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A step in the right direction

"Sparkle" Shoemake no longer experiences unbearable pain in her knee thanks to the care she received from Dr. Thomas DiStefano and the McLeod Health Cheraw Physical Therapy team.
McLeod Health Cheraw

CHERAW, S.C. — Imagine living with constant joint stiffness and pain. Each day brings with it the worry of whether or not you will be able to do the things you love most.

Annie “Sparkle” Shoemake, a Cheraw resident, faced this concern daily as she painfully got out of bed each morning. Shoemake is not alone. In fact, thousands of Americans face the harsh reality of limited mobility on a regular basis, often resulting in poor quality of life.

Shoemake had undergone a total knee replacement on her right knee 10 years ago in Florence and recognized the same symptoms in her left knee; however, Shoemake was focused on caring for her now-late husband who was ill.

As time passed, Shoemake’s knee pain became more intense and debilitating. The unbearable pain and stiffness restricted her from participating in her favorite activities, namely spending precious moments with her grandchildren.

“I could manage necessary tasks, but walking for long periods of time became impossible,” said Shoemake. “My quality of life suffered because I could not do anything without being in constant agony, including standing, sleeping or even sitting.”

Shoemake tried cortisone injections, pain relievers and other non-invasive treatments to no avail.

After enduring more than two years of pain, stiffness and limited range of motion with her left knee, Shoemake decided to tell her primary care physician about her concerns.

Based on her symptoms, Shoemake’s primary care physician referred her to Dr. Thomas DiStefano, an orthopedic surgeon with McLeod Orthopaedics Cheraw.

“I had heard great things about Dr. DiStefano. But, his sincere bedside manner and professionalism during my initial visit and each encounter after blew me away,” said Shoemake. “He genuinely cares about his patients as individuals, and his passion for helping them get better is truly evident.”

DiStefano reviewed Shoemake’s medical history and ordered X-rays of her left knee which revealed that her arthritis had progressed to being bone on bone. Dr. DiStefano strongly recommended knee replacement surgery for Shoemake.

After her initial consultation with Dr. DiStefano, Shoemake felt something that she had not experienced in a while: hope.

“Prior to surgery, we arranged for a CT scan and uploaded Shoemake’s images to a computer program that created custom cutting blocks made to fit her anatomy perfectly,” explained DiStefano. “These blocks helped guide us when making cuts in the operating room. This also increases precision and promotes a quicker healing time due to the accuracy of the technique.”

Shoemake then met with the physical therapy team for a pre-surgery assessment of her range of motion.

She also received education on certain exercises and tips for getting out of bed and walking after surgery.


On Jan. 19, 2018, just two weeks after her consultation with Dr. DiStefano, Shoemake underwent the first total knee replacement performed at McLeod Health Cheraw.

“I feel honored to have been a part of this historical first for the hospital. I am also grateful that we have timely and convenient access to excellent healthcare that tends to only exist in larger cities,” said Shoemake. “We have the quality of McLeod Health doctors and services available right here at home.”

Shoemake’s surgery proved to be successful, and she began an extensive physical therapy routine almost immediately following her surgery.

Shoemake also praised the physical therapy team and nursing staff for a positive patient experience during her hospital stay.

“They had me up and walking only hours after my knee replacement to lower my chances of developing blood clots and improve my overall outcomes.”

The one-on-one attentiveness of Dr. DiStefano also impressed Shoemake as he checked on her daily and visited with the family to answer questions and provide any assistance needed.

After settling in at home, team members from McLeod Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Cheraw provided convenient in-home therapy until Shoemake could drive again.

Once cleared, Shoemake completed the rest of her physical therapy sessions in the outpatient rehabilitation department of McLeod Health Cheraw.

Determined to regain the pain-free, physical independence she once enjoyed years ago, Shoemake dedicated herself to the physical therapy program. She credits the program as one of the major factors in her successful and speedy recovery.

“Now, I can play with my grandchildren and keep up with them. I can even walk through Walmart without pain or stopping for a break,” said Shoemake. “My knee no longer holds me back like it did before.

“I am so happy that I finally decided to have my second knee replaced, and I could not have asked for a better doctor to help make this possible,” she added.

Today, Shoemake enjoys her retirement one step at a time with her children and her grandchildren.


Arielle Williams is director of communications and public information for McLeod Health Cheraw.


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