Todd Landsman postponed knee surgery for more than four years. Eventually this 56-year-old high school football official finally decided he’d had enough: It was time to get it looked at and then follow through with whatever came next.
About that time the pandemic hit, however. He was going to have to wait while Sanford Health addressed the presence of the coronavirus.
Landsman’s medical team assured him that when things began to get back to normal, that he’d be able to get surgery.
“As soon as I got word things were opening back up, I jumped in on the process again,” Landsman said.
Dr. Chad Kurtenbach, a Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, is the team physician for South Dakota State athletics. He’d also worked on Landsman’s wife’s knee a few years earlier, so when it was Landsman’s turn to schedule an appointment, he knew exactly where he was going to go.
“They told me I was one of the first people to get back into the process after the restrictions on elective surgeries had been lifted,” Landsman said. “I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible so I’d be ready for the coming football season.”
Postponed but not forgotten
The efficiency of the process was much better than he expected. First he had an MRI on the knee, then a pre-op physical. He took a COVID-19 test that ruled out having the virus and was scheduled for surgery in a matter of days.
“I was not scared to come back because of COVID or anything like that — I knew this was something that had to be done,” Landsman said. “I was impressed with how Sanford took everyone’s health into consideration with all the precautions they were taking. They put me at ease knowing they were doing their best.”
In Landsman’s words, the orthopedic team’s effort “went like clockwork.”
Dr. Kurtenbach and the staff cleaned up the knee — the procedure is called a meniscectomy — and put Landsman on a path to back to a full range of motion.
It was definitely worth the wait for Landsman, who could have had the procedure done elsewhere in the meantime but insisted on Sanford.
“Things changed pretty dramatically for a period of time,” Dr. Kurtenbach said. “Non-urgent cases were put on hold. Knee scopes and shoulder scopes, things that could be safely delayed, were put on hold. Now we’re in the process of opening things back up. It’s not back to normal yet, but we’re approaching more normal as the weeks go on.”
Everyone is tested
The extra precautions added to procedures include a mandatory COVID-19 test. A positive test means a delay. Even with a negative test, as was the case for Landsman, extra precautions continue on into the operating room.
“Things are definitely getting a lot smoother now,” Dr. Kurtenbach said. “It has been a gradual and deliberate process, but there are many factors that go into how quickly we can ramp up. Our goal is definitely to get back to normal. To this point, we’ve had a lot of collaboration and teamwork with our staff to get to where we are.”
Landsman had essentially been putting off addressing his injury for years after a pair of high school football players accidentally rolled into his leg during a play. A few more months, then, wouldn’t be a big deal. Though it qualified as an elective procedure, it was also a necessary one. The longer he waited, the more uncomfortable it was going to get.
Keep it in balance
“Take all the precautions and use common sense when dealing with COVID-19,” Landsman said. “But you have to remember that other parts of your health as just as important. You have to keep it all in balance.”
Landsman understood postponed surgery was in his best interest. It was ultimately in the best interest of many others as well while Sanford Health, like so many health care systems across the nation, worked to accommodate the presence of the pandemic.
It turns out, Landsman was not alone. Others have also greeted similar circumstances with understanding.
“It’s definitely been challenging but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how patient people have been with our staff,” Dr. Kurtenbach said. “I was worried that people would be frustrated, annoyed, mad — or all of the above. Instead people have been able to temporarily put aside their injuries for the betterment of everyone. That is refreshing.”
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