Jack Blumenstock's New Knees
Jack Blumenstock started running in the eighth grade. For years he enjoyed an active lifestyle that included a variety of sports and a 22-year stint in the military. When his knees started giving him problems, he replaced running with cycling. He was determined to stay active, even though his legs were not cooperating. Over the course of five years he would receive 50 shots of pain relievers in each knee to try to relieve the osteoarthritis ache. They helped in the beginning, but became less effective as time wore on. Jack was training for a marathon with his wife Shirley when the pain became too much. He had worn out the cartilage in his knees. His legs were bowed. "It was difficult to walk," Jack said. "I would take Advils like candy."
Jack had advanced osteoarthritis in both knees. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. At age 57, Jack thought he was "too young for knee replacements." But more and more people Jack's age are having their knees replaced, said Doylestown Hospital orthopedic surgeon Charles Burrows, MD. "As the implant device improves and the longevity of devices improves, more younger people are opting for knee replacement." Aging Baby Boomers want to stay active and "don't want to give up their lifestyle," added Dr. Burrows, who specializes in hip and knee replacement surgery. Since the mid-1990s, Dr. Burrows has devoted his time and focus to the art and science of joint replacement. Advancements in medical technology have meant less invasive procedures, quicker recovery and more durable, longer lasting implants.
Jack decided to have both knees replaced in November 2009. "I wanted to go back to what I was doing before," Jack said. For many months before the procedure, Jack worked hard to keep himself in fit condition. "The better shape a patient is in, the smoother the recovery will be," said Dr. Burrows. A double knee replacement is not for everybody, he advised, but may be an option for those in otherwise good health.
Jack spent five days in Doylestown Hospital following the double total knee replacement. "It was great care and a great experience," he said. He spent 12 days at Pine Run recovering his strength. Having both knees done at the same time was "more difficult, but worth it," he said. He left Pine Run on a Monday and on Tuesday, he took a successful mile-long walk around the CB West track with the aid of a walker. It gave him the mental boost he needed. "It proved to me I could still do things," said Jack. Several months of physical therapy followed. With the help of his dedicated family and friends, as well as a tough physical therapist, Jack quickly regained his active lifestyle. "I'm even better than I was before," he said. "I can almost do what I did in high school."
Today's knee replacements are designed to keep active people active. Historically, devices had a range of motion of about 100° to 110°. Dr. Burrows used a Flex design, which offers greater range of motion than a traditional device. It's ideal for all kinds of physical activities, including cycling. And, thanks to smaller incisions and less invasive techniques, the scars on Jack's knees were minimal.
Jack is back to riding about 100 miles a week on his bike. He swims regularly at the YMCA and keeps the running to a minimum, opting for the elliptical or ski machine for most of his training. For the second year in a row, Jack plans to ride 180 miles in the annual Bike MS: City to Shore Ride to help raise funds to fight multiple sclerosis. The Doylestown resident belongs to local cycling and multisport clubs that ride the roads and trails of Bucks and Hunterdon counties and along the Schuylkill River. "I'm doing things I did 30 years ago," Jack said. "It's been amazing."
"Jack really got his lifestyle back," added Dr. Burrows. He said orthopedic surgery is one of the most gratifying fields of medicine. "You see the impact it has on these patients. They become active and do the things they want to do."
The summer before his procedure, Jack was in Wildwood for a vacation. "I would ride 60 miles that morning and was lucky if I could walk half a mile later that day," he said. "Now, I can walk, I can stand forever." Jack, who is diabetic, views riding as extending his life. "I ride to live," he said. Thanks to a new set of knees, Jack can stay as active as he wants for many years-and many rides-to come.