Four New Joints, One New Perspective
By Norman Mindrebo, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Riverview Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
I’ve always been an active individual – always trying to set a good example for my patients. I’ve lifted weights for years, and I enjoy horseback riding and cycling with my wife, Peggy.
But in 2020, I started to slow down and noticed I couldn’t walk more than a quarter of a mile on our daily walks.
Through the years, I’ve often heard my orthopedic patients call what they are experiencing “discomfort” rather than “pain.” We learn to live with it, and even ignore it. And that was what happened in my situation.
One day my daughter watched as I walked our property and put items away in our barn. I couldn’t even carry a piece of lawn furniture without holding onto something.
She looked at me and said, “Dad, when did you get old?”
I knew I had to do something. The following Monday, I scheduled an X-ray to see what was going on with my joints.
The X-ray showed I had bone-on-bone arthritis in my knees and hips. How could I have let this go on for so long? As an orthopedic surgeon, shouldn’t I have known better?
It’s amazing how even doctors can overlook our health deterioration while simultaneously treating others for the same problems.
Soon I was scheduled for a double hip replacement. A few months later, I underwent total knee replacement surgery on both of my knees.
After my surgeries, I wanted to push myself to be the best I could be. If the doctors, nurses and therapists were going to invest in me, it was my job to set a good example for myself and my own patients.
I worked hard in therapy and recovered quickly. And it was worth it—the difference between my life before and after my replacements is like night and day.
Before my surgery, I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to walk down a hill or stairs pain-free. Riding in a car for more than a couple hours left me in intense pain, and getting on a horse was a huge challenge.
Now I can walk down the stairs like everyone else. I can ride in the car for hours without any discomfort. And to make things even better, I feel like John Wayne getting on a horse again!
I’m so grateful for this experience and how it has changed me as a surgeon. It has instilled a deeper level of empathy for my patients and what they are going through. It has also made me appreciate how, even though our joints may be hurting, exercise is so important to help slow the damage and aid in the healing process.
If you’re on the fence about getting a joint replacement and you’re in pain, the best advice I have is to do it. It may seem scary, but it will change your life infinitely for the better.
For more information, visit riverview.org.