I remember the days of The Six Million Dollar Man being a hit TV series. Lee Majors was so handsome and a hometown boy from Southeastern Kentucky. The idea that modern medicine had come far enough to replace any body part with a mechanical device was fantastic. It was a futuristic science fiction story. Yet, the public loved the idea that an ordinary person could be repaired with scientific advances and be made better than they were before.
The show was such a success, The Bionic Woman followed. Again, a woman with life threatening injuries was improved to superhuman status. The two characters could see far away, hear people whispering yards and yards away, run, jump, lift, and carry in ways that only a super hero could handle disasters.
When the first human being received an artificial heart, it shocked the whole world. I knew the man’s daughter. He didn’t live very long with the mechanical heart, but he knew the risks he was taking, and he knew the importance of the medical breakthrough in which he was playing such an important role. It was unsuccessful in ways, but it was part of the learning curve needed for medical science to move forward in the phenomenal field of organ replacement.
About 10 years ago my mom had a total knee replacement. I had the privilege of having her in my home and helping nurse her back to health. The incision was monstrous and left a very huge scar on her leg from the shin bone well up into her thigh. Yet, scar and all, her knee was returned to healthy function. I hated what she had to go through, but I was so glad she was able to walk pain free.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “If your knee is severely damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to perform simple activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. You may even begin to feel pain while you are sitting or lying down.
If nonsurgical treatments like medications and using walking supports are no longer helpful, you may want to consider total knee replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain, correct leg deformity, and help you resume normal activities.
Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. Since then, improvements in surgical materials and techniques have greatly increased its effectiveness. Total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and having healthy knees is required to perform most everyday activities.
The knee is made up of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). The ends of these three bones where they touch are covered with articular cartilage, a smooth substance that protects the bones and enables them to move easily.
The menisci are located between the femur and tibia. These C-shaped wedges act as “shock absorbers” that cushion the joint. Large ligaments hold the femur and tibia together and provide stability. The long thigh muscles give the knee strength.
All remaining surfaces of the knee are covered by a thin lining called the synovial membrane. This membrane releases a fluid that lubricates the cartilage, reducing friction to nearly zero in a healthy knee. Normally, all of these components work in harmony. But disease or injury can disrupt this harmony, resulting in pain, muscle weakness and reduced function.”
How do you know if you are a candidate for knee replacement surgery? The same site states the following reasons for this procedure: There are no absolute age or weight restrictions for total knee replacement surgery. “Recommendations for surgery are based on a patient’s pain and disability, not age. Most patients who undergo total knee replacement are age 50 to 80, but orthopedic surgeons evaluate patients individually. Total knee replacements have been performed successfully at all ages, from the young teenager with juvenile arthritis to the elderly patient with degenerative arthritis.”
Before an accident on the school stairs, I didn’t even know I had arthritis in the knee. After that incident, I have been acutely aware of the pain every single day since. Even though I went through the physical therapy and did every single thing recommended to improve the situation, my knee has continued to deteriorate to the point that every step has been excruciating. It has made me sympathize with our ancestors who did not have medical miracles to relieve their suffering. If I had no other options, the pain I’ve endured would soon put me in a wheelchair.
By the time this article appears in print, I will have something in common with the Six Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman and my mom. I will have a totally new knee – metal, synthetic and pain free.
At the time my mom had her knee replacement, there was a lengthy stay in the hospital followed by several days in a rehab center before going home to continue therapy on an outpatient basis. Things have changed so much; my stay in the hospital is projected to be two to three days, no rehabilitation center and continued outpatient therapy. Expected recovery time is 6-8 weeks without complications.
I hate being away from my students for that length of time, so I’m already praying for snow days during my recovery. I have done everything I could think of to keep them on track and help the substitute teacher know exactly what to do while I’m away from school.
The children were getting a little gloomy, asking me if I was frightened about the surgery and so on. They have prayed for me, brought me prayer cloths, made me cards and been amazingly kind. I showed them the picture of the metal knee additions and they thought it was pretty cool that they would have a bionic teacher.
I wish the knee came with super powers, but since it doesn’t, I’ll be awfully glad to have a knee free of pain.