Monday, February 18, 2019
by Becky Slatin • firstname.lastname@example.org
BJWCH | At 60 years old, attorney Michael Harris has a full life. He’s passionate about his family, work and baseball. He’s won two national senior men’s baseball titles, where he pitched.
In 2013, he realized his knees might not hold out if he kept up his activity without addressing the pain. Three years earlier, he had consulted with Paul Lux, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, about knee replacements.
“Dr. Lux told me that he would replace my knees when I was ready,” Harris says. “I finally got to where I could hardly walk, and I was living through a lot of pain and immobility.”
Dr. Lux has done simultaneous bilateral total knee replacements on more than 2,000 patients. Although he usually does only one knee at a time, he does bilateral knee replacements on 50 to 75 patients annually.
“It depends on how much each knee hurts, age, activity and the patient’s health,” he says. “I also take into account a patient’s ability to do therapy, their help at home and their motivation. Studies show there is no difference having two 45-minute operations at the same time, or one 45-minute operation three months apart.”
Like many patients, Harris had osteoarthritis, a condition that can occur due to a genetic component, weight, activity or trauma.
“Most patients have some history of trauma to their knee in their younger days, which causes damage to the knee cartilage, and eventually this causes osteoarthritis,” Dr. Lux says. “You can’t really wait too long from the surgeon’s standpoint for surgery, but the longer you wait, the stiffer and weaker the knees get, and the result can be less.”
Dr. Lux says the average age for knee replacement has dropped from 72 in 1990 to 55 today.
Harris made the decision at age 55 to have both knees replaced at the same time. He laughs now because he says the first day seemed like there was “nothing to this surgery.”
“The next morning, they started bending my knee, and I went through the roof,” he says. “I thought, ‘I can’t do this for 12 weeks.’ But Dr. Lux said, ‘Mike, I’ve done the easy part. It’s the hard work that the patient has to do after the surgery that leads to success.’”
Harris says therapy after that got better. “I worked almost like a professional athlete. I asked my therapists to be very aggressive with me,” he says. “I told them, ‘I don’t want to just walk again, I want to perform at a high level.’ By 12 weeks, I was catching, pitching and hitting baseballs. It’s been a miracle.”
In 2014, he pitched in a national title game with his team, the St. Louis GameFace. His team lost, and he vowed to go back and win. The next year, Harris helped lead the St. Louis GameFace to the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series title in Arizona and also helped lead the St. Louis Pirates to the Roy Hobbs World Series title in Florida.
Harris says he feels like he’s 18 years old again. He recently revisited Dr. Lux to make sure his knees hadn’t worn down.
“Patients worry the knee will ‘wear out’ with strenuous activity,” Dr. Lux says. “But the newer materials will last 25 years, and when the plastic piece does wear out, it’s a 15-minute operation to swap it out. That’s why I don’t restrict my patients in any way.”
Harris highly recommends Dr. Lux and BJWCH, where he says he was treated professionally and made to feel very comfortable.
“My knee replacement surgery is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” he says. “You only get out of it what you put into it, but you can really get your life back, and you’re never too old to play baseball.”
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2/19/2019 6:38 AM
this is a teammate of mine in the baseball forever league. I thought he was crazy doing both knees but Mike pushes himself farther than most. Great teammate and friend.