Every day in every way.