Striking the Perfect Balance
Diane Welhouse's drive for excellence, at work or at play, is undeniable.
“People looking to build or remodel a house usually have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for in their designer and contractor,” said Diane Welhouse, Vice President and interior designer at Welhouse Construction Services in Kaukauna. “Then it’s just a matter of getting partnered with the right team that can deliver on those expectations.”
Welhouse used a similar thought process to find an orthopedic surgeon to address her husband’s ski injury as well as a hip concern that plagued her for over two decades.
By the time Diane was 21, she was already an accomplished bowler and member of Team USA, an elite group of bowlers who represents the United States in competition. Bowling regularly 50 plus games a week, she had aspirations for the women’s professional tour.
“I had surgery on my hip when I was 28,” said Diane. In those seven years, Diane went from a trace of arthritis in her left hip to no cartilage at all. Diane continued to battle through the pain and reduced mobility, racking up perfect games six times, rolling an 800 series, and averaging 231 for a full 36-week season.
Diane’s physician said there was no cure for what she was dealing with. The devastating news led Diane on a search for answers. Her best option seemed to be hip osteotomy, a surgery in which the bones of the hip joint are cut, reoriented, and fixed in a new position.
Diane would have two such surgeries in two years, and lots and lots of physical therapy. She resumed her full bowling schedule and would eventually be elected to the Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Wisconsin Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fames.
Although Diane knew she would eventually need a full hip replacement, the catalyst to search for an orthopedic surgeon was a phone call from her husband Paul, who was skiing at Granite Peak in Wausau.
Diane knew there was a problem when the conversation started.
“Hi, how are you?” asked Paul.
Paul’s phone dialogues with Diane were skewed to business and generally light on banter.
“I’m good but I’m guessing you aren’t,” she responded.
When Paul fell on a run, one ski didn’t want to come off. At the hospital Paul was told he severed his ACL and tore his MCL and cartilage. Recommendations included working with an orthopedic surgeon to address the issues.
As their search for an orthopedic surgeon began, Paul and Diane knew exactly what they were looking for.
“No differently than our customers look for a contractor with a positive reputation, significant experience, and their best interest in mind, we used the same criteria for an orthopedic surgeon,” said Diane. “We wanted someone who could not only repair Paul’s knee, but also address my hip when a replacement would be needed.”
Diane added, “We wanted someone known for their abilities, experienced but yet young enough who could go with us on this journey.”
Often a customer’s first line of inquiry when building or remodeling is to talk with family and friends about their experiences. Diane and Paul proceeded with a similar approach to find a surgeon.
They first spoke with Donald Welhouse, Paul's uncle, who had both of his knees and one hip replaced. They knew his procedures were successful as Don is very active golfing, fishing, and doing yard maintenance.
Uncle Donald recommended the place where he had all his procedures—OSI in Appleton.
Diane asked a fellow interior designer about her experience with a knee procedure she had done. Again, the answer and recommendation—OSI.
Another friend recently had his hip replaced so they asked about his experience and recommendation. And the answer was the same.
“I was expecting a variety of answers from the people we talked to,” said Diane. “This doctor or that doctor, this clinic or that clinic. It always came up OSI.”
Diane and Paul went to the OSI website, watched all the physician videos and looked at their specialties, and finally made their choice.
“We went to see Dr. Lohrbach to take care of Paul’s knee,” said Diane. “Then we could worry about me.”
Diane and Paul were very pleased with Dr. Lohrbach’s approach to addressing Paul’s knee.
“He diagnosed and then provided options, including no surgery at all,” said Diane.
After a short deliberation of their options, Paul chose surgery. With his job requiring him to be on ladders, roofs, and deal with tricky terrain at a variety of sites, Paul needed the confidence in his knee that he currently lacked. He scheduled surgery for late February of 2014, and found out something he didn’t know.
Paul was able to have his surgery and physical therapy right at OSI.
“We were pleased to learn of the convenience of the process,” said Diane. “Everything we needed was in one facility which we were now familiar with.”
On day of the surgery, Diane was able to drop Paul off for surgery and feel comfortable leaving to oversee the daily operations of Welhouse Construction and the needs of their customers. Diane checked on Paul’s progress throughout the day, getting periodic updates.
