An Interview with Steve Suokko: A Successful Knee Surgery Recovery

After almost a decade with knee pain, Steve Suokko wanted to get back to his active lifestyle of hiking, playing sports, and spending time outdoors with his two energetic children.

Here’s how one MOSH physician, Dr. David Ross, performed a successful knee surgery, ultimately leading Steve down the road to recovery from a debilitating knee injury.

Now, Steve is back to his life before his knee injury. We interviewed him to learn more about his knee surgery injury and knee surgery recovery.

Meet Steve Suokko: A MOSH Knee Surgery Patient

MOSH: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Steve Suokko: I’m an ambulatory care pharmacist working at a local hospital. I love being active, especially with my kids.

M: How did you injure your knee? How did you go about seeking treatment?
SS: I injured my knee around 2010, but I’m not entirely sure how. I was drywalling my basement and hit my knee against concrete. I think the blow separated the cartilage from the femur.

I initially opted for a less-invasive microfracture procedure that required less downtime than more serious options. (Who wouldn’t?)

It was ultimately not as successful as I’d hoped. I could walk again, but I was still limping, and I couldn’t pivot on that leg. I never regained that level of flexibility and always had to favor the leg. I just lived with it until I couldn’t anymore. The last straw was a hiking trip to Montana. I couldn’t maneuver on the uneven ground and wound up in so much pain. I knew I had to do something.

Eventually, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Ross, a MOSH physician. When we met, I was impressed. He really listened to everything I had to say and made me feel truly at ease. It was 2020, so feeling at ease wasn’t an easy feat.
After X-rays and an MRI, he talked me through different knee surgery options. We ultimately decided on an osteochondral allograft with tibial osteotomy. While it was much more invasive than my initial surgery, thanks to Dr. Ross, I was very optimistic about my knee surgery recovery.

The Road to Recovery from a Knee Injury: Waiting for Knee Surgery

M: What happened next?
SS: Before you can have this knee surgery, doctors have to find a suitable donor match. Meanwhile, you’re on call—you don’t know when you’re going to have the surgery. They call you, and that day, you have to decide to have the surgery within a week.

M: How long did you have to wait to have your knee surgery?
SS: About four or six weeks went by. You know, you forget about it. You’re so amped about it at first, but then three weeks go by, and it’s just another day. When the call came, I was at work, and the idea that it could be any time had slipped my mind. So, when Dr. Ross said we were good to go on Monday, I was surprised. Fortunately, my boss and my director were completely understanding—and so were my kids, which is a good thing because recovery took time.

Post-Knee Surgery Recovery Plan: Rehab and Physical Therapy

M: What did the surgery and recovery from knee surgery involve?
SS: I had the surgery at MOSH in Franklin. I was only in the hospital overnight, but afterward, I had a leg brace that completely immobilized my leg for two weeks. Then I was on crutches for ten weeks, and for another ten, I was not allowed to put any weight on the leg.

Once I was off crutches, I needed rehab and physical therapy for more than three months. Finally, by the end of March 2021, nearly 13 months later, I was done with everything and cleared.

M: How difficult was the rehab? You were in recovery for quite some time.
SS: Someone as young and healthy as I am has a much easier time rehabbing than patients over 65. So, for me, rehab was welcome. I wanted to get moving. I wanted to work hard. I knew the harder I worked (within reason) the faster and better I would be. It was (and still is) tremendous work.

M: Your knee surgery wasn’t long ago. How are you doing now with recovery?
SS: I feel amazing! I can walk on uneven ground, walk up hills, and walk down hills. I couldn’t even do that without limping before.

M: During rehab, were you on the premises or at home? Since it was 2020, everything was weird.
SS: It was weird. Luckily the rehab department was open. They gave me exercises to take home as well. I hadn’t walked properly in 8+ years, so I didn’t even know how to walk with that leg. I had to relearn everything. It was pretty humbling.

But now, I’m jogging a bit, using a rowing machine, and getting back into shape.

M: You mentioned weight shifting. Was there anything else in your body that was off-kilter, something that you didn’t expect during your knee surgery recovery?
SS: I have a wedge in my tibia—my shin—and a plate in the side of my leg. I can feel it. Rowing has helped me break up a lot of the scar tissue around it, so I don’t feel it as much, but I know it’s there. I can have the plate removed, but I have a high deductible insurance plan, so I don’t really want to pay to have the surgery.

M: What about the future? Will you have to get it removed at some point, or is it optional?
SS: The plate removal surgery is optional; you only need it if it bothers you.

The Key to Knee Surgery Recovery: A Doctor Who Cares

M: Did Dr. Ross check in with you through your rehab?
SS: Yes, he and his PA, Stephen Croyle.

M: How important was your emotional connection with Dr. Ross?
SS: All these emotions go through you when something like this happens—you can feel bitter, angry, scared—you go through all those stages. Dr. Ross was so calm, and he’s a great surgeon. Everyone talks about his technique, so I knew that was solid. But it’s the mental aspect—to treat someone that’s broken down, that’s not always easy.

He told me the straight truth, and I value that. He said, “You’re never going to be what you were, or what you think you were, but you’ll be able to function.” When you think about it though, it’s not reasonable to expect to be what I was! A decade has passed. I was 35 or 36 when I hurt my knee. I didn’t expect to be the athlete I was ten years ago. I just wanted to be normal and active. I love running around with the kids, playing basketball, just doing everything and not even thinking about it.
Today, I would say Dr. Ross under-promised and over-delivered because I feel better than I ever have. Dr. Ross is kind and caring, and he listens. He truly takes his time with his patients. It was the best experience you could have with something you don’t ever want to experience.

Are you ready to be rid of knee pain? Knee surgery might be the answer for you. Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital is here to help; reach out to schedule an appointment to talk to one of our orthopedic specialists today.