Living With Osteoarthritis

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Four real women take charge of their lives.

Millions of women across the country experience the effects of osteoarthritis (OA) in their daily lives. When routine activities, such as sleeping, climbing stairs, getting in and out of the car, sitting for long periods of time and walking become a challenge, as they so often do for OA sufferers, many aspects of life can be impacted, including spending time with family and friends, getting the right amount of exercise and even continuing to work.

While limited mobility caused by OA is often thought of as something osteoarthritis sufferers must just live with, many treatment options are available that can help. For sufferers of severe OA, there is an option that can help restore mobility – joint replacement. In the United States, approximately 600,000 total joint replacements are performed each year. Many factors contribute to the decision to have joint replacement surgery, and only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine which treatment is right for individual patients.

These are the stories of four women who have restored their mobility and taken back their lives by taking action against their OA.

Judy Schon, retired nurse from Park Ridge, IL

By the time Judy Schon was 60 years old, she was unable to completely straighten her legs because of severe OA. Schon says of her OA, “If I was crossing the street and a car came by, I would have gotten hit. There is no way I would have been able to move out of the way in time.” Now 64 (three years after her knee replacements), Schon is no longer afraid to cross the street and she can play with her grandkids. “Sometimes my kids worry and tell me to slow down or stop doing something, but I just keep telling them it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Julie Dumstorf, flight attendant from Chicago, IL

Julie Dumstorf is a 46-year-old active mother of twin 11-year-olds and part-time flight attendant. Dumstorf was diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia that caused her to walk with a limp. Over time, she developed OA in her hip.

Dumstorf had long enjoyed camping with her husband, children and relatives. “I love the outdoors and the campfire.” But a few years ago, Dumstorf was unable to climb the steps to the top of the family’s favorite place, Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. Eventually, the OA progressed so much that “everything was a struggle,” including climbing the stairs to her bedroom. She was even forced to take a leave from work.

Last summer, about a year and a half after her hip replacement, the family returned to the park and Dumstorf was once again able to climb the steps with her family to their favorite place. “My hip felt great!” she exclaims.

Julie Bickers, nurse from Terre Haute, IN

“I’ve got my life back,” says Julie Bickers, a 44-year-old nurse and single mother of two, following her knee replacement last August. Before her surgery, Bickers’ pain caused by OA was so severe that her doctor prescribed her a narcotic pain reliever to help her cope. However, unable to take the drug during work hours, she was forced to deal with the pain during most days.

The last straw for Bickers was giving up her beloved Jeep because she could no longer use the clutch. That’s when she decided it was time to have her knee done. Today, she doesn’t worry about pain and enjoys riding her stationary bike for exercise. She even plans to celebrate the “birthday” of her new knee each August with her children.

Lynn Buckley, wife and mother of two from Georgetown, TX

For Lynn Buckley, it wasn’t her own pain and immobility that was challenging, it was her husband, Ken’s. “We’ve been dealing with this for most of our married lives and we just had our 25th wedding anniversary,” she says of her husband’s OA.

Ken’s knees were so bad that during a family trip to Disney World, he had to return to the hotel throughout the day to ice his knees. After that, when deciding on vacation destinations, Lynn avoided suggesting trips that required a lot of walking because she knew her husband wouldn’t be able to get through it, even though “He always tried to be tough and do things with the kids despite the pain,” Lynn explains.

This year, following Ken’s knee replacement, the family returned to Disney World where it was Lynn and the children who had trouble keeping up with him.

These women, and many others like them, unnecessarily lived for years with the symptoms of OA, delaying consideration of joint replacement surgery out of fear, misinformation, or a lack of awareness about their treatment options.

The performance of joint replacements depends on age, weight, activity level, and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with current infections, or conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. You may experience implant complications such as loosening, fracturing, or wearing of the components, which could result in pain, stiffness or dislocation of the joint. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if joint replacement is right for you.

If your daily life or the daily life of someone you know has been affected by OA, you can learn more about joint replacement by talking to your doctor or visiting www.jointreplacement.com.

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