Ricklefs credits local services for getting her back on her feet

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Two years following a knee replacement surgery (as well as host of other medical- related issues that followed), Sandy Ricklefs of Center Junction is back home, and thankful for the local services that allowed her to return to life as she knew it.

On March 24, 2017, Ricklefs underwent complete knee-replacement surgery on her right knee. The ordeal and pain began in the summer of 2016 when Ricklefs and her husband, Vern, were on a road trip to visit long-time friends in the State of Washington.

While at a campground 150 miles away from their friends, Ricklefs stated experiencing shooting pain in her knee.

“I just couldn’t move,” she said.

The couple headed to a hospital in Spokane, Wash., where they provided temporary relief.

“We were five days into our three-week vacation,” shared Ricklefs.

Knowing they were so close to their friends, the couple continued on, but cut their stay short. Once back in Iowa, Ricklefs immediately sought medical attention.

She underwent an MRI and was told she had a torn meniscus. Surgery was scheduled for November 2016.

“I was off work for six weeks,” said Ricklefs. “So I went back to work and the pain came back.”

That’s when total knee replacement became more of a possibility.

As part of Ricklefs’ knee replacement, her doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital inserted

a 3.5-pound metal plate near her knee.

She remained in the hospital for 10 days, what was originally supposed to be a three-day stay.

Knowing Vern couldn’t provide 24/7 care, Ricklefs was told she’d have to go to a nursing home until she was fit to return home. That news just broke her spirits.

“I felt I just couldn’t go on,” said Ricklefs. “I cried and went into a really bad depression.”

Ricklefs said that’s when one of her nurses just held her hand and told her everything would get better from there.

Ricklefs was given a list of nursing home facilities in her area, with the Monticello Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (MNRC) being the closest.

“I was told they had just opened their new rehab unit and I was to be their first patient,” said Ricklefs. (MNRC opened its rehab- to-home unit on March 29, 2017.)

“Vern toured the facility and was very impressed,” she said of her husband taking a first-hand look at the new unit. “I could bring my dogs with me.”

Due to some setbacks at St. Luke’s, Ricklefs’ move was delayed a few days. It appeared Ricklefs kept reporting a temperature, though she felt fine.

“They said I had a low- grade temperature,” recalled Ricklefs.

Nurses were taking her temperature in her ear, removing her hearing aid to do so. Once they took her temperature via her mouth, it was back to normal.

“I couldn’t wait to get on the road to recovery,” said

She was taken in a

wheelchair to MNRC, where she stayed for just over a month, April 3 through May 6.

“I was in a wheelchair the entire time,” said Ricklefs. “I went from my bed to the wheelchair.”

Ricklefs was the second patient to be welcomed into the rehab unit at MNRC. She underwent routine physical therapy. (MNRC is in partnership with Millennium Therapy.) The goal was to get her leg moving again, get her out of a wheelchair.

“I think they gave me more care than most,” praised Ricklefs of the attention she was given. “They provided excellent care. They kept telling me I was going to go home. They really worked with me so I could go home.”

They also worked on Ricklefs’ arm strength, though at the time, she never understood why that was necessary. Later on, she would be thankful for the additional strength in her arms.

One task Ricklefs said she would never forget was the day she made homemade brownies while at MNRC.

“I was not able to do much on my own,” she said up to that point. “I was helpless.”

However, the MNRC staff and therapists knew Ricklefs needed to adjust and had her make brownies in the kitchen to get used to making accommodations while still in a wheelchair.

So, Ricklefs stirred the batter and placed the pan inside the oven, all on her own. As the brownies were baking, the staff asked to taste them once they were done, but Ricklefs promised them

to the patients in the rehab unit.

“They couldn’t hold me down after that,” she said.

While at MNRC, Ricklefs was given a smaller wheelchair that formed to her small frame and stature. She was so thankful that she promised to wheel it into the nursing home herself once she didn’t need it anymore.

“And I did what I told them I would do,” said Ricklefs of bouncing back from her knee surgery.

While staying at MNRC, the staff approached Ricklefs to see if she wouldn’t mind appearing in a commercial that aired on KCRG. The commercial was to showcase the new rehab wing.

“I just told them that MNRC was the answer to my prayers,” recalled Ricklefs.

She said a year later, and people still recognize her as the lady from the commercial.

After her stint at MNRC, Ricklefs was able to return home where Vern became “the world’s best caregiver.” He rearranged the furniture in their house and made it so she could easily get around in her wheelchair and walker.

Above & Beyond Home Health also came out three times a week for five weeks to continue working on Ricklefs leg/knee.

“I got the strength back in my knee,” she said. “The goal was to be able to bend my knee at 75 to 80 degrees.”

In all, Ricklefs was in a wheelchair for five to six months before she progressed to a walker, and now walks steadily on her own.

“I don’t envy anyone,” she said of needing a wheelchair for so long.

She still continues the leg exercises Above & Beyond

shared with her.
In addition, Ricklefs and

her daughter-in-law utilize the therapy pool at Camp Courageous. The two have been going for over a year and continue to go even now.

“I can do more movements in the water,” said Ricklefs. “I developed an exercise regiment I can do on my own that not only helps my leg but my back, too. The water makes a big difference.”

Ricklefs credits the local services (MNRC, Above & Beyond, and Camp Courageous) for helping her in her long road to recovery so that she could finally return home. “Thanks to everyone who helped me get back on my feet again,” she said.

Ricklefs also thanks Vern for his unending love, care

and support. He helped her with her daily exercises day and night. While her movements are still limited, Vern assists her in putting on her shoes and socks, and even installed a new shower so that Ricklefs could easily bathe herself versus getting into a tub.

“He really should have been a therapist,” Ricklefs said of Vern’s capabilities. “If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what I would do.”

Ricklefs said she still has pain in her leg/knee, which is another ordeal altogether. She uses a walker or cane for balance. As the weather warms up, she is looking forward to getting out and about.

“I still have my days, but Vern says it all could have been worse,” said Ricklefs.



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