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Back to Pain-Free Long Walks and More

Donna Pojnar doesn’t have to imagine what it’s like to live with chronic pain. She knows. She has lived with the discomfort, and physical and emotional distraction, of always knowing something is not right. But no longer. Justin Fleming, DPM, FACFAS  of University Orthopaedic Associates (UOA)  has changed all that. And she sings his praises for doing so. “He’s a wonderful doctor and caring person. People need to know,” she says. Pojnar, a 53-year-old registered dental assistant from Hazlet Township, finally found relief after over 30 years of chronic pain from an ankle injury. It happened in an instant: She was jumping over a fence and landed the wrong way on her right foot, injuring her ankle. “It healed wrong,” she says, and while she could live with the result, about five years ago it became another story. “Gradually, the pain stopped me from being as active as I was,” Pojnar says. By spring 2018, she could feel the extent of how the arthritis that had developed in her ankle made the joint and surrounding bones begin to deteriorate. “By a year ago, it was just a struggle to get through my everyday routine,” says Pojnar. She wasn’t able to walk for the entire hour of her lunch break, as she previously had done, and after 12-hour work days, including her commute, she was simply too exhausted to go to the gym. Pojnar kept putting off medical treatment. Meanwhile, she tried lifestyle changes. “Maybe if I could take weight off, it would get better on its own,” she thought. But that was weight she struggled to lose due to her inability to be physically active. However, she persevered through an exercise routine, pushing herself to go to the gym every other day. “I’m the type of person who has to exercise,” she says. And she did drop 10 pounds.

A Painful Wake-Up Call

However, in the winter of 2018, Pojnar paid the price for her consistent right ankle weakness, which had caused her to favor her left side, and resulted in instability. Carrying a basket of clothes down a flight of stairs, she slipped on a piece of fallen laundry, breaking her left ankle. That broken ankle was placed in a boot to heal. It finally motivated her to take care of her right ankle. She met Dr. Fleming of UOA for his medical opinion. Arthritis has no cure. Eventually, the cartilage wears away entirely, and the options are:
  • To live with the pain and manage as best one can
  • To have a joint replacement
Because Pojnar’s attempts at nonsurgical management proved unsuccessful, Dr. Fleming believed she was a candidate for a total ankle arthroplasty. “When I met Dr. Fleming, I just knew I would be in the best hands. It was the impression he gave me,” said Pojnar. “He was soft-spoken and also made me feel at ease. I liked his overall demeanor. I also read all of his credentials. I was impressed by his working with the military and how he volunteered to provide humanitarian medical care overseas.” While Pojnar had spent a good deal of time researching various orthopaedic surgeons, finding Dr. Fleming was also a matter of location. “I was ecstatic,” she says. “This was going to be perfect. It is so convenient to find a well-qualified orthopaedic surgeon a few towns over. Everything just fell into place.”

Ankle Replacement

The ankle is one of the most flexible and mobile joints in the body. A healthy ankle can move forward, backward and twist sideways. The ankle joint also contains the cartilage that helps the ankle to absorb shock. Dr. Fleming reviewed Donna Pojnar’s X-rays with her, showing a complete wearing away of her ankle cartilage. He ultimately used The INBONE® Total Ankle for her replacement. This system benefits from the innovation that recognizes one size does not fit all. It contains appropriate components based on a patient’s size and structure from which the surgeon can select.

On the Road to Recovery

As of April 2019, Donna Pojnar is eight weeks into her recovery from surgery and attending physical therapy sessions three times a week. She reports on her progress: “I weaned myself off prescription pain medications days after the surgery, and I stopped taking all pain medications by about six weeks. I’m very pleased with that because I was taking so many over-the-counter pain medications for so many years. It’s so nice not to have to rely on them. I feel I am progressing very well.” While her ultimate source of exercise has been riding a stationary bike and she wants to get on the treadmill, Pojnar really wants to return to those long walks. “I miss taking my dogs for walks, and my husband and I want to go camping,” she says. Donna Pojnar is well on her way to achieving her goals. Her second post-op visit with Dr. Fleming produced a personal landmark for her. “Dr. Fleming actually moved my ankle up and down, and I didn’t hear that grinding, clicking noise,” she says with the excitement of a lottery winner. “’Thank you so much,’” I told Dr. Fleming, “and I started to cry,” Pojnar says. She cries even now telling the story. “I know I’m going to get there; I know I’m going to walk with no difficulty.” Finally, with those tears, she paid Dr. Fleming the ultimate compliment. “You have no idea that you’re going to change my life,” she told him. If you are experiencing pain from ankle arthritis, request an appointment with a foot and ankle specialist at UOA. We will give you treatment options, up to and including total ankle replacement.

