Being able to walk without pain – or even at all – is something most people probably never really think twice about. For many, however, especially those suffering with arthritis in major joints such as knees, simply walking or standing comes with a painful price.
For two local women, knee replacement surgery helped them Step Past the Pain.
Jackie Roe knew she needed to have knee replacement surgery. The 68-year-old Hollywood resident had been consulting with MedStar Orthopaedic Institute surgeon Emanuel Atiemo, MD, for about a year regarding the worsening arthritis in her left knee.
Jackie, who had relocated to St. Mary’s County five years ago, had been living with knee pain for years. She was referred to Dr. Atiemo by her primary care physician. “After I met Dr. Atiemo, I was hooked. He explains everything to you; you don’t leave his office with any questions.”
Following several treatments, including cortisone shots, she had reached the point where a total knee replacement was the only option left to her. “It had gotten to the point that I couldn’t stand the pain anymore,” Jackie said. She scheduled the surgery and was counting down the days, but fate had different plans.
An Emergency Situation
It was a normal weekday morning for Jackie in May; she was happily spending time with her granddaughter, Madison, getting her ready for school. “I was sitting on the couch and I went to stand up, and I couldn’t,” said Jackie. “The pain was excruciating; I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn’t straighten my leg or put any weight on it.”
A neighbor helped Jackie get her granddaughter on the school bus, and then Jackie dragged herself to the kitchen where she applied ice to her knee. Forty-five minutes later, she was still in pain and unable to walk. She was able to drag herself to the bathroom and tried applying warm water. Still, no relief.
“I had never experienced anything like that in my life,” she said. “I kept telling myself something was going to have to fix this, but nothing was working.” Finally, she called an ambulance and was taken to the MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).
Jackie was given medication for the pain and X-rays were performed. The attending physician couldn’t give Jackie an answer to what was causing her pain, so she requested to see Dr. Atiemo.
“The Emergency Room doctor just wasn’t familiar with me,” said Jackie, whose pain and swelling were getting worse. That day, Dr. Atiemo was performing surgery in the hospital and came to the ED to see Jackie after he finished his procedure. He told Jackie a bone spur had broken off in her knee and that she would need surgery soon.
“I already had the earliest appointment available,” said Jackie, “but Dr. Atiemo told me to call and talk to his office and they would work something out.” Jackie had her knee replacement about a week later.
“Many years ago I watched a knee replacement surgery on TV, so I had an idea of what was going to happen,” Jackie said. “I was so afraid of the surgery, but it turned out everything was absolutely wonderful.”
Jackie’s recovery was quick. She walked out of the hospital using a walker three days after her surgery. She had in-home therapy for two weeks and a month of physical therapy at the hospital.
“Everyone was shocked at how quickly I was meeting their criteria,” said Jackie. “I’m not saying the surgery is a piece of cake – it is painful, uncomfortable and inconvenient for a few days, but I was thrilled and pleasantly surprised at how quickly I bounced back, and the main thing is I no longer have any pain.”
A Painful Delay
Just like Jackie, Margie Anderson, 78, of Chaptico already knew a lot about knee replacement surgery. She had a successful operation on her right knee five years ago, and was advised at that time to have surgery on her left knee as soon as possible. Admittedly, she had been putting the surgery off as long as possible.
“I didn’t want to go through that again,” she said. “I just hate to be sick or be in the hospital.” Margie is an active person, walking two miles every day, spending weekends on the water with her children and grandchildren, and supporting her favorite football team, the Redskins. But the pain in her knee was steadily increasing.
“I have a lot of arthritis in my knees,” she said, “and the pain had become very severe.”
Margie sought help from Usman Zahir, MD, orthopaedic surgeon with MedStar Orthopaedic Institute. Margie’s husband, Ronnie, had been a long time patient of Dr. Zahir’s father, Yousaf Zahir, MD, a pulmonologist. She remembers Dr. Yousaf Zahir mentioning his son was an orthopedic surgeon and she had seen information about him in the community. Margie visited Dr. Zahir and her surgery was scheduled for January.
Just as with Jackie, fate once again had different plans for Margie.
A mention of recent dizziness during her husband’s visit to his cardiologist would delay Margie’s knee surgery for three months as she went to multiple specialists to make sure she was cleared to have the procedure. In the meantime, Margie’s pain had progressed and standing and walking were becoming increasingly difficult.
“I was taking pain medication for months waiting to have surgery,” Margie said. “The medication had to get me through until I could get cleared.”
Finally, on St. Patrick’s Day she had her surgery. Following three days in the hospital, Margie left using a walker and quickly started physical therapy, which lasted about 10 weeks. By early fall, Margie’s life and activity level was pretty much back to normal.
“Dr. Zahir was very nice and seemed to know what he was doing. He was very good at explaining things and I felt he was very competent,” said Margie, who has resumed her two-mile-a-day, morning walk. “My knee is fine now, I have no problems.”