Peter Joachim is happy to tell anyone who will listen about the outstanding care he received when he recently travelled from suburban Rockford, IL to UW Health in Madison for knee replacement surgery. More on this shortly.
A native of Germany who moved to Canada at age 14, Peter has spent enough time in hospitals to know outstanding hospital care when he sees it. As a child in Berlin during and just after World War II, more than half of his first seven years were spent in the hospital. You name it – polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, chicken pox, mumps, measles, German measles – Peter had it. As a young teen, Peter and his family of seven left Germany for Canada in 1956. He got his first job working in the laundry department at a hospital in Winnipeg, eventually finding hospital laundry positions of increasing responsibility in several Canadian cities.
Since 1995, when he moved to the United States, Peter has lived with his second wife, Peggy, in the Rockford area, where he maintains his Canadian citizenship. Until his retirement in 2018, Peter owned his own construction business. A tireless, hardworking builder and repairman, Peter relished putting his own sweat equity into “fixer-upper” houses that he bought for the purpose of upgrading and selling.
At age 57, Peter needed quadruple heart bypass surgery, but that didn’t stop him from getting on top of roofs to resume construction work just three months later. By age 67, Peter needed a pacemaker, and by 70, he made his first trip to UW Health in Madison to have a stent implanted by UW Health interventional cardiologist Giorgio Gimelli, MD.
“We put a stent in for Peter in 2013 because of a blockage in one of his arteries,” says Dr. Gimelli. “He has high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but when I last saw him in early 2021, Peter’s heart situation was stable.”
Knee pain became intolerable so Peter opted for surgery
Despite his steady cardiac condition, Peter was becoming increasingly frustrated with pain in his knee. He and Peggy are avid walkers – they have visited all 44 forest preserves in the Greater Rockford Area – so it was disappointing for him to assume the days of long walks were coming to an end.
“I was getting pain-killing shots for my knee, but it really wasn’t helping,” Peter says. To Peter’s surprise, Gimelli encouraged him to pursue a knee replacement if he wanted to keep walking several miles a day.
“Many patients think they can’t have a knee or hip replacement because of their age or heart condition,” Gimelli says. “After Peter did fine on a stress test, I told him it was an ideal time to pursue a knee replacement because his cardiac situation was stable and that he should have no problems getting through knee surgery.”
As thorough as he is, Peter did plenty of research before deciding who would perform his knee replacement. He was especially intrigued to learn about UW Health orthopedic surgeon Matthew Squire, MD.
“I learned that Dr. Squire had done more than 3,500 knee replacements,” Peter says. “I couldn’t find another surgeon who had done anywhere close to that, so Peggy and I decided to meet with Dr. Squire.”
Suffice it say, the Joachims were highly impressed.
Highly impressed with Dr. Squire, a “real mensch”
“We were immediately struck by his sincerity and non-braggadocious manner,” Peter says. “We just knew that we could trust him. He seemed like a real mensch,” Peter added, using the Yiddish term for someone with extraordinary integrity and honor.
A few weeks before surgery, Peter began exercising his leg as directed – a technique that would make it easier for him to start physical therapy after the surgery.
Peter couldn’t believe he would need to spend just one night in the hospital. (Many of Dr. Squire’s younger knee- and hip-replacement patients actually go home the same day of surgery, but those who are at least 75 are kept overnight.)
Another piece of news Peter did not anticipate was that he would not be given general anesthesia during his knee surgery. Instead, only the lower half of his body was numbed, followed by gentle sedation that allowed him to sleep during the surgery.
“Most of our patients, including Peter, receive what we call regional anesthesia,” says Dr. Squire. “Similar to an epidural that many women receive during childbirth, we use a spinal anesthetic that numbs the patient from the waist down to their toes. Compared to general anesthesia,” he says, “regional anesthesia with comfortable sedation is safer, with less risk of infection or blood clot, but like general anesthesia, the patient has no memory of the surgery at all.”
Peter was amazed by his rapid recovery. At one month, his new knee replacement felt infinitely better than his old arthritic knee. Walking was much less painful than it had been for years. By eight weeks after surgery, Peter was comfortably trail walking up to two miles a day and keeping up with his wife. For a while, he used a cane or walking stick, which he still travels with just in case, but seldom uses anymore. At his last clinic appointment with Dr. Squire, he was elated to hear that the artificial knee would continue to improve for months to come. Eventually, he hopes to walk more than 3 miles a day.
Wrote a letter of gratitude to the CEO of UW Health
Letter writing may be a lost art for most, but Peter was so pleased with his UW Health care that he took the time to write a glowing letter about his experience to Dr. Alan Kaplan, UW Health President and CEO.
“I wanted to make the CEO aware not only of the care I received from my doctors, but also my nurses and my physical therapist, whom I named in the letter,” says Peter. “I closed by saying that I hoped I made him proud of what UW Health stands for.”
For Dr. Squire, patients like Peter make his job a lot easier.
“Peter is a highly motivated patient whom I expect will do a great job with his follow-through,” says Squire. “These are the kind of patients who typically have the best outcomes, and we are happy to see them experience a better quality of life.”