Atrium Health

News | 2 months ago

After Two Knee Replacements, Christine’s Back at the Beach

When knee arthritis put Christine Taylor in a wheelchair, she opted for the surgeries she had hoped to avoid: two knee replacements. Now, she’s regained her independence and is encouraging others to do the same.

Knee replacement surgery wasn’t anything Christine Taylor ever hoped to have. She joked to her friends that she didn’t want to become a bionic woman. But at 67, suffering from advanced arthritis in both knees, Christine ran out of options. She’d been through pain medications, ablations and steroid shots. Any relief they offered was only temporary. Christine began to rely on a wheelchair. Her daughter had to drive her to appointments and errands, and she felt like she lost her independence.

Christine knew the staff at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute from the time they helped her with shoulder pain. She returned, asking how they could help her knees. They talked her through the process for knee replacement surgery.

“They told me that when I was ready for surgery, I could let them know,” Christine says. “It got to the point where I was waking up in tears. I decided that I’d tried everything else. I realized, it was time to do something different.”

Christine met with Dr. Matthew Duffin, an orthopedic surgeon at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute and told him that she was ready to pursue knee replacement surgery.

Specialty Training in Knee Replacement Surgery

By the time people consider a knee replacement surgery, they’ve often gone through many non-surgical methods to alleviate their knee pain, such as medications and steroid injections. For some people, those may be enough. When those don’t work, however, a knee replacement surgery becomes a good option.

Duffin is one of two surgeons with fellowship training in hip and knee replacement in the south Charlotte area; the other is Dr. Kevin Weiss, also with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute. Knee replacement surgery is typically a safe surgery, but Duffin says that it’s important to have surgeons with specialty training in case unexpected complications arise. U.S. News & World Report ranks Atrium Health Musculoskeletal institute as No. 1 in Orthopedic Care in Charlotte and ranks Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation among the top 1% of rehabilitation hospitals in the nation, ranking it No. 9 on its Best Hospitals for Rehabilitation list in the nation – the highest-ranking rehabilitation hospital in the Southeast and the only ranked hospital in the Charlotte region.

For Christine, what made Duffin a stand-out doctor was his level of concern for her.

“What makes Dr. Duffin different from most other doctors is his bedside manner,” she says. “His concern for me, the way he really cared about me. It could get overwhelming at times and he’d explain to me and my daughter, step-by-step, what would happen. He’s an excellent doctor.”

At the Musculoskeletal Institute, the team maximizes positive outcomes of knee replacement surgeries by optimizing patients’ health before their surgery and following up with them after it. Before the surgery, doctors optimize hemoglobin and lab levels, help patients stop smoking and make sure there are no active infections – three big steps to improve patients’ success. When the surgery is done, the team helps coordinate physical therapy for patients through Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation and remains closely in contact with them through their recovery.

“At the Musculoskeletal Institute, we have a very good support staff,” Duffin says. “One thing that sets us apart is how much we stay in contact with the patient, even when they're not in the hospital or when they're not in clinic. My assistant, for example, is always on the phone with patients, making sure they have a walker if they need one or making sure their physical therapy is set up. They make sure all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed, before and after surgery.”

Christine’s first knee replacement surgery on her left knee went smoothly, and her motivation through physical therapy – never missing a single session – meant that she healed even faster than expected. Instead of using a wheelchair, she only needed a cane. She had her second replacement on her right knee just four months later.

“When we scheduled the second procedure, I told Dr. Duffin, ‘We’ve got to work together on this. I’ve got a vacation coming up, and I need to be better,’” Christine laughs at the memory. “The procedure was on June 8. By June 22, I was on the beach, walking the boardwalk.”

Back to Independence and Back to the Beach (Again)

Today, Christine has no pain in her knees. She’s not taking any pain medication and she’s walking and driving on her own. She’s been back to the beach two times since that first trip and she’s even taken solo vacations. She’s got her independence back. Her daughter – whom Christine calls her “my ride or die, my BFF, all of that” – tells her, “We couldn’t even stop you if we tried!”

“This is why I chose to do orthopedics and hip and knee replacements,” Duffin says. “My patients are suffering and unable to live the lives they want to live. Christine was just 67 when I met her, and she had so much that she wanted to do but wasn’t able to do it. Now, she can.”

Christine understands all too well why people hesitate to undergo knee replacement surgery. She remembers the fear of the uncertainty she once had, but she wants people to understand how much it can help.

“I want people to know: If you're in a lot of pain, you don't have to be. We’ve been blessed with medical advancements and interventions, we’ve been blessed with doctors who care,” Christine says. “You don't have to do this alone. It doesn't make you a martyr to go through pain, because you can get help and have a life again afterwards.”

Learn more about hip and knee replacement at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute.