Laura Krieg, 54, walks steadily across the lawn of the historic Noblesville courthouse. It’s a beautiful day—and until recently—a walk this long would have caused her excruciating pain.
Laura is a deputy with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and has served at the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center since 2004. While on the job, one of her assignments is to work at the historic courthouse in Noblesville. When you meet Laura, it’s clear she was born to be an officer. Reserved, thoughtful and strong, Laura emits a calming presence that lets those around her know they are in capable hands. But when hip arthritis began to progress to the point of severe pain, Laura worried the career she loved might begin to suffer.
“It wasn’t an injury that caused my right hip pain, but rather osteoarthritis,” Laura said. “I played a lot of sports when I was younger. In addition, carrying my duty belt for work worsened the wear and tear on my hip.”
A duty belt holds a police officer’s equipment and can weigh as much as 20 pounds. The wear and tear through the years caused Laura’s joints to be bone-on-bone, and her pain was excruciating.
“I was almost in tears just walking into work from my car each day,” Laura recalled.
She knew she needed help, but there was a problem.
“I hate needles and going to the doctor,” Laura said. “The thought of needing surgery made me very anxious. But the pain finally got to the point where I knew I had to do something.”
After seeing Dr. Bryan Sharpe at Riverview Health Employer Health Center, Laura was referred to Riverview Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician Joseph Hui, MD.
Dr. Hui tried conservative treatments first, such as steroid injections and platelet-rich plasma injections. Laura also saw Riverview Health physical therapist Jennifer Krehbiel.
“Jennifer kept me stretched and limber, and it helped the pain,” Laura said. “But the arthritis still kept progressing.”
Despite her hard work, conservative measures could only do so much, and Laura and Jennifer knew surgery would likely be required. To assist with her treatment, Jennifer provided Laura with information about providers at Riverview Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. After Laura did some research, she discovered Riverview Health orthopedic surgeon Andrew Malin, MD. Laura was impressed with his fellowship training in hip and knee replacement. In addition, his military experience made him an easy pick for Laura.
“For Laura, like all patients, we always try non-surgical treatments first,” Dr. Malin said. “Unfortunately, her pain and disability from hip arthritis worsened despite those treatments. The symptoms had progressed to the point that she required a cane for walking long distances, and she also had difficulty with her job requirements as a deputy with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.”
After discussing the benefits of surgery, as well as the potential risks involved, Laura and Dr. Malin made the decision to proceed with a total hip replacement surgery using the anterior approach. The anterior approach consists of making an incision in the front of the hip and allows the surgeon to avoid cutting through muscle. This technique is less invasive and often leads to an easier recovery and a smaller scar.
After a one-hour procedure, Laura’s surgery was a success. Right away, she was eager to get back to work.
“The first thing I said to the nurse in the recovery room was, ‘Hi, I’m Laura. Do you think I can wear my duty belt now?’” Laura remembered with a laugh.
Laura was up and walking as soon as she reached her hospital room, and she went home the following day. Her next step was to complete physical therapy to improve strength, range of motion and to restore a normal gait.
Once again, Laura saw Jennifer Krehbiel at Riverview Health Rehab & Fitness.
“Jennifer is quite a joy to be around—not to mention she helped me walk again,” Laura said. “She kept my morale up and my anxiety down.”
A highly motivated individual, Laura made quick progress during her therapy.
“Our goal was to get her ready to return to a high level of physical activity both on the job and off the job,” Jennifer said. “If asked to complete 10 repetitions of an exercise, Laura would do 20.”
Laura also worked extensively with Becky Way, a certified athletic trainer with Riverview Health. Through a partnership with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Riverview Health offers tactical athletic training to its officers. Tactical athletic training is an emerging field that focuses on non-traditional athletes—such as firefighters, police officers and military members—whose jobs require a high level of physical activity. Athletic trainers work with public safety officials to provide injury prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reconditioning of the tactical athlete.
With Becky, Laura continued to work on strength, flexibility and endurance—focusing not just on her hip, but her entire body.
“Laura is a dream patient and rock star,” Becky said. “She always comes to treatment ready to work and push herself. She is consistent in her treatment and has been able to return to activities she wasn’t able to do prior to surgery due to pain. Laura is dedicated and has focused not only on strengthening her hip, but also on her core stability and continues to work to get stronger to perform her job.”
Laura improved her strength so much that she caught Jennifer by surprise during one of their physical therapy appointments.
“One day in the clinic I was reevaluating Laura’s leg strength and she kicked out so strongly that I literally lost my balance,” Jennifer said. “We both had a good laugh and I jokingly told her to tell Becky to stop doing such a good job of strength training her!”
Laura continues to work with Becky to improve her physical abilities and meet the demands of her job—something she thinks all Hamilton County employees could benefit from, not just officers.
“Working with athletic trainers is something I encourage,” Laura said. “It helps to prevent injuries and can help keep employees moving and healthy if they sit at a desk all day.”
Now fully recovered, Laura is excited to continue to serve her community and do the job she loves without pain. She also plans on riding her horse again, something she hasn’t been able to do for more than a year because of her hip.
“I am thankful to everyone I worked with for making the process not seem so scary,” Laura said.