Orthopedic Nightmare

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I’ve had degenerative joint disease for ages – my Dad had it, another of my siblings has it. My maternal grandmother had osteoporosis, my Mom had osteopenia. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis before my DS, as well. (Thankfully, with good supplementation, losing the weight, and weight-bearing activity/exercise I’ve improved to osteopenia!)

At 365 pounds I was wheelchair-bound – for a couple of years. My pain level had been at a constant 7 or 8 on the fabulous 1 to 10 scale. Had two knee (one on each knee) surgeries the year prior to my WLS. Was told that the level of degeneration on the knees is at about 3.5 to 4. My patella looks something like shag carpet. Definitely bone on bone on both knees. Not pretty. Had my DS – lost 210 pounds, my wheelchair, and the high pain level – was living life at more of a 2 to 3, than the previous 7 to 8. Funny how invincible we feel when we lose the weight, huh?

So the orthopedic issues never went away (duh!) – they, of course, improved without the extra couple of hundred pounds around. I got active – really active! Yeah, probably overdid a bit now and then – kinda trying to make up for lost time, you know?

I’d been told before my DS that I’d need both knees replaced. About 5 years ago they told me to hold out as long as possible – but to think around 10 to 15 years out. I’d been focusing on the knees, the back, the ankles – but kinda forgot about the fact that my hip pain could seriously sideline me as well.

I was shocked and surprised a little over a year ago when I went in for a check-up for what I assumed was a torn or sprained something in my hip to find that my hip needed to be replaced – like a while ago. I was 43 at the time. Me? Hip replacement? Saw an excellent surgeon, got a 2nd opinion – it was unanimous – the hip must be replaced! So, August 23, 2007 I had total right hip replacement.

Can I just say here and now that I have a WORLD of respect for old people who have hip replacement done? OH MY WORD! Wow! What a surgery! BUT – I can say with absolute assurance that when I woke up after surgery I knew immediately that my pain was better – how wild is that? I was amazed, as well, at the little 86 year old lady who would lap me as we were walking our laps in the hall! LOL!

What I didn’t know then was that when they replace your hip, they do their best to make your legs the same length. My new hip makes my right leg 5 mm longer than my left leg. Not much, you’d think, right? Well, it can be a big deal. Long story short (believe me, it’s REALLY long!) that leg length discrepancy has changed the trajectory on my left ankle – and the degeneration there has accelerated at mind-blowing speed. In short – I’m losing my mobility again.

I’ve been referred to NINE (yes, that’s 9) different specialists. It’s both encouraging and dismaying to hear the surgeon who is thought of as a regional leader in his field say, “You need someone with more skill than I have.” when you go in for a consult. They’re talking ankle replacement now. I laughed when the idea was first raised – I thought they were joking, right?! Ankle replacement? Do they really do that? Well, yeah, actually, they do. Who would have thunk?

So – last specialist (who treats the professional athletes in the region for foot/ankle problems) said – wait 5 years if at all possible. The only way he’d say go for it for surgery (aka replacement) right now is if I lose my mobility completely before then. Problem is – there’s less than a 50% chance of success – it’s a new specialty. There need to be lots of advancements in the field. With my other orthopedic issues – I’d likely not be in the success group.

So – I find myself contemplating some big stuff. It’s daunting. Since I’m a DS post-op with pylorus still intact – no NSAID prohibition. But I’m allergic to the world – so finding pain control that doesn’t leave me in anaphylaxis or a zombie is difficult. When I’m in Europe I pick up the 600 mg Ibuprofen tablets – if I pop 2 or 3 of those at a time, then the pain can be at least headed off a bit.

I find myself thinking thoughts about how stupid I’ve been in the past 6 years – pushing the limits on what I could/should do given my orthopedic issues. It wasn’t so much that I was ignorant – as just downright stupid. Funny how we chalk everything up to the weight – and then when the weight is gone – hmmm. got some things to reconsider, huh?

So – I alter my thinking a bit. I strategize a lot more. I consider my options. I know that in the coming years the ankle will go, the knees will go, and because I was young when I had my hip replaced, that will need replaced again in maybe another 20 years. I know with assurance that I’d rather NOT lose the mobility! I have three teenagers – Lord! – I NEED my mobility! I’m with the rest of you who have voiced similar thoughts, though- why not do something NOW – rather than wait until we’re older to address some of these issues? I understand if it’s a new field or medical advances are right around the corner – but stink – keep us moving! That will keep us healthier!

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