Alison Heiser had plenty of reasons to be frustrated.
Despite a fairly active, healthy lifestyle, she was only 57 when she began experiencing increasingly disabling pain in her left hip, leg and knee. A business management consultant based in Neenah, Wis., Alison tried anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and a few steroid injections for the next four-plus years.
Unfortunately, whatever relief came Alison's way from these treatments was short-lived. By the time she turned 60, chronic pain had become her constant companion.
"I love walking and hiking, but it wasn't just the walking that hurt," said Alison. "Normal daily movement, like standing or sitting down was very hard. Sleeping was painful and didn't come easy. Physically, my life was turning into constant agony."
By the fall of 2020, following one last steroid injection that wore off in a couple of weeks, Alison knew the time had come to pursue hip replacement surgery.
"I was at the end of my rope," she said. "The only question was who would do the surgery."
Alison was willing to travel outside the Fox Valley if she could find an orthopedic surgeon that she trusted completely.
Not sure where to begin, Alison's quest ended in a fraction of a second after typing a simple question into Google's search engine — "Who is the best joint replacement surgeon in Wisconsin?"
Among the highest results was UW Health orthopedic surgeon Matthew Squire, MD. An internationally known physician who has practiced for more than 16 years, Dr. Squire specializes solely in hip and knee replacement. He has performed nearly 7,000 joint replacement procedures, including more than 3,500 total hip replacements.
Alison was highly impressed with what she read. After her first trip to Madison to discuss hip surgery, Alison and her husband Jim agreed that Dr. Squire was precisely the right surgeon to do the job.
Highly impressed by Dr. Squire's approach
"I had a lot of questions for Dr. Squire and he answered them thoroughly," said Alison. "It was clear that he stays at the forefront of his field with respect to surgical techniques and research, and I have a bias that favors academic hospitals."
Like many surgical procedures, hip replacements are generally far less invasive than they were as little as 10 years ago. Stays of 3 to 5 nights in the hospital, which used to be the norm, have decreased to one night. At UW Health, however, Dr. Squire has been performing same-day hip and knee replacement surgery since 2018.
"We started slowly," Dr. Squire said, "but as same-day surgery patient outcomes and satisfaction often exceeded those who stayed overnight, volume has escalated rapidly. People really like being able to get this done without the inconvenience of staying in the hospital, and they leave with smaller incisions and recover much faster than ever, thanks to improvements in techniques, instruments and the prostheses we use for replacement."
Before making her decision absolutely final, Alison wanted to be sure Dr. Squire had no qualms about her traveling home – a 2-hour drive from Madison – so soon after surgery.
"He had no concerns at all," Alison said. "He also told me someone in my condition would likely do as well if not better going home the same day of surgery as compared to a patient who stayed overnight and drove home the next day."
Surgery was scheduled at UW Health at The American Center on Madison's far east side, a modern, patient-friendly facility where all elective orthopedic surgeries are done.
"We spent Monday night at a nearby hotel so I could be at the hospital at 5:15 Tuesday morning," Alison said. "Within 5 minutes of arriving, I was escorted to a room and met by a nurse. Before surgery, a pharmacist, the anesthesiologist and Dr. Squire came in to make sure I knew what would happen and answered all my questions."
Surgery at 7 a.m.; on the way home by 1 p.m.
At 7 a.m., Alison was off to surgery. By 9:30, she was already back in her room and within minutes, she could walk to the bathroom on her own.
"It was surreal how quickly it all happened," Alison said. "It was amazing that by 1 that afternoon, I was in the car with my husband comfortably heading home. That evening, we were eating supper at our dining room table. Best of all, I got to sleep in my own bed that night."
After a day and a half on prescription pain medication, Alison switched to Tylenol to manage her remaining discomfort.
Her relief was as sudden as it was stunning. With the help of a clothes hook and sock aide, she could dress and bathe herself a few days after surgery. After about a week aided by crutches and a walker, Alison was maneuvering around her house and yard easily. Ice packs and Tylenol helped her recovery and in no time at all, Alison was back to her pre-pain self and feeling great. She resumed driving after her first follow-up visit.
"I'm back to me," said Alison. "I feel normal again and there is nothing I'm not able to do. And Jim will tell you that my mood is so much better, which I'm sure he appreciates."
Dr. Squire couldn't be happier to see the results of his work in action.
"It's the most gratifying part of my job to see my patients break out of the cycle of chronic hip or knee pain and watch their quality of life quickly and tremendously improve," he said. "When they ask themselves, ‘Why did I wait so long?' I know we did our job."