I am so excited to share this real experience of a bilateral total knee replacement (TKR) by a close family member as I was involved with her journey before and after TKR.
Lee Sok Hia is my eldest sister-in-law. She is 65 years old, of a small frame and relatively healthy. As you can see here, her knees were quite seriously bowed before TKR due to osteoarthritis. When I had my bilateral TKR four years ago, I thought I could motivate her to fix her knees too. But as expected, her fears were too great and it took her until now to take the bold move. Apart from fear, the delay was partly because she does not experience pain in her knees. This may sound unbelievable but true and it does happen to a small percentage of people with the same problem. However, she experiences discomfort in the knees, limping, backache and difficulty in walking so much so she has avoided going to a lot of places that involves walking. Meanwhile, her bowed legs continue to deteriorate and she also experienced difficulty walking up and down staircases and had to cling to her husband for support in the fear of falling down. It finally hit Sok Hia that she has no quality of life and she decided to do TKR about two months ago. She chose the same Orthopaedic Surgeon (OS) as mine as she was convinced that he did a good job with my TKR and that of one of our friend. And so the journey begins.
The first visit to the OS was quite an experience. He was puzzled that she did not have pain, did not take pain killer and could still squat down. Therefore, he suggested for her to do a thorough examination before determining whether she really needed TKR. After a series of blood tests, x-rays and MRI, it was discovered that she had 30% deterioration in the spine of her neck, 5% at her back and 90% at her knees. So the OS was convinced that she needed TKR but the question remains whether she really wanted it because she did not have pain and did not take any pain killer. She said yes, simply because she wanted a better quality of life. And so a date was fixed which was only 2 days away. I thought it was superb, no long waiting period and excessive worrying.
The operation went smoothly and as you can see below, her knees were straightened. She has been very disciplined with her physical therapy exercises on her own which greatly contributed to good improvements during her recovery period. Of course, she experiences the usual stiffness, tightness and numbness which will hopefully improve in time.
There is one important thing that I would like to share with you based on this experience. Sok Hia was advised not to have epidural but general anaesthetic. The doctor advised against doing epidural because her back wasn't in good condition. Now, if I had known this, I would not have opted for epidural when I had my bilateral TKR four years ago. I did not realise then that my on and off backaches were important to be mentioned to the doctor. Therefore, after the surgery, I had severe discomfort in my back when lying down or resting my back on a chair which was most unpleasant during my recovery. So on hind sight, I wish I had known about this fact before my TKR.
I will gradually keep you updated on Sok Hia's recovery. Meanwhile, by sharing this experience, I hope it will motivate you to take that step towards obtaining a better quality of life.
3 weeks after TKR