Four in Ten: New Knees and Shoulders for Manitowoc Man
Two shoulder replacements and a double knee replacement have Tony Kraemer feeling like a new man. Tony, who worked a physically demanding job for the Manitowoc Street Department, retired this summer after having his fourth joint replacement. Now he’s enjoying a second career as a part-time mechanic and welder, working comfortably from his home garage—bending, lifting, and reaching overhead without joint pops or pain. His advice to others suffering from knee or shoulder problems? “If you’re hurting, don’t wait.”
Like a Ratchet
Tony was barely in his 40s when his shoulder started bothering him. His work—raking 10 to 20 tons of asphalt daily, throughout the road repair season—left his shoulder aching and nearly immobile by day’s end. For ten years, he worked through the gradually increasing pain. His shoulder started to ratchet, click-click-clicking through every motion until eventually he couldn’t even raise his arm high enough to wash his hair. That’s when a friend convinced him to visit Dr. Shawn Hennigan.
On Dr. Hennigan’s recommendation, Tony agreed to go ahead with a total shoulder replacement. Afterwards, when his local (non-Aurora) physical therapists said they’d never seen a total shoulder replacement before, he decided to tackle therapy on his own. Attentive to Dr. Hennigan’s prescribed exercises, Tony was back to work in nine weeks, ready for snow plowing season.
Several years later, Tony’s knees needed attention. This time, he traveled to Aurora BayCare in Green Bay to work with Dr. Robert Limoni, a knee replacement specialist. To manage costs and shorten recovery time, Tony opted for a simultaneous bilateral total knee replacement and got two new joints at once. Tony qualified for the simultaneous procedure because his age and good health put him at low risk for complications. Fortunately, he also qualified for a custom-designed knee replacement, an option for certain patients with severe knee pain. Dr. Limoni ordered a CT scan of Tony’s knees and sent them to a lab which custom built new knees, crafted exactly for his body.
The made-to-order knees, and customized surgical tools that come with them, mean surgery is faster and less invasive. And that leads to shorter hospital stays and faster rehab. For Tony, who was once again dedicated to his at-home physical therapy, that meant he was back driving his diesel truck (with clutch) within just two weeks after surgery.
One to Go
Finally, in July 2015, Tony returned to Dr. Hennigan to have his remaining shoulder replacement. Those early years spent favoring his right shoulder had done a number on his left, and it was time to finish the job. “Shoulders are a piece of cake,” he jokes, looking back on his recovery. He handled all his own physical therapy again and even got the go-ahead to skip his final follow-up. All the same, Tony decided to retire from road crew work to give his new joints a break. “I feel too good,” he says, “It doesn’t pay to wreck everything again.”
As he reflects on four new joints in ten years, Tony only wishes he hadn’t waited as long as he did to get help. “Dr. Hennigan went out of his way for me, and the nurses were great. I’m glad I got the shoulders and the knees done,” he says. “I have no regrets. I’m pain free.”