“No matter what time I called the person who answered the phone knew of Paul’s case and could provide an update,” said Diane. “I was able to plan and be there when he woke and take him home.”
Upon leaving the staff was able to fill his pain medications on site. “I was thrilled with this level of convenience and service,” said Diane. “We were able to go home and stay home without having to run elsewhere to fill prescriptions.”
Following Paul’s surgery he began his physical therapy at OSI with Will Hartmann of Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine. Diane praised the close collaboration between surgeon and the physical therapists working in the same facility.
“The physical therapists know the physician, know how they work and what they want focused on in recovery, and the relationships are already in place,” Diane said. “If you have questions, you can get answers right away.”
By midsummer, Paul had resumed visiting job sites, climbing ladders, and, when time permitted, golfing. “Dr. Lohrbach was very accurate with his description of recovery and length of time,” said Diane.
As Paul was healing, Diane was headed in the opposite direction. Seventeen years after her first hip surgery, her hip joint was quickly deteriorating again. At the age of 45, Diane was struggling to keep up with the demands of her active lifestyle.
Golf was becoming as problematic as bowling, a sport she backed off of in the summer. Walking nine holes resulted in more pain, tightness, and Advil. With September came the traditional start to the bowling season. By the end of the month, Diane said her pain was “off the charts.”
While activities outside of work often took the greatest toll on Diane, it was a work moment that became the tipping point. One October afternoon Diane had extraordinary difficulty simply getting up from behind her desk at Welhouse. She decided to head home (across the lot on the same property) to take a break.
Halfway between she simply got stuck and could move no further. She somehow made her way to a railing, righted herself, and hobbled home.
Paul witnessed the painful trek from his office window, joining Diane at home moments later. He didn’t need to say a lot to convince Diane it was her turn to see Dr. Lohrbach.
In October she returned to OSI for x-rays, which showed Diane’s arthritic hip had shifted into a position that was not doing her any favors. Because of previous surgeries, her left leg was shorter than her right causing stress on the back, pelvic bone, and knee. Lohrbach said hip replacement was the best surgical option.
What really got Diane’s attention was what Lohrbach said about her leg length discrepancy.
“If we replace your hip, we can lengthen the shorter leg and even you out,” said Lohrbach.
Over time, Lohrbach added, Diane’s hips would level out, her back would straighten, and the pain in her knee would abate. Her quality of life in all three areas would improve significantly.
“Quite honestly,” Lohrbach told her, “this surgery will be a game-changer for you.”
Diane decided on anterior hip replacement with Dr. Lohrbach in December.
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Diane will tell you she flipped out the first time her feet touched the floor following surgery.
“I was convinced the shorter leg was now too long,” she said. “And I told Dr. Lohrbach to take me back into surgery, right away, today, and make sure I’m even!”
Lohrbach reassured Diane that much of the post-operative struggle would be psychological. She just had surgery, there was swelling, and it was the first time her feet were on the floor. Since her body had been compensating for so long, things were going to feel a bit off for a while.
Diane was hopeful, but not entirely convinced. When Lohrbach’s partner checked on Diane the next day, she similarly cross-examined him. She was pleased that he offered the same answers and told her to be patient.
Diane will tell you her legs now are indeed the same length.
“See?” she says, putting both feet on the floor as evidence.
After Diane’s surgery, her physical therapist, Kirsten von Zychlin of Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, began their sessions by asking Diane what her goals were.
“Yes, I want to be able to walk,” said Diane, “but I want to do more than that.”
Diane discussed golfing and bowling and getting back to playing those sports at a level she was used to. Diane took therapy seriously and wanted a therapist dedicated to her full recovery.
“Kirsten took the time to understand my goals and encouraged me throughout the process ensuring my success,” said Diane.
Diane returned to the Super Bowl in Appleton on April 7 to bowl for the first time since her surgery. While she was not particularly happy with her form or consistency, she remarked that she was experiencing absolutely no pain whatsoever. She said it had been a while since she rolled a ball without pain.
She smiled and did not hesitate when pressed to define “a while.”
“Seventeen years,” she said. “It’s amazing and I couldn’t be happier.”