Tony Sonnleitner’s journey has been a long one. He’s logged 1,750,000 miles driving rigs across the Midwest over the last 35 years, a third of those miles driving for his current employer, U.S. Venture, the Appleton-based petroleum distribution company.
Now a maintenance specialist in the U.S. Venture division known as U.S. Lubricants, Tony will tell you that his primary function (maintaining oil pumps) is a job anyone could do.
“It’s a common sense job. You look at something that isn’t working and you try to fix it. Pretty straightforward,” Tony said.
Only if the pump isn’t running, the plant isn’t running either.
Tony has spent a good portion of the last seven years crawling on top of 20 foot tanks and on his knees working on pumps. Combine that with his time on the road, and something in this man’s body had to wear out.
It was Tony’s right knee.
For ten years he dealt with the pain in his trademark quiet and uncomplaining way. Going up and down steps became a painful proposition. Kneeling, bending, and squatting, which comprise much of his current job, weren’t easy either.
Tony compensated, adapting his movements to make what he needed to do a little easier, a little more comfortable.
But the pain worsened, for good reason. His right knee was bone on bone.
“And,” Tony added, “I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Tony had hemmed and hawed, but the time was right for action, and not just because his knee joint was shot.
U.S. Venture and the Orthopedic & Sports Institute had recently entered into a direct contracting relationship for hip and knee replacement for all U.S. Venture employees, a cost-saving solution with benefits for the company and employees alike.
Tony visited OSI with others from U.S. Venture, taking a tour of the facility and learning about the services offered through the direct contract prior to taking advantage of the program.
Soon after the tour, Tony scheduled his surgery with Dr. Jay Minorik of the Orthopedic & Sports Institute, who had previously replaced Tony’s wife’s knee.
Since Tony’s November 2013 surgery, his recovery has been ahead of schedule, his therapy visits are done, and he looks forward to returning to work this month.
Tony admitted he did not do extensive research about the procedure, but he spoke very knowledgeably about it, comparing the replacement of his knee joint to changing the packing seal of a pump.
“Take a slice from here (indicating the femur) and the bottom (indicating the tibia), remove what’s broken and replace it with something new,” he said.
“It’s a common sense job,” Tony repeated. “Pretty straightforward.”
Lori Karls, Director of Compensation, Benefits, & Payroll at U.S. Venture, says Tony’s success story has a familiar ring to it.
“Every month, another two or three associates have been going to OSI for a procedure,” Karls said. “And we have received very favorable feedback.”
Recently U.S. Venture received the Gold Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA). The prestigious award recognized the company for its commitment to the health and well-being of its employees.
“OSI’s innovative care option is an important component of our overall wellness program,” said Karls.
Tony is eager to get back on the road again, although this time he’ll be logging miles on his Harley Road Glide (aka “GeezerGlide”) as soon as the weather cooperates.
And with knee pain and instability no longer issues, Tony once again can enjoy dancing with his wife, Debbie.
Or with his Great Dane puppy, Rizzo.