Nowadays, many people are having significant difficulties with their lower limbs, including myself. Most especially, people who are above 45 or 60 years old. Although these dysfunctions can occur in any joint, they quite often manifest in the knees due to a condition called Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease.
Imagine waking up in the morning and falling back down on the bed as soon as you stand because your knees cannot immediately support your weight. Conceptualize not being able to take your first step because your knee is frozen or because the bones must first roughly rub together creating a crackling sound known as Crepitus.
Visualize having to then creep to the bathroom. Perceive how embarrassing it is when many of these things happen while in public or while among people you barely know. Hobbling around the house is bad enough—picture how humiliating it can be when an elderly person who is older than you jump up to give you his or her seat on a bus.
Worse of all, imagine being confined to your living quarters because every time you go out, you can hardly make it back home without protracted rest periods, breathlessness, and exposing a pitiful limp. Some of these unfortunate vignettes are intermittent occurrences, but most have become a standard part of my daily living.
Living with Osteoarthritis
In my case, arthritis predominates my right knee; but, I see early signs that I may have difficulty with my left hip. This is another affliction I look forward to. Atypically, walking down stairs is even more challenging than walking up to them. Imagine how demeaning it can be to have both youth and elderly rush past me in Olympian fashion while I take baby steps. Sometimes, I have to interrupt their flight to request them to help me carry something.
Upon attempting to pursue physical therapy, I found it intolerable. Coming home from it was much worse than getting there, and for the balance of the day, I was “totally spent,” as I am now whenever I go out. Recently, I received an injection of Cortisonem, which lasts for months for many people. But for me, the relief is only for about one month. Even the temporary benefit was negated by the substantial and extended elevation of my blood sugar levels.
One summer day, while on the bus, I noticed a woman in her late forties or early fifties—intrigued that she wore shorts despite an unsightly scar that extended from about a foot below her knee to approximately a third of the way up her thigh. We began to converse, and she revealed that six months earlier she had knee replacement surgery. She said, before that, she had suffered tremendous physical and emotional pain and shared many of her experiences with the scenarios I mentioned before, and even more.
As she spoke, I was captivated by her exuberance and buoyancy, which she attributed to the operation. She said she felt no shame about her scar but rather was proud to be liberated from her suffering. Having never met anyone before who had knee replacement surgery, I too began to feel quite elated that there was a probable remedy to my despair. The woman even mentioned the hospital where she had the procedure—a facility with quite an excellent reputation.
She said she was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her, and we exited the bus and proceeded in opposite directions, she raised both arms shouting, “Do it, do it, do it!”; raising one arm, I lustily retorted, I will, I will, I will!
Nonetheless, within a few weeks, my enthusiasm began to wane as I reflected on the possible consequences of the treatment. Being that I am elderly, my concern is that, because of living alone, I may be forced to go to an in-house rehabilitation center, which I consider to be not much more than a glorified nursing home. That scenario, even temporarily, is abhorrent to me because I once had a close family member confined to a skilled nursing facility.
Consequently, I am cognizant of the frequency of nursing home abuse and am also aware that both skilled and rehabilitation nursing facilities regularly cause patient deterioration due to downright negligence as well as the encouragement of over-dependence. So for that reason, I have continued to remain at home for several days on end, which, of course, is not the most fruitful way to live.
Indeed, since I feel the quality of my life has been drastically impeded, I may well soon seek to have the surgery at a hospital that will pretty much assure me of in-home therapy when it is over, and I look forward to revisiting this article to report the results.
Jeff Redekopp is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has worked in cardiac and pulmonary rehab programs as a staff member, coordinator, and manager for twenty-two years. He is also a freelance writer and web researcher.