Thursday, December 22, 2005

Jane E. Brody's New Knees

I've been preoccupied for the last few days with this Jane E. Brody piece I read in The New York Times about her knee replacement surgery.

My knees aren't in trouble, but it occurred to me, as all the baby boomers (I'm a baby boomer on the very tail end of the baby boom curve) get older and KEEP exercising like they're 18, there will be a lot of us with serious stress injuries to our bodies. Trying to think young and stay fit is one thing, but there really is a point where the body starts to wear down. It's reality.

Don't miss this piece, or if you hit a cost wall and don't feel like registering, here's a few bits of it.
Several orthopedic surgeons, claiming that my prolonged recovery and extreme pain were unusual aftermaths, wrote to say that I unduly scared some people who could benefit greatly from this surgery. This was never my intent.

My intent was to prepare prospective patients for a recovery that might be more prolonged and painful than surgeons readily admit and to urge them to fight for proper pain management if needed.

But neither patients nor doctors who wrote disputed the two main points of my columns: that patients' pain should always be adequately treated and that surgeons should fully disclose to patients the parameters of recovery, not just give them the best possibility.

Many people with problem knees put off replacing them. Now I know why, and why surgeons want their patients to be utterly miserable trying to function with knees crippled by arthritis before succumbing to replacement surgery. When walking becomes so painful that a wheelchair is the next step, patients are more willing to put up with a challenging recovery.

For me, the decision to proceed with surgery was largely based on a deterioration of quality of life. I could still walk - miles if necessary - but I was unwilling to give up all the activities that made my life so enjoyable. And with four grandsons to chase after, I needed healthier knees.