Working as an orthopedic nurse at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital, Hope Drahos spent 30 years on the front line, caring for people on the road to recovery after surgery. It was a physical job, “In the old days, we lifted patients to chairs ourselves,” she remembers. “Now they use lift equipment.”
Hope’s job also involved skills she now uses as a case manager. “Then and now, I see people when the rug’s been pulled out from under them, when something unexpected happens, like a fracture,” she says. “You have to help them put up with stages in their life that weren’t expected.”
Experience from both jobs came into play in 2011 when Hope, then only 58 years old, had to face the reality she needed a hip replacement. She says osteoarthritis, the years of physically demanding work and carrying more weight than she should eventually took their toll on her joints.
“It’s miserable, grinding bone-on-bone pain,” says Hope. “It started in 2010, with my right hip, and it was sudden and severe when it happened.”
Hope takes a dose of her own medicine
Hope saw IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Orthopedic Surgeon Jonathan Surdam, MD for treatment. He took a conservative treatment approach initially, using cortisone injections to ease the pain. Hope says they helped temporarily, but surgery was inevitable.
“When Dr. Surdam said it was time to schedule surgery, I didn’t have any hesitation,” she remembers. “I didn’t fear the surgery—I feared not being able to function. And when you work with it all those years, how are you going to say you won’t buy into it?”
Hope says surgery that fall gave her immediate relief from pain. “I remember my first steps—I walked without pain, the same day as my surgery,” she says. “It’s not just a physical lift, but an emotional one, too. You realize, ‘It’s really going to work!’”
Hope’s road to recovery included outpatient rehabilitation at Dr. Surdam’s office to ensure she could regain and improve her mobility following surgery.
“It was nice because Dr. Surdam could pop in and see how I was doing, and he’s right there if the therapists have questions while you’re there,” says Hope.
Not long after she returned to work in January 2011, she felt the tell-tale pain that told her she wasn’t done with surgery yet: Her left hip and right knee were both shot. She worked long enough to save up time off and had her knee replaced in October, followed by her hip in November.
The back-to-back surgeries meant 12 weeks away from her job, but she by no means was off work. Rehabilitation became her new job.
“As a nurse, you learn never to turn down therapy,” says Hope.
Her dedication to rehab paid off. “I have a whole new life—a new start,” says Hope. “I can walk without pain. I would tell anyone, ‘Don’t live with that.’”
Changes lead to even stronger results
Hope says her husband Ron joins in her chorus of appreciation, thanks to the five joint replacements—both knees, hips and a shoulder—he’s had.
“He’s a ‘joint boy,’ too,” says Hope. “We’ve both wondered where we would be without the technology that helped us get back on our feet.”
For Hope, as a healthcare professional, and for both her and Ron as patients, they marvel at the changes in the field. “Just the technology that’s come along over the past 10 years is amazing,” says Hope. “You can see it in something as simple as the scar from our incisions—his knee incision was closed with staples and is a half an inch wide. Mine was closed with glue and is a tiny, thin line.”
Hope also credits Dr. Surdam and IU Health Bloomington Hospital for setting a high expectation for outcomes like hers and Ron’s.
“As a nurse, I saw how the hospital always expected a quality experience and outcome,” she says. “And when Dr. Surdam came in 2005, he had a vision to make our hospital even better—he wanted the whole joint process to become even stronger than it already was.”
She counts the hospital being part of the IU Health system as a big plus, too. “You have the strength of the whole system behind you,” she says. “There’s collaboration between staff and systems from all over the state. That gives you real strength—you’re not competing, but instead, talking with people about what works best. These people are all working together because we want our system—and care—to be the best.”