After my post about knee pain I got lots of sympathy and encouragement about eventually replacing these achy knees. Everybody knows somebody who has been through the serious surgical ordeal and most have come through it well. But I got a somewhat different story from an orthopedist.
A month ago I went to my primary physician for another possible round of cortisone injections, which had alleviated my knee pain. But instead of giving me the shots, he sent me to an orthopedist to see whether I was a candidate for knee replacement. My doc told me the ideal window for the surgery was age 60–75. I am going on 73. He didn’t want me to put it off too long, only to learn that it was too late. He said the orthopedist should decide about more cortisone injections as well as surgery, so, meanwhile, no quick fixes on the pain.
I made an appointment with the bone doc but it was weeks away. Since I can’t take most pain-relievers, I dealt with quite a lot of discomfort in the past month. I stopped walking for pleasure because walking was no fun. I started depending on the car to get me everywhere. I calculated the need for every trip up and down stairs. Going from sitting to standing took 30 seconds and some quiet moaning. Although I had functional mobility, I was quickly losing my freedom of movement. My date with the orthopedist couldn’t come too quickly.
I finally saw Dr. Mitros four days ago. He showed me the X-rays and said my knees could be a lot worse–they are not yet bone-on-bone. He said he’d be happy to give me cortisone injections for the pain and inflammation as long as they work. He told me not to worry about getting too old for knee-replacement surgery–he recently gave a 90-year-old woman new knees. Most important, he pointed out the risk of surgery for someone who has my medical history.
Six years ago I had massive, multiple pulmonary embolisms, blood clots that migrated to my lungs. (The story is here and here.) At that time I was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune condition that causes excessive clotting. Because of this I will be on anticlotting medication for the rest of my life. Surgery requires getting off the medication for a period because it can cause bleeding, and this surgery also carries a high risk of clot formation. So it’s a complicating factor for sure. One day surgery may be a risk worth taking but not until things get, well, really bad.
I am happy to say that the cortisone injections seem to be working but reducing the pain is only one step in restoring my freedom of movement. My first tentative walks have felt awkward. I discovered that in just a few months of diminished mobility, I have lost muscle tone. My legs are weak. I am easily winded. I have to take short steps and go much slower than normal. Walking has lost its ease.
But I bought myself cute, comfy walking shoes and I’ve been walking every day, each time a little farther and each time with a little more pleasure. Yesterday with my husband to lunch al fresco at our favorite downtown restaurant. Today through my neighborhood to watch the bees in the white asters along the riverbank and for a fragrant stroll through a rose-edged labyrinth.
I will never again take the pleasures of mobility for granted. Believe me.