Published: August 2010
Wayne Mills can't tell you exactly how he injured his knee or exactly when, but he can tell you how much pain it caused him. "My knee started to hurt over a year ago, and it never stopped," he explains. Not, that is, until Wayne had partial knee resurfacing (also called partial knee replacement) in April of this year.
"It's like night and day. The pain is completely gone now," he says. "If someone asked me six months ago if I'd ever have knee replacement surgery, I would have said 'no,' but I am so glad I did. Honestly, my recovery was so much faster and easier than I expected, with no real pain at all."*
When Wayne's knee first began to hurt in spring of 2009, the active 68 year old thought he must have "just strained it somehow." He assumed the pain would go away quickly. It didn't. Instead, his knee continued to hurt throughout the summer and beyond, without any respite. "I have a beach house," he says. "I couldn't enjoy the boardwalk or hike along the beach anymore, both things I love to do. The pain was just too bad."
Many of the activities Wayne had always taken for granted were also curtailed because of the pain - like caring for his lawn, a source of great pride to him. Wayne could still ride his lawn mower to cut the grass covering most of his yard, but the edges and borders became a real challenge. "I use a push mower to get some spots and, of course, a weed trimmer," he explains. "That hurt. I'd try to do it anyway, but it got so bad I had to hire someone to do it."
When driving his two-year-old, "jet stream blue" Corvette became impossible, Wayne knew he had to find out what was wrong and do something about it. A true Corvette enthusiast, Wayne has owned many over the years and driving them is a favorite pastime. "It got to the point where I couldn't drive my Corvette at all," he says. "I couldn't shift gears, because I couldn't hold in the clutch."
As it turned out, Wayne's knee pain was caused by torn meniscus, a very common condition of the knee often referred to as a "torn cartilage." Menisci are bands of cartilage that act like shock absorbers, cushioning and protecting the knee and lower leg. Some people assume that only athletes are prone to torn cartilage, but the injury can happen to anyone during everyday activities like pivoting quickly or even getting in and out of a car.
Meniscus tears often occur when the knee is suddenly rotated or "twisted" while the foot stays planted in one spot on the ground. An initial tear may be minor and go unnoticed until much later when it is reinjured by something as simple as tripping or even squatting. In aging adults, a meniscus tear can be the result of degenerative changes.
For Wayne, the diagnosis came quickly even though the actual cause of his condition was not identified. Fixing the problem took a bit longer. Wayne went through an arthroscopic procedure to remove the damaged meniscus, but, unfortunately, it was unsuccessful. "It didn't work in my case," Wayne says. "At first, it seemed a little better, but before long bone was scraping together in one area of my knee... so that's when we opted to do the partial replacement."
Wayne was not looking forward to the procedure, because it sounded like it would be a difficult experience. But Wayne fully trusted the opinion and expertise of his Orthopedic Surgeon Chet Simmons, MD. "He told me it was the right thing to do. I believed him, and he was absolutely right," says Wayne.
Wayne also followed all Dr. Simmons' instructions, including doing special exercises prior to surgery to strengthen the muscles in his knee. "Dr. Simmons told me that if I was conscientious about doing those exercises and also about following through with whatever I was told to do after the surgery, the results would be very good," says Wayne. "I didn't want to be one of those people who didn't put in the effort and then started complaining a year later."
From start to finish, the entire process - surgery through recovery - was quite different than Wayne had imagined. And far quicker. He had surgery on Monday, was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, and began physical therapy in his own home. "I was walking up the stairs to my bedroom before I knew it," he says. "It really was amazing."
According to Wayne, the care he received throughout the entire experience was top notch. "My physicians, the nurses, therapists and Chester County Hospital staff were fantastic. Everything and everyone was great," he says. "I have nothing but good things to say."
Wayne expected a long road back to feeling even close to his old self before knee pain, and he wondered if he would ever have full movement without pain. The speed of his return to "normal" truly shocked him. "They told me I would need to have 90 degrees of motion to be discharged, but I had 105 degrees when I left the hospital," he says. "At two weeks, I was up to 125 degrees and in four weeks I was back to normal at 130. Honestly, I couldn't believe it."
Wayne fully understands that everyone who undergoes partial knee replacement will not necessarily have the same experience he did, but he is a firm believer in the benefits of the procedure. In fact, shortly after his surgery, Wayne offered to have any patient who might be having second thoughts or feeling nervous about the surgery give him a call so Wayne could talk them through it.
As far as Wayne is concerned, the key to his own successful outcome is three-fold. "It was being in the right place, having the right care and having the right attitude," he explains. "That's what got me here, and let me tell you here is pretty great."
By Beth L. Eburn
*Please note: All patients have different experiences with post-surgical pain and recovery time.