With New Knees, John Prachar Loves His Job and His Life

John Prachar loves his job. But his job couldn’t always love him back. After decades of fighting fires and performing drills to teach new firefighter recruits, his knees finally screamed: “Enough!” The 60-year-old Prachar from Neptune, New Jersey, explains the physical toll his job takes on the body. “In the fire service, you spend lot of time crawling down hallways and carrying heavy equipment. The load includes our turnout gear, which can mean carrying up to 100 additional pounds.” And he’s not alone. Imagine all the aching knees among the estimated 1,216,600 firefighters in the U.S.

A Personal Struggle

John Prachar’s knees were in constant pain, which he claims was likely job-related. Like his firefighter father before him, who suffered from arthritis, Prachar similarly struggled. That’s why he has long depended on the care of University Orthopaedic Associates (UOA). “I’m a frequent flier at UOA,” he jokes, having started seeing UOA physicians 25 years ago. “My wife has been a registered nurse at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for over 30 years. Doctors talk, and she had heard them say great things about UOA.” Having been treated for job-related neck and hand injuries at UOA, Prachar was initially struggling to manage his knees with pain injections. He lost a lot of weight and tried resolving his knee issues with physical therapy. He went from injections every few months to every few weeks. Eventually, nothing worked. “I was in pain every day,” he says. It hampered his ability to teach, as he was not able to demonstrate the extensive number of necessary physical drills, and he had to cut back on the personal training required to continually learn new firefighting methods. After conservative treatments did not alleviate his knee pain, Prachar was referred to Dr. David A. Harwood of UOA, who has a unique approach to joint replacement surgery. Dr. Harwood diagnosed severe osteoarthritis in both of Prachar’s knees.

A Doctor’s Confidence Leads the Way

Recalls Prachar, “Dr. Harwood was extremely confident that if I opted for bilateral total knee replacement, it would be very beneficial to my lifestyle. It’s not an easy decision to let someone cut you open, remove arthritic bones and put metal in. But his confidence made me confident that I’d be making the right decision.” In December 2015, Parchar underwent surgery with Dr. Harwood on his left knee; his right knee was done in June 2018, a delay in the second operation due to his work schedule. After his first surgery, he says, “The left knee was working great, so there was no question in my mind that I was going to get the right knee done.” His only regret was that he couldn’t do the second knee surgery even sooner. Prachar’s primary advice to others intending surgery is to closely adhere to physical therapy programs, which people should fully understand and continue. He avidly followed the program of his physical therapist to do home exercises.

Life Is Good

In October 2018, Prachar, only three and a half months after his second surgery and together with his wife, visited their daughter in Ireland. “My daughter decided to do college study abroad in Galway, not knowing that my wife and I got engaged there 30 years ago.” The three did about two to three hours of heavy walking and hiking daily. “It was the coolest thing, to be back in Ireland for the first time in 30 years, the three of us together AND having two knees that worked!” Thanks to Dr. Harwood, John Prachar has a lot more to celebrate. “June 2019 is 41 years since I started as a firefighter. I’m not limited in any of my tasks now. I’m back to climbing ladders, helping to stretch hoses with the recruits. I don’t have to fight fires anymore, but I’m still in the business. I’m teaching new firefighters to be a success at what they do so they can become old firefighters. It’s very fulfilling.” Life is sweet, says Prachar. He’s 60, but he’s as active (or more) as he was at 40. “I’m pleased,” he says. He also enjoys playing in a bagpipe band and drinking beer with friends and family. John Prachar loves his job, and now it loves him back.

As a retired Administrative Assistant to the President and Chairman of Bankers Trust Company/Deutsche Bank in New York for 47 years, I'm quite familiar with receiving many complaint letters. It was always a refreshing change when someone took the time to sit down and write a complimentary note. This letter is my humble attempt at sending a note of praise to you, your assistants and the health care professionals of University Orthopedic Associates. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with an injured bursa and suffered with constant hip pain. Cortisone injections, multiple visits to a Chiropractor, and an acupuncturist couldn't make a dent. I finally cried "uncle" and am convinced that it was through Divine intervention, that I was able to make an appointment with you. At our initial meeting, I didn't even have to delve into details of my pain-you described it to me perfectly. Your professionalism, courtesy, knowledge and thorough explanation of what exactly was causing my on-going problems and how you were going to fix it-no question about that-was inspiring. Your confidence and enthusiasm was contagious. Your patience was remarkable even after my husband peppered you with hundreds of questions on what types of "tools" you were going to use and wanted to hear all about the gory details of the procedure. Thankfully, you have a great sense of humor and an overabundance of patience. On February 11, 2019, I underwent total hip replacement. Outpatient Rehabilitation Network Meridian At Home Care provided excellent home skilled nursing and physical therapy throughout my recovery period. After two days with a walker and a few days on a cane, I was able to walk into my post-op appointment on Feb. 26 can free and almost pain-free! While I have several weeks of out-patient PT to navigate, I have no doubt that I will make a full recovery "without restrictions." I am very grateful that I had the good fortune to have you as my surgeon along with your team of knowledgeable healthcare professionals. Fortunate also to have excellent care at Jersey Shore. It just goes to prove one does not need to travel into New York to receive "top drawer," gold standard health care. It's right here in our own backyard. Many thanks to you and your staff for generously helping those of us in need.
Patricia Cook

