Alabama Woman Receives Remarkable Care at Parkwest Medical Center

Suzanne Blocker has lived in Birmingham, Alabama since 1990. But she chose to have double knee replacement surgery at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville, which is 270 miles from her home. Before surgery, Blocker experienced constant pain and discomfort in her knees, which also caused her to have trouble sleeping. She needed to hold on to the railing when taking the stairs and felt she moved slowly. She even recalls feeling like her knee was trying to “pop out of place.” As her symptoms grew more exaggerated, she knew joint replacement surgery was in her future.

Suzanne Blocker with cake at retirement party
Leading up to surgery, Blocker felt fully prepared and says she had a great experience at Parkwest.

“It was time,” Blocker says. “I had been advised not to wait too long, and I felt like I was getting to that point.” Through a friend, she had heard promising reviews about Herman Botero, DO, a board certified orthopedic surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center specializing in hip and knee reconstruction and replacement.

Why Parkwest?

“When I met Dr. Botero, I just knew. I felt immediately comfortable.” Blocker was put at ease by his knowledge and engaging bedside manner. She didn’t mind the traveling, either. “It’s about a four-hour drive, but it’s not bad at all. The hospital is easy to get to.”

Headshot of Herman Botero
Herman Botero, DO

Because Blocker had osteoarthritis in both knees, she underwent a minimally invasive bilateral knee replacement eight weeks apart in the fall of 2019. “When we see a complete loss of cartilage, it means joints are ‘bone on bone,’” says Dr. Botero. “This can cause debilitating pain and dysfunction in the joints.”

Dr. Botero describes how the healing process for a minimally invasive procedure is a little easier because the four-inch incision
is on the inner side of the knee, which avoids cutting a major extensor muscle for the knee. In contrast, traditional replacement accesses the joint from the front of the knee.

An expert in this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Botero says he performs over 900 joint replacement surgeries each year with approximately 70 percent being knees.

Nothing She Can’t Do

Blocker recently retired from a career spanning more than 40 years.
For most of that time she served as the supervisor of speech-language pathology at Alabama’s only pediatric hospital. Walking was a big part of her job. “The hospital is big, and between meetings and seeing patients, I was constantly walking between buildings, so it got hard.” She continues, “Now there’s nothing I can’t do. I can even get down on the floor with my grandchildren.” Blocker has three grown children and nine grandchildren.

Prior to her knee replacement surgeries, Blocker would awaken in the middle of the night with knee pain. In those moments of unrest, she turned to a familiar spot on the piano bench to play music, which soothed her. She teaches piano lessons to several grandchildren, including one who receives piano lessons via video chat.

In recent months, Blocker has been able to do projects around the house that she could not do previously because of her joint pain. She says her functioning knees have allowed her to stay involved at her church and spend more time with friends.

Dr. Botero says it’s gratifying to see the reward from his work almost instantly, with patients’ excruciating pain often vanishing the day after surgery. “For someone whose quality of life has suffered because of joint pain, this procedure allows them to get back to living their life.”

Better by the Day

Relieved, Blocker says, “I’m glad I did them close together. I had been walking a lot and doing the exercises they suggested, so my knees were as strong as they could be for my age.” In addition to her preparedness before surgery, Blocker attributes her rapid healing and notable recovery progress to Dr. Botero’s expertise and the nature of the minimally invasive procedure. The “cherry on top” was the above-and-beyond care she received at Parkwest. “We were just amazed at the entire staff’s professionalism
and how well things went,” she says.

Blocker is quick to recommend Dr. Botero and Parkwest to anyone who is considering something similar. “I gave the name of your hospital just last week!” she exclaims.

Contact the Parkwest Joint Center today to be connected with a joint center coordinator or to be referred to a physician who performs joint replacement surgeries at Parkwest. For more information about the program, call 865-374-PARK or visit

Considering Joint Replacement Surgery?

Joint replacement surgery removes and replaces an arthritic or damaged joint with an artificial joint. It’s usually considered after other treatment options haven’t worked to ease pain or restore movement.

People considering joint replacement should learn as much as possible about the procedure and how they can prepare for a successful recovery. Here are some important points to consider:

  • Talk with your doctor about steps to prepare for surgery. For
    example, your surgeon may recommend specific exercises to
    strengthen your muscles prior to surgery. You’ll also need to tell
    your surgeon about any medicines you are currently taking. Somemay need to be temporarily discontinued until after surgery.
  • Be sure to discuss discharge planning with your doctor beforehand. Your discharge plan may include instructions on care of the incision, pain medicines, activities, follow-up exercises, and other home care instructions.
  • People who have a total joint replacement can lead functional, active lifestyles. One major component of many rehabilitation programs is exercise to restore function, mobility, and strength to the affected joint and surrounding muscles. Discuss with your doctor what an appropriate post-operative rehabilitation program should include.
  • As is the case with any surgery, there are some risks associated
    with joint replacement. It’s important to make sure the procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon in a hospital that has a great track record, like Parkwest Medical Center.

The Parkwest Joint Replacement Center has a specially designed program for total knee and total hip replacement patients. Patients become a part of their medical care team by being involved in education about their procedure. A special joint replacement class teaches patients everything they need to know in order to help manage expectations about their surgery experience and prepare their home for when they leave the hospital.