Working as a bedside nurse requires extensive physical effort—pushing wheelchairs and beds, twisting and lifting, and long periods on your feet. Jennifer Thomas, who's been a nurse at UK for six years, can attest to this. In fact, it was while assisting a patient from a wheelchair that she badly injured the cartilage in her knee.
"The pain was excruciating-- a sharp, stabbing, burn," Thomas said. "It was constant regardless of sitting or walking. My sleep was interrupted due to the discomfort, stairs were next to impossible to navigate and playing with my newborn grandbabies—be it pushing a stroller or carrying them from room to room—was difficult at best."
Thomas cycled through the standard treatment options, including cortisone shots, physical therapy and two surgeries. These treatments, though, required time off work and extended periods of rest, only to provide no relief.
In November 2015, a year after her original injury, Thomas was referred to Dr. Christian Lattermann, director of UK’s Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration in the UK Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. In order to fix Thomas’ injury, a cartilage transplant needed to be performed by Lattermann. Lattermann and his Co-Principal Investigator Caitlin Whale happened to be leading the Phoenix Study to investigate how muscle stimulation, using the Phoenix Device, could improve muscle strength following surgery.
First, Thomas’ mobility was measured so there would be a baseline for comparison. She then underwent an osteochondral allograft, a surgical procedure where a living piece of cartilage and bone from a cadaver is implanted in the knee. After nine weeks of complete rest, Thomas did 12 weeks of at home treatment, as well as physical therapy, and her mobility was measured every three months for one year.
Lattermann, Whale and their team are still collecting data for this study, which will help them evaluate post-surgical treatment programs and better understand how muscle stimulation can improve strength and aid in recovery.
“The basis for any clinical treatment has to be evidence based research and that’s what we’re doing here,” Lattermann said, “our goal is for every patient being seen clinically [at UK Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine] to be a research participant.”
For Thomas, though, her personal results are in. After 12 months of treatment, she feels she’s achieved the goals set out at her first appointment, even if she's not exactly where she was before the injury.
This was Thomas’ first time participating in research, an experience she describes as wholly positive. She felt comforted by the fact that she would leave each appointment with a plan of care and established treatment goals.
"I’ve had a lot of experiences with a lot of surgeons and there’s no one like Dr. Lattermann. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I have for Dr. Lattermann and his team," she said.
"I'm thrilled to be in the position I am and honored to be able to continue nursing. I have yet another experience I can share with my patients. Understanding and personal knowledge are among the best gifts a nurse can share with her patients."
You can make a difference through participating in research and discovery. For more information about getting involved, including a list of current studies at UK and access to studies nationwide, you can visit UKclinicalresearch.com, call 859.257.7856, or join ResearchMatch.org/uky.