Fishing for a fixed knee: Ewy pleased with outcome of necessary knee replacement

WORTHINGTON -- The fish are biting. And Jim Ewy will be at the lake to catch them, due to successful knee replacement surgery completed early last January. "We go fishing whenever we can," said Ewy, who prefers a spot in northern South Dakota nea...

Brenda and Jim Ewy are shown on a recent fishing trip near Waubay, S.D.

WORTHINGTON -- The fish are biting.


And Jim Ewy will be at the lake to catch them, due to successful knee replacement surgery completed early last January.


“We go fishing whenever we can,” said Ewy, who prefers a spot in northern South Dakota near Waubay.



“It’s mostly walleyes; fishing pretty well takes care of it,” said Ewy of his favorite leisure time activity, in which he engages whenever he can get away from his responsibilities as a corn and soybean farmer outside of Rushmore.


But last fall, neither his farming duties nor his fishing pleasure looked like certainties anymore.


Seemingly out of nowhere, Ewy’s right knee began acting up and he was suddenly in frequent, intense pain that left him nearly physically incapacitated.


“I’d gotten along fine with it [my right knee] my whole life, even though I knew it wasn’t quite as good as the other one, but last fall it just fell apart on me,” said Ewy.



“It just went ‘boom,’” he continued. “There was no accident or anything, but I started having pain all of the time. I went in and the doctor tried a steroid injection, but that did minimal good.


“When I had an MRI, they could see it was pretty much junk.”


Ewy, who grew up playing football (primarily as an end), basketball (at nearly 6 feet 3 inches, he was a forward), baseball and softball in the Westbrook area, knew he’d inflicted some rough action on his body in his earlier years but never quite foresaw the long-term impact.


“I’d banged it [my knee] up some during sports and hyper-extended it once, but nothing really debilitating happened at all,” recalled Ewy.



Nevertheless, Ewy had a preview of his knee problem in 2001 when he required an ankle replacement on his left side.


“I knew that one would be coming,” he chuckled. “Between sports and work, I’d sprained that ankle around 50 to 75 times,” Ewy estimated.


When his right knee became problematic last fall, Ewy visited Dr. Michael Donohue, a Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon, and was ultimately able to have his knee replacement surgery performed at Sanford Worthington Medical Center.


“The knee surgery was a thousand times quicker and better than the ankle,” said Ewy. “Back when my ankle was done, replacements were somewhat brutal.


“I’d say it took nearly five years before I had full recovery - that was a long haul - but with my knee, after just about six months I’m pretty much pain-free and I have good mobility.


“Mostly, I forget the ‘new’ knee is even there.”


Ewy was confident in Dr. Donohue’s surgical skills, and grateful for the care and treatment he received over the course of his surgery and rehabilitation process.


“I think Dr. Donohue did a tremendous job on my knee, and then after about three days in the hospital, I went in for physical therapy twice a week for five weeks,” Ewy reported.


“I also had to do a lot of daily exercises on my own, but I followed the rules as they dictated them and the therapists said they could tell I was following through.”


Ewy says the pain he experienced prior to his knee replacement surgery was “100 times worse” than anything he’d previously felt.


“It was getting to be unbearable,” he testified. “My new knee is not like the original equipment I had, but it’s so much better and I do most things I could do before.”


Ewy, 64, and his wife, Brenda, have one grown daughter and two grandchildren. He’s been glad to have the chance to resume his normal activities.


“It felt so bad before the surgery that if I went to Wal-Mart, I had to use the scooter,” Ewy explained. “I couldn’t walk that much on it, and it was absolutely affecting my lifestyle.


“I mean, you could walk on it if you were a glutton for punishment, but it was agonizing.”


Saying he’d been a reasonably healthy person through most of his life to date, Ewy is not taking any of his regained abilities lightly.


“This surgery was a God-send,” Ewy affirmed. “My whole life would have been different if it weren’t available, but now when I go fishing I can crawl in and out of the boat and get on and off the dock; I don’t take that for granted, because I was without those abilities for a little bit and it’s awful important when it comes back.


“It’s not like I’m 22 anymore, but it’s way, way better than it would have been without it.”

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