WORTHINGTON - It takes a lot to slow down Jeff Baumgarn.
A 1977 graduate of Worthington High School, Baumgarn was a dedicated football and basketball player throughout his teens, and he continued playing football for two post-secondary years at Minnesota West Community and Technical College (then Worthington Community College).
“Football is hard on your body any way you deal with it,” said the former linebacker. “Your body always takes a beating.”
During his 20s and 30s, Baumgarn maintained several athletic pursuits on a frequent basis. When he wasn’t occupied with his work as owner/operator of Worthington Printing Company, Baumgarn was either playing volleyball, engaging in noon and evening basketball games at the YMCA or golfing at the Worthington Country Club.
Despite all that physical activity, Baumgarn had relatively few ailments in those decades.
“And I never hurt my right knee in football,” said Baumgarn. “It was more all the years of basketball that wore on it, and using it in my golf swing.”
Around the time he turned 40, though, that knee started to make itself unpleasantly known, and Baumgarn easily recalls the pivotal moment it took a definitive turn for the worse.
“I was squatting down to read a putt when I was about 42 and it popped really loud,” said Baumgarn. “I kept going a couple more years, but then I had to quit basketball.”
About a year later, Baumgarn learned he had worn off his meniscus. Microfracture surgery was the next step.
“The surgeon drills little holes into the bone and it forms scar tissue,” described Baumgarn. “That helped for a while, and I made it to 56 without having more major issues.”
But when knee pain began interfering with Baumgarn’s sleep patterns, he knew it was time for a change, partly from having observed his father grapple with a similar health issue.
“My dad had put off doing his (knee) until he got so old they wouldn’t do it for him,” said Baumgarn. “Then he was in misery for the last couple years of his life.”
Although knee replacement surgery had its own potential hassles, Baumgarn was hopeful the pain would be worth the gain.
Enter Joint Camp.
Roughly six weeks prior to Baumgarn’s scheduled surgery, he and his appointed caregiver (his wife Deb, who is employed as business office manager at Sanford Worthington) attended Joint Camp, a short series of classes for patients like Baumgarn.
“My wife and I found it very informative,” attested Baumgarn. “They reviewed the entire surgical process and told us what to expect - before, during and after.
“They showed us drawings of what they do and how they do it, discussed a lot about the post-surgery physical therapy regimen and brought up some of the problems we might face.”
Instructors also suggested ways patients could make it easier for themselves, like exercising some and losing weight in advance of the surgery.
“That makes it easier on the knee, and I listened to them and lost 15 to 20 pounds beforehand,” said Baumgarn.
Joint Camp also stressed the importance of following instructions from doctors and therapists post-surgery.
“There was a lot of information for the caregiver as well, about medications, setting up your home to accommodate a walker - very technical stuff like that, and it was all really helpful,” he mentioned.
Fortunately for Baumgarn, his surgery was extremely successful.
“I had no problems and my recovery went well,” he said.
When one small glitch appeared - he had a negative reaction to one post-surgical medication - the couple’s Joint Camp training was recalled and quickly enabled Deb to advocate for a remedy.
“We remembered they said that medication could be an adjustment, so they switched me to another medication that didn’t negatively affect me,” said Baumgarn.
Baumgarn is wired to be a competitive athlete, so when he felt like he was conquering the prescribed exercises for knee rehabilitation, he took things a little too far.
“I thought, ‘If they say to do it twice, I’ll do it four times a day,’” laughed Baumgarn.
He quickly found out that was not a good idea.
“They chewed me out about that, because when I was feeling better, I pushed it,” he said. “That taught me a degree of patience because when I did exactly what they said to do, things went well.”
Looking back, Baumgarn knows his attendance at Joint Camp had a positive impact on his preparation and recovery from surgery.
“Because there were other surgery candidates there, we each came with our specific concerns and questions,” said Baumgarn. “But the nice part was that someone else’s concern might also apply to you, so we all gained
multiple amounts of useful information.”
Having recently turned 60, Baumgarn passed the two-year anniversary of his knee replacement surgery not long ago. Count this Harley-driving golf enthusiast as fully back in the saddle of his favorite pursuits, the pain of his worn-out knee now a somewhat distant memory.
“It’s improved my life,” he confirms. “My knee is as good now as it was about 15 to 20 years ago.
“There’s no pain in it and I could take off and run if I wanted to - not that I do, though.”
Coupled with the guidance of Joint Camp, Baumgarn is delighted his decision to undergo the surgery had the desired outcome of a pain-free life and improved mobility.
“I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone not to do it [joint replacement] because it hurts, even though it’s not a lot of fun,” said Baumgarn. “But boy, if you listen to what they tell you to do in Joint Camp, it’s a big help.”