Jean Magrane

Jean Magrane

Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

In 2009, she became the first firefighter to have a total knee replacement.

First female firefighter receives first total knee replacement

In 1987, Jean Magrane became Bloomington’s first female firefighter. In 2009, she became the first firefighter to have a total knee replacement.

Earlier in life, Magrane played volleyball, softball, and swam for Indiana University. “I always had knee problems. I had to stop some events and activities, even,” says Magrane. Despite some problems, she continued to play volleyball six days a week for years after college until it became too painful. She has had previous arthroscopic work on her knee and still swims regularly

As a Captain in the Bloomington Fire Department, she leads a crew of five or six other firefighters. “The safety of my crew is my main concern,” says Magrane. In addition to her responsibilities to her crew, she has to be able to train and perform in the field when needed. “Without the total knee replacement I wouldn’t have been able to continue,” says Magrane.

Magrane suffered from a loss of mobility and was compensating for her weak knee with other muscles. “I was in constant pain,” she says.

Magrane searched for others in the same situation: “I researched everywhere for other firefighters who had total knee replacements and couldn’t find anybody talking about it…that made me kind of nervous, but Dr. [Brian] Murphy was confident I’d go back to work and I believe him.”

“A knee replacement operation is a partnership. It’s not just the surgeon, or the new knee, a lot depends on the patient’s participation,” says Brian Murphy, M.D., a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon on IU Health Bloomington Hospital’s medical staff. “Being motivated counts for a lot, and Jean is highly motivated to recover her lost abilities.”

The most common reason for a total knee replacement is severe arthritic pain. Pain cannot be measured, and the degree of pain sufficient to warrant surgery should be decided by the patient and doctor together.

“It's a great facility and with Physical Therapist Janet Delong’s help, I’m ahead of schedule,” shares Magrane. “I’ve had to unlearn what my body learned to compensate for my knee pain…I actually had to have walking lessons!” Magrane’s custom-tailored rehabilitation program consists of exercises and motions intended to help her regain strength, body alignment, confidence, and her previous range of motion.

“I keep anticipating the pain, but it’s not there,” she says. “It’s too good to believe that I can bend my knee without pain.” 

The goal of a total knee replacement is to reduce pain and recover as much range of motion as possible. The replacement knee recreates the normal function of the knee. In the U.S., the average joint replacement patient is 65 to 70 years old; however, patients of all ages have received knee implants. Knee replacement is a routine surgery performed on over 600,000 people worldwide yearly.

Given Magrane’s age and level of activity, a cement-less total knee replacement was chosen. “In a cement-less total knee replacement, the artificial knee’s surface is porous and allows the bone tissue to grow into it for fixation,” shares Dr. Murphy. “The longevity of a prosthetic knee varies from patient to patient. It depends on many factors, such as a patient’s physical condition, activity level, and weight.”

“I have great confidence in Dr. Murphy and I trusted him when he told me I’d be back to 100 percent just four months after my total knee replacement,” confides Magrane. “I couldn’t walk two blocks before…I had to tell my friends I couldn’t go out with them. Now I’ll be able to do more things with friends and take advantage of life, travel, and I’m a lot more confident.”

Another goal of total knee replacement is to restore the body’s natural alignment. Previously, Magrane’s body had to compensate for her failing knee. Magrane’s post-surgery rehabilitation at Bloomington's east side IU Health Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine Center will help regain natural alignment.