One sunny November 2017 morning, my husband was painting the outside of our home on an extension ladder. To make a long story short, the ladder collapsed and he fell one way and the ladder went the other way and hit me as I was standing on our front porch. In a split second, I was on the ground and quickly realized that I was in big trouble. We were transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center, and the next day, Dr. William Baione was called in to repair my extensive injuries, which consisted of two broken femurs and a broken right hip. Since I had previous hip surgeries, I knew I was in for a long recovery. After Dr. Baione explained my injuries and told me of his plan for the surgeries I required, my angst and trepidation was eased. His bedside manner, calm demeanor and obvious compassion were remarkable. After ten days at Jersey Shore and eight weeks at a rehab facility, I was able to return home, walking with assistance. Every appointment with Dr. Baione was positive and informative. He carefully explained my plan of care, and every milestone of my recovery was recognized and celebrated. I was able to return to work less than three months later. Although I am still recovering, I am back to a "new normal". I am the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at a small specialized health sciences high school in New Brunswick. The mission of our school is to assist students from underrepresented communities aspire to careers in healthcare. During one of our conversations, Dr. Baione volunteered to come to speak to our students about his career as an orthopedic surgeon and his life story of perseverance, hard work, and success. He was able to relate to our students in a personal way, as he was raised by a single mother in an inner city neighborhood. Our students and staff were completely blown away by his brilliance, honesty, humility and awesomeness!! They say that "every cloud has a silver lining". The accident was the cloud but meeting this incredible surgeon and human being was the silver lining. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Baione and his staff for the wonderful care I received at University Orthopaedic Associates.
Joanne Ciezak

“Following the surgery, I told Dr. Baione I wanted to get my strength back. He told me I was in great shape and that I could get in even better shape.” Two weeks after the procedure, she started physical therapy. Recovery pain was minimal, and by eight weeks, she was back to her full-time activities. Read Anne's Story.

My outpatient therapy for knee replacement lasted two months with UOA. It was sometimes demanding and exhausting but I made steady progress in a friendly patient atmosphere. Thank you Dino.  
Hildegard Scheurle

I wanted to take the time to write this testimonial because I felt it was the very least I could do to thank Dr. Kayiaros and his PA, Lauren Stull, for all they did for me! I will be forever grateful to them for giving me my mobility back. In early October 2017, I had the anterior approach left hip replacement surgery. Five years earlier, I had the posterior approach on my right hip by a different doctor (now retired) and what a difference in my pain level, my recovery and my immediate mobility because of the anterior approach and Dr. K's skill. I would suggest the anterior approach to anyone for whom it's viable! I was discharged from the hospital the next day after the surgery and was a little tentative but I was able to walk to my bedroom, that night, to the second floor! In home P.T. started the following day and lasted two weeks until outpatient PT. Even still, I was able to get around in my home very well and the pain was very tolerable. I do have a high tolerance for pain but this was SO much less pain than with the posterior approach. From the moment, my wife and I went to UOA, we really loved it. You will notice a huge difference like we did. The entire process of paperwork, scheduling of appointments, pre-surgery paperwork, the surgery, etc., is managed SO well. It's really unlike any other doctor's office I've been to. Of course, having surgery and preparing for it, can be very stressful. UOA took that stress away. In addition, we had a few questions prior to the surgery and ALWAYS received a prompt call back from Dr. K's efficient PAA (who's name escapes me right now but she was wonderful too). This office is a well-oiled machine!! It is now three months past my surgery and I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. I am so glad that I found such a wonderful surgeon to relief all the pain I was suffering with. I'm back to being out and about and able to enjoy life and walking without pain any more. Lauren was also very compassionate and kind. She gives you all the time needed to ask/answer questions and you don't feel rushed in any way while in their offices. I am so pleased with my outcome and it's my pleasure to recommend and suggest that you contact Dr. Kayiaros' office if needed!!
Nick Doroschenko 

Had a hip replacement done in June of 2016.  Dr. Kayiaros was my surgeon and he was great.  I never had a bit of pain after the surgery because of his use of the Anterior approach to the operation.  Have spoken with friends and acquaintances who had the surgery done in the older posterior way who had pain throughout the recovery.
Donald Bryker

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