New Knees Provide a Bridge to a Better Life

Sue Kerley walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on her 75th birthday, a dream made possible by two joint replacements in one-and-a-half years

Not one quick to run to the doctor with a problem, Sue Kerley endured two-and-a-half years of not even being able to walk around a grocery store. She had been putting up with pain for a long time, eroding her quality of life.

Sue Kerley and children

Her cardiologist had advised her to walk on the treadmill daily and she was giving it her best shot. But holding on with one hand and using a cane in the other to help her walk on the treadmill limited her exercise to about three minutes before wearing her out. She had to do something and wanted to return to the active lifestyle she had always enjoyed.

So finally, she went to see Dr. Ramiro Miranda at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists. His diagnosis showed that osteoarthritis had reduced both her knees to bone-on-bone.

“Right that moment he told me what would have to happen,” recalls Kerely, who lives in Walnut Creek. “Both knees needed to be completely replaced. There was no difference in the knees, so he said, Pick one. I said You pick one, and he did, the dominant knee. I asked if I could do both at once, but he wouldn’t do that.”

After she had the first one done, she understood why. Total knee replacement requires a considerable surgical operation to put the new titanium knee joint in place. Rehabilitation afterward is very important, and having a good leg to help is vital.

One and done?

After the surgery, she had problems with the pain medication and it changed her mind about doing the second knee. For a while.

“I said I would never, ever do another knee replacement. I’ll just hop around the rest of my life. But it was so painful, whether you’re sitting or lying in bed. Just not walking doesn’t help. And I didn’t want to get hooked on the pain medication,” explains Kerley.

She talked it over in great detail with Julie Pride, Dr. Miranda’s physician assistant. Kerley expressed her concerns and fears.

“She talked me through it,” says Kerley. “She told me, We are here for you, we’re going to take care of you; you don’t have to worry about a thing. When I left her office, I felt perfectly comfortable and had no concerns. I had fretted about it for over a year, but I was ready to do the second knee after talking to Julie. I had to.”

The second knee replacement—the one Kerley swore she would never do—“was a breeze.” They changed her pain medication, so that problem she had with the first replacement did not bother her with the second.

She’s definitely glad she decided to have the second one replaced. Dr. Miranda has told her that the osteoarthritis will probably wind up affecting her hips, which may require replacement, as well. She’s hoping to avoid that, but not Dr. Miranda.

“I’m almost sorry I don’t have another knee to replace. Dr. Miranda has the best bedside manner and I have more fun with him,” says Kerley. “He and Julie are just wonderful. They’re professional and comforting, and he’s just funny as all get out. It was a really good experience.”

As a token of her appreciation, Kerley, an enthusiast for the wines of Northern California, gave her doctor an excellent bottle of wine. She appreciates the whole MOS experience, from reception to scheduling to physical therapy. Everyone made every aspect of her two knee replacements as simple and efficient as possible.

“I knew no one at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists, but I knew I wanted to go there. I didn’t know which doctor I wanted to see, and I got the luck of the draw when Dr. Miranda was available,” Kerley says. “After I had the first knee done, I can’t tell you how many people in the community told me, Oh my gosh, he is the best. He is the best.”

Here’s to walking after knee replacement

Her children, who live in the Bay Area, were also extremely helpful (she lives with her daughter which helped immensely in her recuperation). She knew she wanted to include them in a celebration of her return to an ambulatory lifestyle. In October 2013, two months after her second knee replacement, they were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge returning to San Francisco from lunch in Sausalito.

“I said, I’m going to walk across this bridge on my birthday. My birthday was in January, and I still had rehabilitation to do before then,” says Kerley. “I don’t know why I decided I wanted to do that; it just happened.”

On January 12, 2014, Kerley, her daughter, son and other family members and friends did just that. They started on the San Francisco side.

“I could have walked all the way to the end,” says Kerley, “but really there’s nothing there. And I didn’t want to get in a situation where I had to sit down on the bridge to rest while someone got the car, so we went three-quarters of the way and turned around and came back.”

As she and others in the party approached the last suspension tower on the way back, they saw her son waiting for them. He had gone ahead and Kerley thought he was tired.

“When we got there he gave us these colored plastic cups they use to put pills in at the hospital, one for everybody. He pulled out a bottle of Sofia Coppola effervescent white wine, we had about a thimbleful for each person, and they raised a toast to me.”

It was a magical, beautiful day for her and for the others. The day before had been typical San Francisco foggy. But this day was sunny with very little wind, making them peel off a layer of clothing as they made their way across the iconic bridge.

“It was just perfect. Everybody there had seen me suffer for so long not being able to walk,” says Kerley. “They had all experienced this with me. My son said, Thanks Mom, for letting us keep up with you. It was such a change from what I had been going through.”