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Strong recovery from knee replacement surgery got one woman back in the game

On September 15, 2023, Marlies Radtke rounded the bases at Greater Nevada Field to thunderous applause. The run was remarkable for several reasons: it honored her late son, Austin James Steele, who was an organ donor; and it came just five months after her total knee replacement.

An avid cyclist and outdoorswoman, Marlies was delighted to be running that day pain-free, thanks to a successful surgery with Dr. Christopher Dolan of Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO). A year earlier, she would not have been able to comfortably walk through the stands, much less run the bases in her role as an ambassador for Donor Network West.


Marlies Radtke running the bases at Greater Nevada field
Watch Marlies run the bases at Greater Nevada field


Marlies had endured five years of severe pain and limited mobility before finally deciding to have surgery, and she is thrilled she made the decision. “I was very hesitant to have surgery,” Marlies explains. “I felt that cutting into my knee would make it more vulnerable to injury in the future. But I got to the point where I was in so much pain, I couldn't do normal daily activities.”

A lifetime athlete, Marlies had sustained multiple sports-related knee injuries over the years and had severe osteoarthritis. While both knees were affected, her right knee was particularly painful. For years she had compensated for her damaged knees by becoming an ultra-distance endurance cyclist. The rigorous training kept her lower body strong, but eventually, the wear and tear caught up to her, and the pain became unbearable.  

Because she was concerned about surgery, she wanted to thoroughly investigate her treatment options before making a decision. She had met with another surgeon in town but didn't feel that she was getting the personalized care she needed. With Dr. Dolan, she felt heard and understood. As a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Dolan has worked extensively with athletes, from professional and college athletes to weekend warriors. He recognized that the most significant danger of delaying knee replacement surgery was a missed opportunity to get back to the life she enjoyed. After considering all the options, she and Dr. Dolan agreed a total knee replacement (TKR) was the best option.

“Marlies was an ideal patient,” explains Dr. Dolan. “She wanted an understanding of her disease and treatment, so she could approach recovery with her full effort.”


Doctor Christopher Dolan
Doctor Christopher Dolan


Once the decision was made, Marlies was intent on being an ideal patient to get the very best outcome. She understood that the recovery timeline from her knee replacement surgery would be, is in large part, up to her. She had good communication with Dr. Dolan and his team throughout the process and particularly enjoyed working with Dr. Dolan's assistant, Samantha. She followed her doctor’s orders and did the stretching and strengthening he recommended before surgery and limited her use of over-the-counter pain medications. Post-surgery, she focused on her recovery. “I knew recovery was going to take work and I was ready to do the work,” says Marlies. “Within hours of my surgery, I was doing leg lifts with the physical therapist.”

A total knee replacement is a major surgery involving two of the body's largest bones. While Marlies experienced post-surgical discomfort, it was manageable. She relied heavily on ice therapy and used minimal pain medication. She was very committed to her recovery. “I want people to know this is a serious surgery, but you can do it with minimal pain medication,” she says. “And the results are worth it.”

For six weeks following her surgery, Marlies did physical therapy with GBO’s Stephen Capel. Capel is part of the physical therapy team located upstairs from GBO's medical clinic on Double Diamond Parkway. She had worked with Capel in 2007 following a serious cycling accident and knew he would be a great asset in her recovery. In addition to her sessions with Capel, she was diligent about her home therapy exercises which facilitated her strong recovery.

Her diligence paid off. “She impressed me with her run at only five months post-op,” says Dr. Dolan. “Marlies’ run meant a lot to me personally. I am a registered organ donor and my cousin received the gift of life through organ donation from a generous family like hers.”

At the time of this story, Marlies was seven months out from her surgery, about 95% recovered, and in love with her new knee. She is doing water aerobics, swimming, riding an indoor bike, and getting back to doing all the activities she missed out on for five years, including outdoor adventures on steep terrain and international travel. Marlies believes there is a formula for success with a surgery like hers. “You need three things: a great orthopedic surgeon, excellent physical therapy, and a motivated, compliant patient.” 


Marlies Radtke riding a horse
Marlies is enjoying life with her new knee


Every medical condition is individual, as is the treatment and recovery. If you have chronic knee pain, these are some questions you may have: Am I a candidate for TKR? How long is recovery from knee replacement surgery? Will I be able to play sports after a knee replacement? Are there any dangers of delaying replacement surgery? To get the answers, meet with an expert. Great Basin Orthopaedics will provide you with an expert orthopedic assessment and treatment options to help you reach your mobility and quality of life goals. Call our office at 775.786.1600 to schedule an appointment.