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Winning Attitude Gives Knee Replacement Patient a Clear Edge to Recovery

John C. Lincoln orthopedic surgeon Amon Ferry, MD, and knee replacement patient Deb Dubree
John C. Lincoln orthopedic surgeon Amon Ferry, MD, and his successful knee replacement patient, Deb Dubree.

Attitude. Does it really make a difference after surgery?

"Absolutely," said orthopedic surgeon Amon Ferry, MD. "Patients who are determined to get better do. Those who are not, don't."

Deborah Dubree took that concept to a whole new level, Dr. Ferry said.

"The day after most patients have had a knee replaced, they're still groggy, lying in bed, not with the program yet," he said. "When I went to see Deb the day after her surgery, she was sitting up, totally alert, working on her computer! I couldn't believe it."

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Dubree had a secret to her success, an edge. Or, in her terms, she had "the ClearEDGE Difference."

ClearEDGE is what she does for a living, coaching elite professional athletes to optimize performance.

After surgery, she lived what she teaches.

"With my athletes, we talk about expectations," Dubree explains. "I talked with Dr. Ferry about expectations for my recovery, so I knew the goals I was working to achieve. I didn't have to wait for recovery to happen to me. I could work to make my recovery happen."

Dubree's knee problems date back to 2005, when her knee started making "crunchy sounds," and she had a cartilage repair procedure called microfracture surgery.

Popular with many super athletes, the procedure creates tiny fractures that cause new cartilage to develop in the underlying knee bone. Dubree liked it because it was minimally invasive and required little recovery time.

"It was important to get my knee fixed quickly, because I was scheduled to go to Australia and New Zealand and I had to speak at a major convention in San Diego," she said.

Like the rest of her life, this involved a lot of movement. Although most of her coaching is done by phone — she's available 24/7 to her clients — some of her work is done on the field, court or course. She works where her clients work, and she has to be able to keep up with them.

"They have to trust I know the challenges that limit their optimal performance. Sometimes that means I have to be out where they are," she said.

Most relevant, however, was that her coaching helps athletes recover after injury or surgery. That's what she needed.

By the end of 2010, her left knee was just bone grating on bone. Even with her mental toughness, she just couldn't keep going. Knee replacement surgery was necessary.

Her primary care doctor gave her Dr. Ferry's name, but with the approach she takes for clients, she did the research to be sure she was making the right decision for herself.

When she saw that Dr. Ferry's credentials include a fellowship with the esteemed Harvard Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Service, she consulted with him and was sold.

"He really listened and answered all my questions — about the procedure, the facility, options for anesthesia, pain management, and what to expect," Dubree said. "I wanted quantifiable goals, and he gave them to me."

Dr. Ferry and Deb Dubree review the medical images of her knee surgery
Dr. Ferry and Deb Dubree review the medical images of her knee surgery.

"Joint replacement is almost always successful, but it is still serious," Dr. Ferry said. "It should be done as a last resort."

"That's where Deb was," Dr. Ferry said. "She had end stage degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis. All the cartilage in her knee was destroyed."

Dr. Ferry recommended a special implant designed for female athletes whose femur bones are narrower toward the knee than those of their male counterparts. "You want to choose the implant that's going to fit best for the individual," he said.

They did the surgery and Dubree applied her professional principles. The day after surgery, when most patients are still groggy, "I saw her working on her laptop," Dr. Ferry said with some amazement. "I told her that her recovery was going to be awesome."

"I did what I teach my clients — visualize healing," Dubree said. "It's important to have a daily objective: What can I do today to further my ability?"

"It helped that the nursing care and physical therapy were all so good," Dubree said. "Everyone was warm and encouraging — I felt well cared for."

"I love working with athletes," Dr. Ferry said. "They not only do what we ask, they do more. That's what Deb was doing."

And it worked for Dubree. "In three weeks I got rid of my walker and I was back at work," she said. "By now, I'm at 100 percent."

Learn more about knee replacement surgery at JCL.com/orthopedics.

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