She loves to snowshoe, cross-country ski, bike, paddleboard, kayak and teach fitness classes.
Diane Ullery doesn’t let age slow her down.
She isn’t going to let a painful knee stop her from the active lifestyle she loves, either.
Ullery, 66, of Gun Lake, had same-day, total knee replacement surgery Dec. 6, 2021, at the new Corewell Health Pennock Baum Family Surgery Center in Hastings.
After a lifetime of physical activity, including volleyball, softball and running, Ullery’s knees were starting to feel it.
“Both of my knees have been bothering me for several years and I knew I was going to need a knee replacement eventually,” she said.
Years of wear on the joint, combined with arthritis, created the pain.
“I was noticing more and more difficulty with some of those fitness moves during aerobics—they were painful and it was making moves more challenging,” she said. “And activities like biking were more uncomfortable. Getting in and out of a kayak was more uncomfortable and stairs were getting difficult.”
‘I want to stay fit’
Ullery decided to be proactive.
“My motivation was to be able to continue to do the things I love to do,” she said. “My thinking was, I want to stay fit. I want to stay healthy. My thought was I want to get it done sooner so I can make the most use out of my new joint for as many years as possible.”
A retired recovery room registered nurse, Ullery had planned for surgery that would allow for an overnight stay.
For years she saw firsthand how some patients need a little longer after surgery to recover.
She also had a history of feeling nauseous after an operation. She hoped to get spinal anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, which would require an overnight stay.
But when a cancellation offered her a chance to have surgery a month earlier than scheduled, albeit a same-day procedure, she took it.
She underwent a total knee replacement at the Baum Family Surgery Center. She returned home that same day.
Home, sweet home
“It was great to be home in my own environment, in my own bed at night, in my own chair,” she said. “I really didn’t need to stay.”
Ullery was pleasantly surprised how quick she was up and around after the procedure.
“The surgery went smooth,” Ullery said. “I woke up, I felt great, I had no pain, I had no nausea—I felt really good. I was able to walk with a walker down the hall and even did a couple of steps.”
Doctors discharged her and she returned home by 4 p.m.
“I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, I wanted to stay,’ but I really didn’t know what they would have done differently for me in the hospital than what I did for me at home,” Ullery said. “I received great care from start to finish.
“Everyone on the team, nurses, anesthesia, support staff and surgical team were all amazing,” she said. “They listened to and addressed all my questions and concerns. They even made sure my husband got something to eat, as we were there all day. The whole process was seamless.”
She started therapy at Corewell Health Pennock Outpatient Rehabilitation four days after surgery and continued rehabilitation twice a week for six weeks.
She said her post-operative pain has been tolerable and her rehab has gone well.
“It’s not always fun,” she said. “The physical therapists make you work hard and it’s not always comfortable. But when I left PT, my knee always felt better, because it was warmed up and loose and my range of motion was better.”
Ullery continues to gain strength and flexibility by exercising at home.
“Everything the physical therapists do, they teach you to do, so then I can do those exercises at home,” she said. “They have been amazing, just encouraging and supportive and so helpful.”
Back in action
Just two weeks after surgery, on a sunny day in mid-December with no snow on the ground, Ullery went for a half-mile walk with her walker.
“I just wanted to get outside,” she said. “The roads were clear, so it was safe for me to walk with my walker.”
A month later, her husband, Dan, stomped a path through the snow with snowshoes and Ullery followed with walking poles.
“That felt really good,” she said. “I think I did a mile that day.”
Once cleared to get in the pool, she started swimming and doing water classes at Pennock Health and Wellness Center.
“That’s been really great and helpful,” she said. “It feels really great on my knee.”
She’s also back to teaching fitness classes at a small gym in Gun Lake, and she went hiking in the Ozark Mountains near Branson, Missouri, this spring.
“I’m back to my normal routine,” she said. “I’m not one to sit.”