Column: How do you Spell Relief?

I spell it k-n-e-e-r-e-p-l-a-c-e-m-e-n-t. Okay, just sound it out. In 1971, at the tender age of 15, I fell and landed knee first on a cement floor. That’s all it took to tear the cartilage in one knee. In those days, orthopedic surgeons thought they were doing you a favor by removing all your cartilage, throwing a cast on your leg for six weeks, then declaring you “all better”.

Forty-eight years, one knee brace and lots of pain later, my knee is progressively getting worse. Randomly, doing nothing at all, it’ll lock on me, or just give out, causing short-lived, but big-time pain. Sometimes I’ll shift my body mere inches and it’ll feel like the two bones that join at the knee (the thigh bone, or femur, and the shin bone, or tibia) momentarily come apart. Sideways. Yowza! Lest you think me a weeny, let me divulge that I have a very high pain threshold.

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When I attended a pre-surgical session with a good friend who was about to have a hip replacement, the nurse leading the session showed two videos: one for people about to have hip replacements, and one for knee replacements. According to her, knee replacements are a far more complex surgery with a much longer recovery period. I’m starting now to titanium myself for the inevitable.

If any of you retirees have had to face a knee replacement, you know it’s a long process. First you need to see your doctor. Then comes the MRI. Then a referral to the OASIS osteoarthritis clinic, where they arrange a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Waiting to see a surgeon can take six to 12 months, I’m told. Then comes the wait time for the actual surgery. The whole process can take two years or more. Unless you happen to have a lot of disposable income (which most retirees do not) and can pay to have it done quickly and privately. I do not fall in that category. I just fall onto floors.

I’m a big believer in working the system, which doesn’t involve anything sleazy. It just means knowing how to work with frontline staff in order to get in quicker for tests and referrals. It’s quite simple: it involves asking receptionists at doctors’ offices or specialty clinics to put you on a waiting list, and telling them that you can be there within 20 minutes. If you’re retired, very flexible with your time, and have your own transportation, why not make yourself as available as possible. I tried this 10 years ago when waiting for an MRI. I called the hospital radiology department where my doctor sent the referral, and asked to be put on a wait list. They said “Someone just cancelled. Can you be here tonight at 6:30 p.m.?” Duh!

All this is to say that I have an appointment for an MRI at Lion’s Gate Hospital in North Vancouver on Labour Day at 4:00 a.m. Yes, you heard right – 4:00 freaking a.m.! On the plus side, there won’t be any traffic on the roads.

Moral of the story: Just say yes! At least it starts the ball rolling. Stay tuned.

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