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  • Writer's pictureTom Vachet

Don't Become A Victim When Choosing Your Doctor

Knee following replacement surgery
Knee Replacement

My symptoms of pain, swelling, and limited movement had begun one year previous during my participation in the California Coast Classic, an 8-day, 525-mile, bicycle tour down the California Coast from San Francisco to LA. On November 7, 2021, I underwent a Total Knee Replacement. Ten years previous Dr. James Tibone, a pre-eminent Orthopedic Surgeon at Kerlin Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles, had advised me, following a comprehensive examination, that my right knee was destroyed; Grade IV Osteoarthritis in the lateral compartment, multiple tears across the meniscus, multiple chondral defects in the tibial plateau, and to top it off, a Baker's Cyst in the posterior knee.

Following some consideration of my predicament and evaluation of my options I opted to pass on the surgery. Instead, I ceased all activities that would exacerbate the injury.; running, jumping, hiking, climbing, etc. My rationale, shared with Dr. Tibone, was I wanted to defer the surgery to a later date. My thinking was that the more distance I put on the surgical fix, the higher the likelihood the procedure itself as well as the orthopedic appliance would certainly improve, yielding a better outcome.

As the years slipped by my conditioning suffered, I experienced no pain or discomfort. That was except a painful reminder of the knee when on one occasion in Tampa, Florida in 2013 while getting up from a chair my knee locked in flexion. I was in agony until it suddenly released with an audible pop. But then I could bear no weight on it. I sought an emergency orthopedic consult, resulting in receiving the advice I wasn't yet ready for a replacement surgery.

Unfortunately, in 2019, following a move to Appleton, Wisconsin, I succumbed to curiosity and joined a Krav Maga martial arts dojo. My first injury was a partially torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, my preferred striking side. I sought an orthopedic opinion, but again declined the surgical option. Instead, I sought physical therapy assistance and successfully managed a full recovery. But then, the knee. symptoms returned.

I researched surgeons, interviewed three, finally landing on Dr. Timothy Mologne at the Orthopedic and Sports Institute. The day of my consultation I brought in my MR-CD and Consult Note from LA. As Dr. Mologne read the note, he began to laugh. As it turned out, as a former Naval Surgeon he had completed a prestigious Fellowship under none other than Dr. Tibone from LA. That sealed the deal, and he performed my procedure a few days after. Three days post-surgery I walked into Peak Performance Physical Therapy to begin my work with Brad the co-owner. I was wearing skinny blue jeans and walking with no assistive devices - crutches or a walker.

Today I'm in the gym six days per week doing high Intensity intervals on the elliptical trainer, and high volume/low weight resistant training. I recently bought two Trek E-bikes for trail riding in the nearby State Parks. I plan on returning to Krav Maga in the near future, with some modifications to protect the knee.

The point of this story is to say that knee replacement surgery does not have to be crippling or limiting. It also points out the critical necessity of locating and vetting prospective surgeons. Take your time. As I used to admonish my many injured athlete clients, there is an 80/20 rule in medicine, as in other professions. 20% of doctors range from being very good to world class. And 80% range from good to criminal. Don't allow yourself to become a crippled victim. I didn't. Even your odds by going to a major city with a medical school, looking for a doctor at an affiliated hospital who is on adjunct faculty. They are aware of and teach students the latest techniques. And they are treating other doctors' train wrecks. I was fortunate that in the small city of Appleton I located a surgeon who I knew had been mentored by one of the best in the world.


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