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Looseleaf Laureate: Hope is that bum knee can be fixed, not replaced

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By Terri Likens, Editor

A couple of years ago, my doctor made one of those scrunched-up faces he gets when talking about my left knee.
It’s a face that says, indirectly, I’m looking at a bionic knee or two down the road.
Those of you who have followed me for the past 11 years or so know I’m no stranger to surgery. At least one of them saved my life.
But this is one surgery I don’t want to have.
Not now.
Not ever.
After last year’s talk with my doc, I backed down on my hiking. I quit trying to run. I put away my tennis racquet.
I figured all of this would preserve the life of my knee — a body part I’d really like to hold onto.
But last month, I saw my doc again, and we decided to take an extra step.
He sent me to a specialist.
I sat in half dread in the busy waiting area, then endured a series of X-rays.
Then Dr. Paul Becker, who specializes in sports medicine and athletic injuries, came in with the verdict.
Becker made a comparison of the cartilage in my knee to tire tread, and said there’s still some left, but because of osteoarthritis, it is wearing down fast.
 I’m sure I looked crestfallen as I repeated my disdain for bionic leg joints.
“I feel the same way,” Becker said. “I wouldn’t want to go through that.”
And then he offered hope.
Next week I am going for an MRI, and there still may be some knee surgery in my future.
But that will be arthroscopic — minimally intrusive — and only to clean up ragged cartilage and tears.
Then he’ll inject a thick cushion of goo where the cartilage is wearing.
The shot isn’t a one-and-done thing. I might need them a couple of times a year, perhaps for life. And I might still need a new knee down the road.
But maybe not.
None of this has been done yet, but  I can feel a a new spring in my step already.
I’m checking the weather and planning some hikes. I might even start light running on soft surfaces.
I haven’t felt this hopeful in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong: the ability to replace joints like knees has given new life to many people and put an end to a lot of suffering.
But for me, the option of keeping what I’ve got — to borrow from the credit card commercial — is priceless.