Patient Story - Monica Nichter

Finding Dr. Keller and relief from arthritis worth the trip for Neenah woman

“We have a workable plan of care to manage my arthritis. I know that if the disease progresses, Dr. Sarah Keller will be there for me,” Monica Nichter, Neenah

Like many Baby Boomers, Monica Nichter developed joint discomfort in mid-life. For her, arthritis pain began in a couple joints. But then it progressed. As a Practice Manager with Radiology Associates of the Fox Valley in Neenah, she is no stranger to top-level health care. Being involved directly in health care can at times allow a person direct feedback and opinions on the best available treatment. It didn't take long for her to learn about Dr. Sarah Keller in Door County.

Nichter, who lives in Neenah, sought help from pain management specialists and physical therapists close to her home. But as over-the-counter medications were no longer effective and new treatment was being recommended to her, Monica thought it would be best to see a rheumatologist and get other options. She wanted access to a doctor soon—not months away from her initial phone call. A business colleague told Nichter about Dr. Sarah Keller, a rheumatologist with Door County Memorial Hospital’s North Shore Medical Clinic. Keller joined North Shore Medical Clinic in August 2007.

“I called for an appointment, and I was able to get in that same week,” Nichter stated.

Dr. Keller said the most important thing during a typical first appointment with any patient, is talking with the person and finding out more about their symptoms. “We do a physical exam. I see if there is any swelling, redness or rashes. Then, I look at other medical problems and tests that the patient may have had done in the past. People can expect a pretty comprehensive evaluation during the first visit with me,” Keller said.

That, indeed, was what Nichter, who was diagnosed as having osteoarthritis, said she experienced when she saw Keller.

“She takes the time to get to know me—not only my symptoms, but my lifestyle and the stressors in my life and comments on how those affect my arthritis,” Nichter said.

Nichter said other members of her family have arthritis as well. According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), Osteoarthritis is characterized as progressive damage to joint cartilage and affects middle-age people as well as seniors.

As for her treatment, Nichter said she is taking medications and receives Cortisone (an anti-inflammatory medication) injections about every six months from Dr. Keller.

“The treatment gives me the ability to get through my day without pain and discomfort,”

Nichter said she feels comfortable discussing any topic with Keller. “She answers my questions openly and honestly about special diets or touted over-the-counter ‘miracle drugs’ that guarantee ‘arthritis relief’. Sarah explains options in language that I can understand. She lays out a plan of care: if this doesn’t work, we’ll try ‘X,’” Nichter said.

“I’m always comforted after my appointments knowing that we have a workable plan of care to manage my arthritis. And I know that if the disease progresses, Dr. Sarah Keller will be there for me,” Nichter continued.

Nichter is not alone in her experience of joint discomfort. Keller said that joint pain is the most common complaint of her patients. The board-certified rheumatologist (who resides in Sturgeon Bay) sees patients at North Shore Clinic in Sturgeon Bay, as well as the clinics in Fish Creek and Algoma locations. North Shore Medical Clinic is a part of Door County Memorial / Ministry Health Care.

“As a general rule, for anyone who has joint pain and is not getting better with what they are doing or if they are having a problem difficult to diagnose, it is probably a good idea to get it checked by a rheumatologist,” Keller said.

Common areas of concern are knees, hips, and shoulders “and a big frustration for patients is osteoarthritis of the hands,” Keller said.

She is quick to add that treatment varies, of course, with each patient and what the underlying problem is.

“Everyone is different. Joint injections are a big part of what I do. I do those right in the office. And they are often preferred over medications-by-mouth, which can have potential side effects,” Keller said.

“The worst that can happen with the joint injection is that it might not work. There usually are no side effects with joint injections as long as they are done correctly,” Keller added.

Dr. Sarah Keller is also board certified in internal medicine. She received her medical degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and then completed her internal medicine training at the University of Illinois Chicago. She then went on to complete a two-year rheumatology fellowship at the University of Illinois.

“I can always fit someone in that day or that week. I am happy to try and help anyone who is having problems,” Keller said

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