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My Knee Surgery

Yesterday, I had a partial knee replacement. Having this surgery in my 40s was a tough decision, but I'm optimistic that I made the right call. I scheduled the surgery about six months ago, and throughout those months I kept waffling about whether or not to have the surgery. The pros and cons list that I made was mostly even, but ultimately I decided it was time. I've been dealing with knee pain for almost 20 years.


It all started when I was training for a half marathon in 2005. After I ran the race, I made an appointment with a friend's orthopedist in Boulder. He took an X-ray and sent me to physical therapy. When the pain persisted, I went through a round of hyaluronic acid shots. That bought me a few months. I kept running but shifted to more cycling.


The pain continued, so in November of 2010 Dr. Williams performed a lateral release and microfracture on my knee. I went in expecting just the lateral release, but while he was performing the surgery he found that I had severe damage and lack of cartilage behind my kneecap. That led to the decision to do a microfracture to encourage the growth of new cartilage. When I woke from surgery, I was told that my knee had the damage of someone in their 70s (I was only 33 at the time), that the recovery would take about nine months, and that there was only a 50/50 chance that cartilage would grow. It didn't.


I was in a brace for three months and had six months of recovery after that. I did more physical therapy following the surgery to get my strength back. I also started practicing yoga. It was a long road, but eventually, I started running and biking again. 


I continued to have pain in my knee and went to see a new orthopedic doctor since Dr. Williams had retired. Dr. Dolbeare told me that I had loose cartilage in my knee causing inflammation, so in November 2018, I had arthroscopic loose body removal from my knee. That surgery was less invasive and didn't have as long of a recovery period. The images taken during that surgery showed that my cartilage loss was likely due to a genetic condition in which cartilage bubbles up and breaks away from the bone. At least that explained why I was in this situation.


The pain returned, so I went through two more rounds of hyaluronic acid shots in 2020 and 2022. Each set of three shots got me through a few months. I looked into stem cell treatment, but given the lack of insurance coverage and no guarantee that it would work for me, I decided it wasn't worth pursuing.


On top of the issue of lack of cartilage, my knee started accumulating bone spurs. As a yoga teacher, my work, in combination with the bone spurs, caused regular pain and inflammation. In the Fall of 2023, after another X-ray and MRI, my third orthopedic doctor and I agreed that my only option at this point was a partial replacement, so I was scheduled for surgery on March 11.


I talked to other people I know who have had knee replacements, I made my pros and cons list, and I joined knee replacement groups on Facebook. I watched videos of knee surgeries and researched other options. I got a second opinion from a friend's orthopedic doctor just to be sure, and he confirmed what I already knew – it was time. I agonized over whether I was doing the right thing, especially during the couple of months that my knee felt okay. But, in January when the pain began again with gusto, I knew that I needed to go through with surgery. 


I had the required CT scan, all the necessary blood tests and EKG from my primary care physician, and asked my outstanding questions at my pre-op appointment. To get ready for the big day, I bought all the things (a cane, anti-bacterial soap, pre- and post-surgery prescriptions, aspirin, Tylenol, and Glad Press N Seal wrap to protect my bandage). I borrowed a walker and ice/compression machine from a friend. I got a referral for a physical therapist and made my first three weeks of appointments. I got caught up on work, set my out of office, and yesterday I entered the operating room. 


woman hiking in the Himalayas in India

I have at least a couple of months of recovery ahead of me, but I'm eager to get back to all the things I love as soon as possible. I look forward to teaching yoga again, to hiking and biking and paddle boarding, and eventually trail running. I want to live my life doing the things I love pain-free. I hope to be able to tell you in a few months that I was right, but until then, I'll have to wait and see. 

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