A success story: After surgery and rehab, Norm Hall is back on his feet and fishing (PHOTOS)

Laura Hall, Under the Radar
Norm Hall & Tom Minerva. After total knee surgery and rehabilitation, the joy of fishing all day - Priceless!

Editor’s Note: This article is the last in a three-part series chronicling the process of having a total knee replacement and the sequence of events through the operation and rehabilitation.

After less than 48 hours in Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast following total knee replacement, Norm Hall is released to return home.  Arriving home by car, he is met by  neighbor, Dan Paul, who with the help of a walker gets Norm from car to inside recliner.  Norm says later, “That walk into the house looked as long as a football field.”

The continuous motion machine came home with Norm and he used it with the leg each day from 1.5 to 3.5 hours.  Brenda Daniel, the home physical therapist, adjusted the angle of the knee bend on the machine each visit.  The toughest part was reaching a knee bend of nothing less than 110 degrees. 

Norm says, “It was surprising how difficult it was to get the leg to lay perfectly flat. That means getting the knee, calf and thigh so flat there is no space beneath it.”

Norm had excellent care from his home health team. Their visits spanned a period of two weeks, providing six visits from the physical therapist and four visits from the home health nurse.  Norm’s home recovery went quickly from walking with a walker to walking with a cane. Soon he progressed to careful steps alone as he walked down the hall in his non-slip socks.

After several weeks at home, Norm started his thrice weekly visits to Orthopaedic Associates Rehabilitation Center in Destin. Matthew Leary heads the center. He comes with the title of Physical Therapist, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainer Certified. 

Matthew obtained this impressive array of titles after seven years of intensive study at the University of Central Florida. 

“I started out doing athletic training but soon realized I wanted to progress to a clinical setting where I could rehabilitate injuries to get people back to their daily life functions,” he said.

The goal of total knee replacement therapy is to get back the normal range of motion and functional strength to enjoy life to its fullest capability. Norm is now in his fourth hour-long session and Matthew has him doing three sets of 10 to 15 knee extensions.

These strengthen the quadriceps (four muscles in the upper portion of the leg from knee to waist). On the stationary bicycle, Norm rides up to 10 minutes to increase his range of motion and develop additional cardiovascular fitness. As the sessions increase, the resistance of the bicycle pedals are made more difficult to move (like pedaling up a hill).

As the difficulty increases, the leg muscles will increase. There is balancing board therapy which will help Norm handle the rocking motion of the fishing trips he looks forward to getting back to. 

The relationship between the lead therapist, Matthew, and the Orthopaedic staff is closely related.  Matthew says, “The doctors send their patients to me and we work together with the patient to determine their goals and functional needs based on their lifestyles. I give the doctors a continuing progress report on all the patients they send me. We work together to determine the acceptable progress and when is the right time to discharge.”

Matthew says, “One of the hardest times of rehabilitation is getting back the range of motion after a total knee replacement. The angle of the knee bend and how straight the knee can get is very important to signify to the therapist when that knee is going to be able to perform daily activities such as squatting, stooping, getting up and down from a chair, walking up and down stairs and in particular, walking normally. The knee angle I like to see on a recovering patient is 120 - 130 degrees before discharge.”

“I have been working here with Orthopaedic Associates Rehabilitation for the last three years.  It is rewarding in this community to help people get back to their sport of choice as quickly as possible.  This return means that I have done a good job in the profession I have chosen and been trained to do.”

“One of the big changes that has happened with the total knee replacement is when it took on a rotational component like the model Norm has. I see the range of motion return more quickly to my patients.”

I can tell you that a good day of fishing with buddies and hiking with the grandkids will more than make this knee replacement worthwhile.

Laura Hall is a freelance reporter and longtime Destin resident.  Have an interesting topic, contact her at