Rita Zuckerman, physical therapist assistant, left, with Ellen Paulson

When preparing to undergo a bilateral total knee replacement, one must be ready for not only the surgery itself, but also the rehabilitation that follows.


Ellen Paulson and her husband, David, for quite some time have actively participated and competed in skiing, swimming, scuba diving and, more recently, golf and tennis. When Paulson began to experience discomfort in not just one but both knees during these activities, she took action.


Initially, Paulson’s right knee became painful, and this proved difficult, especially with her active background. However, as both of her knees became more painful, it became more difficult to participate in some of her favorite sports.


“I really love the competition, but it was becoming too hard on the knees,” said Paulson.


At first, Paulson opted for more conservative treatments. She attempted injections to her knees (cortisone and hyaluronic), then underwent a right knee arthroscopy in 2013.


Paulson said, “At first, the right one was bad. But then the left one followed.”


She was able to play golf until December, but in January 2015, she underwent a left knee arthroplasty.


Paulson’s attempt at these minimally invasive procedures performed on both knees helped, but not enough to return to sports.


In March 2015, Paulson decided to undergo a bilateral total knee replacement surgery by Dr. Gary Ackerman. Having both knees replaced at the same time, as opposed to separately, was not a difficult decision for Paulson.


“It was never an option to have one knee done at a time,” she said. “If I had only one surgery, I would have never wanted to go back for another one.”


Following surgery, Paulson was fully prepared for her rehabilitation. She was no stranger to physical therapy as she was involved in programs after her arthroscopic surgery and before her bilateral total knee replacements. She was confident as to where she was going. Paulson noted that her friend, who used the same surgeon, received rehabilitation at The Gardens Court in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.


“Dr. Ackerman recommended The Gardens Court,” she said. “But it also helped that my friend had a great experience at The Gardens Court.”


At first, Paulson used a walker for ambulation and experienced a great deal of pain. “The biggest adjustment for me was the limitation in my activity,” she remembered, “but having two sessions a day during the week of physical therapy, and one session of occupational therapy, helped a lot.”


With Paulson’s determination and the assistance of her physical and occupational therapists, she eventually progressed to a cane and currently does not use any assistive device.


“All the exercises help to target different muscles,” Paulson said. “And having different therapists is great because they have different approaches.”


Paulson currently receives physical therapy as an outpatient at The Gardens Court. She continues to remain positive about her condition.


“I’m not sure if I’m going to play tennis again, but golf is likely,” Paulson said. “I have no regrets giving up tennis. Life is full of phases.”


Paulson’s positivity can be attributed to not only her attitude, but also the inspiration of her three grandchildren: Avery, 9; Griffin, 7; and Lila, 4. Since surgery and rehabilitation began, they have sent Paulson inspirational cards and pictures they made at home to help her feel better.


With the inspiration of her family and her own motivation, Paulson has proved, and will continue to prove, that anything is possible!

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