Nancy Suppelsa is the poster child for living an active senior lifestyle. In fact, a total knee replacement about two years ago at TriStar Health’s Southern Joint Replacement Institute (SJRI) hardly slowed her down. The 68-year-old psychologist, an upstate New York native who moved to the area from Chicago in 2011, lives in Mt. Juliet’s Dell Webb at Lake Providence, a 55+ community that caters to like-minded seniors. There, she takes advantage of everything the community offers, including the widows’ club (her husband died of leukemia in 2002) and the singles’ club. She kayaks, plays golf, practices yoga three times a week and works out six days a week to Jillian Michaels’ (celebrity fitness expert) videos. Without further adieu, meet Nancy Suppelsa, our newest Face of TriStar, who is also, without a doubt, one of Southern Joint Replacement Institute’s biggest fans.
Why did you have a knee replacement?
I was never really in pain, but I was just falling all the time. My home is one level, but other places aren’t. I would go out to Franklin around Christmas time, and they’d have these spiral staircases. I would be terrified, and I’d go down two steps, and it would give out. I would catch myself, but it scared me. I’d have to take the elevator, instead of the stairs, to do my two-hour workout everyday. That went on for a couple of years, and I thought I’m not dealing with this.
Have you always been this active?
Yes because I’m fused in my neck and in my back. When I was about 27, they told me I would be paralyzed by the time I was 30 at the rate I was going unless I had the fusion and the nerve recovery. I need to do my workout in order to be able to ambulate. I even did Jillian Michaels at home in the morning before I went in for my surgery.
How did you choose Southern Joint Replacement Institute?
I was going to another doctor, and something just didn’t feel right. They tried gel shots, and I got no relief from that. That was more painful than the surgery. The shots brought me to my knees, and I have a high threshold for pain. So, I was at the funeral of one of my dear friends and met someone who had fallen and had to have a hip and a knee done, and she said the only place to go is Southern Joint Replacement Institute. As it turned out, one of my dearest friends is the nurse manager of the whole unit. She is also from Chicago, and she lives here with me. Of course, she had been telling me about this new job, but it never hit me that it was this unit until I called her and said, “Hey, have you ever heard of SJRI?” And she said, “Yeah, that’s what I’ve been talking to you about for a year, and I will be your nurse.” When I saw Dr. (Jeffrey) Hodrick for my consultation, he said, “You’re bone on bone, and this is the way to go.” So I just scheduled it.
What was your recovery like?
They do surgery on Wednesday, and they keep you Thursday and discharge you Friday mid-day. I really thought I would be a mess, but when you have a knee, unlike a hip, you have three days of post-op physical therapy for an hour, and I just sailed through that. When I came out of surgery, there were a lot of people in recovery, and me, the class clown, I come out, and I see these two residents, and I say, “A Captain Morgan and a Heath Bar blizzard to go please!” They just cracked up. It was my right leg, so I wasn’t allowed to drive for six weeks. I had outpatient therapy three times a week for six weeks. What was wonderful was being a widow at Dell Webb, because they took me to therapy. If I had been in Chicago, I’d probably have been in a nursing home. One of the things with Southern Joint is their infection rate is like zero, and they want you in your own home. I had all these widows coming in and caring for me. I didn’t want food, but they just made sure I was OK and took me to therapy. After surgery, you go in for a follow up after you’ve had all of your physical therapy, and my measurements were fine, and then you go a year later, and everything was fine.
How was your overall experience at Southern Joint Replacement Institute?
I’ve referred so many people there. I feel so passionate about it that I go with people for their initial consult. I have one funny story. The widows go out to dinner once a month. So, we’re sipping on wine and this 84-year-old woman who is like this gray-haired Jackie Kennedy — she’s just gorgeous, you would never think she was 84 — says, “I’m going to schedule my hip surgery next week,” and I said, “Really? With who?” She named the doctor, and it was the doctor I didn’t go with. So I took a gulp of my wine, and I looked at her, and I go, “No you’re not.” I have never done that in my life. She just looked at me because she’s so proper, and she listened, but then she just kind of blew me off. The funniest part of this is she went home and her sister-in-law called her up and said, “We’re doing a family intervention with you. We only want you to go to this one place.” And it was to SJRI and to Dr. Hodrick. Now what is the likelihood of that happening? So, I went with her, and I’m going back with her soon for her follow up visit. I’ve referred a lot of people. Some I’ve gone with and others I haven’t, but they just do quality work, and it’s nice to stand behind something that you believe in.
What drives you?
I think an internal motor actually, and just a love of life. I love being out there. Working with kids has been my passion. I was a house parent when I was 18 years old in an institution in upstate New York. And then I went into residential treatment in an orphanage in Chicago and a boys’ home in Chicago. In both facilities I was the only non-clergy person. Then, I switched from social work and into psychology, and then worked with special needs kids. Today, I still do contractual work as a psychotherapist with some adult patients in Chicago over the phone.
What do you say to people who need a knee replacement and may be dreading it?
It is different for everyone, but I think if you follow SJRI’s protocol, you will be fine. I have to say, as a psychologist, I really analyze things, and Southern Joint makes it a seamless process from your very first phone call through aftercare follow up. I have never seen anything like it. These people have it together, and the quality of care is just amazing!
Thank you to Nancy for sharing your journey and your contagious positivity! To learn more about the physicians of Southern Joint Replacement Institute, visit sjri.com.