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Monday, May 30, 2011 - New knees lead to a new lease on life for joint replacement patient

Boys will be boys.  They will play rough, spend hours on the basketball courts and football fields, ride motor bikes too fast, and perform stunts on outlandish, homemade contraptions that are deemed suicidal even by the boys themselves.  But boys grow up and become men, have families and jobs, and those wild days are forgotten.  That is, until aching knees and shooting pain bring back vivid memories of those reckless years.

            Michael Clement of Clinton was just such a boy.  Years of playing basketball, having various accidents that resulted in casts and torn cartilage, and general “pounding and pounding” of his knees finally caught up to him.  With the added stress of some extra weight, his knees were worn out.

            “I had ruined them,” said Clement who had masked the pain for years with ibuprofen.  “I was taking 3200 milligrams a day for six, eight, 10 years.”

            When he mentioned that quantity during a routine visit to his physician, his doctor had him stop taking the pain relievers.  “I had been masking an incredible amount of pain,” said Clement after he stopped using ibuprofen.  “I couldn’t walk.”

            Clement was surprised at the extent of the pain and the difficulty he had with daily activities.  Getting in and out of his truck, walking up the flight of stairs to his office, and climbing into the choir loft at church, all became difficult and painful tasks.

 “I love to hunt and I had deer stands on top of ridges that I couldn’t reach,” he said.  “I had to be driven to them on a four-wheeler or an alligator.  I couldn’t duck hunt, because if my boots got stuck in the mud, it was all I could do to get the boots out.”

            Clement knew he needed to fix the problem and made an appointment with Randall Robbins, an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Methodist Medical Center.   With Clement’s knees so worn down and with so little cartilage left, there was little Dr. Robbins could do.

            “I said, ‘Let’s replace them,’” remembers Clement, noting Dr. Robbins’ surprise at his immediate willingness to have joint replacement surgery.

            While it is uncommon, Clement and Dr. Robbins decided to do a bilateral knee replacement, which means both knees are replaced at the same time.  Normally a patient needing both knees replaced would have the worst knee replaced and use the other knee for support during the rehabilitation process.  Then a second surgery would be performed after a full recovery.  In Clement’s case, both of his knees were in such bad condition, he didn’t have a knee to rely on during rehab.

            Clement and Dr. Robbins felt that he could handle the challenge of a double replacement. “I’m a beast when it comes to rehab,” said Clement who knew from his past experiences with therapy that he would fully commit himself to whatever he needed to do to recover.  His surgery was scheduled for December 15, 2009 – when he knew his two children would be out of school for Christmas break and available to help him get back on his feet, literally. In the months leading up to his surgery, Clement dutifully followed the exercises he was instructed to do to prepare for his joint replacement. 

            He chose to have his bilateral knee replacement at Methodist’s Joint Replacement Center. 

“I had talked to people who had experienced infection issues at other institutions,” said Clement.  “I did some research and I found that Methodist Medical Center had a specialized unit that was all joint replacement and went above and beyond for a sterile environment.”

            Clement was not disappointed. “It was all good.  Everyone was helpful, they came when I needed them, the room was nice and the people were great.” 

Clement still remembers his first evening in the Joint Replacement Center, “I thought they were crazy when they got me out of bed that night following my surgery that morning.  I only took three steps out and three steps back, but I walked that first day.”

            With lots of hard work, Clement has made a full recovery.  “I have three words to tell anybody who gets this done, ‘rehab, rehab, rehab.’” 

In addition to going to rehab, Clement followed a workout regimen that he did two times a day, seven days a week. “It wasn’t all pretty,” said Clement, but it put him where he wanted to be – back into life. 

            Clement is inspiring other Joint Replacement Center patients at Methodist as he returns as a volunteer in the rehab department of the center.  “People say, ‘this is hard – I can’t do this.’ I’ll pull up my pant leg and say, ‘yes, you can.’”

            Clement says he returned to the Joint Replacement Center as a volunteer because he felt a need to give back.  “I got good treatment and I felt they went above and beyond.  People were really good to me, and, in a lot of ways, it gave me a new lease on life.”

            Now, Clement is enjoying the things he missed out on before his surgery.  Prior to his joint replacement, he had gone on a golf trip. “I made it three days on a five day trip,” remembers Clement. “I had my surgery in December and by April or May, I was golfing 90 holes.  I just spent a week in Sarasota and I played 141 holes in five days on my new MMC knees!