Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spitting Mad

Joint replacement patients, even those under 65, have surgery because they cannot sit, stand, lie down, walk, bend, sleep, work, and do everyday activities without extreme, sharp, often grinding, usually unrelenting pain.

As the disease worsens, pain killers work only in the amount suitable for a large horse and often at the expense of consciousness.

I have just read an Associated Press article that characterizes joint replacement patients as whining boomers who demand surgery only to be able to exercise as if they were still forty and to deny aging. The article suggests that they should all accept their pain and limited mobility as a normal part of aging, shut up and use canes, and suck it up as many in previous generations have done when faced with the same limitations.

The article is wrong on so many counts, at best misleading, at worst unethical. First, I fully acknowledge that some do and are exactly as the article claims. The author found them, quoted them, wrote what doctors and others actually think about them. Beyond that...

The article leaves the distinct impression that this is the true and only "face" of joint replacement. Once the ugly truth of these unrealistic boomers is revealed, the next step is easy. Why feel sympathy for their suffering? They are vain and out of touch, after all, self-absorbed and putting too much stress on already limited resources. (There's a familiar theme here.)

The article attributes the need for joint replacement only to obesity, the desire for youth, or the refusal to endure minor discomfort.  Obesity rates do not account for all the surgeries, so "fix-me-itis"(as one surgeon calls it) must account for the balance.

Nowhere does the article discuss osteoarthritis as a degenerative disease with many possible causes, many not at all in the sufferer's control. Age alone is not one of the major causes; many seniors well into their eighties and nineties do not have the condition.

The argument to simply endure as previous generations did is ludicrous. Most previous generations didn't have the option of joint replacement.The first ones were done in the late forties. At best, boomers' parents and some of their grandparents could have had the surgery - many have. Our ancestors endured the severe pain and limitation because they had no other choice.

We have choices, but we need more research. As the article points out, we just don't know how more active recipients of joint replacement will fare over the years.

The best way to ensure the reduction of this version human suffering is to treat it with a procedure that we know works. Another false picture of selfish, entitled boomers whose suffering we either discredit or deny doesn't help anyone.

And, as the article points out, for whatever reason, candidates for joint replacement are getting younger every year, so eventually we will need some other rationale than that of fitness-driven boomers.


Hels said...

some people are pigs :( Despite that, I hope you are doing well.

You mentioned putting too much stress on already limited resources, so I assume that we are largely talking about joint replacements on the National Health. If boomers paid for their health care privately, my guess is that nobody would give a toss whether they had surgery or not.

This is a bit ingenuous actually. Saving premature babies costs the community a fortune, but nobody would dream of doing a cost benefit analysis. Baby boomers, not only old but a growing portion of the population, need to be scrutinised carefully :(

ChrisJ said...


Actually, the article is about Americans who pay for their own treatment, so who knows why the sour grapes.

Ciss B said...

Some people are simply cruel and some see only those few people as all the examples and go on a crusade. Don't let the idiot get to you. We're fighting here in the States about healthcare and who deserves it right now. There's a lot of anger over it and from that comes some unimaginably nasty words.

ChrisJ said...

Hi Christi,

I probably shouldn't be surprised by the nastiness, but somehow always am.

Judie said...

Chris, I suffer from chronic pain from scoliosis and stenosis. On top of that, both my knees are shot. When my back goes out, my doctor will prescribe pain medication for me to take until it settles down.

I would like to know the age of the obnoxious writer. If he is young, believe me, his time will come. And if he is not, I suggest we gang up and break both his legs. He'll change his mind about pain medication PDQ!!

Anonymous said...

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ChrisJ said...


It's interesting that there's no byline for the piece, just Associated Press, so we wouldn't know whose legs to break!

Owen Gray said...

My wife is a physiotherapist who works with knee and hip replacement patients after they leave the hospital.

She is the first to acknowledge that each patient is an individual; and the need for replacement surgery is also individual.

Most importantly, lots of occupations increase wear and tear on the body. A new knee or hip is a second chance to move and enjoy one's life. It is not a vanity trip.

Judie said...

Chris, get a list, and we'll break 'um all!
I don't talk to people I don't know about my myriad of health issues, and today we played golf with a gal weho gave us a blow-by-blow. I was not impressed.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Very interesting article-thank you for sharing, I agree with Judie. I found you on Rogue Artists and am now following your blog. Hope you will follow mine also.

Regards, Mari


ChrisJ said...


I guess some would go through a big surgery for vanity, but it's hard to imagine how bad they must feel about looks or aging, etc.

ChrisJ said...


I know exactly what you mean; I have a family member who not only discusses everything about her health, pains, and body functions, but will hijack anyone else's complaint as well and turn it to herself.

ChrisJ said...


Thanks for commenting. I will definitely check out your blog and get some photo tips as well.

P. M. Doolan said...

I have a freind who had knee replacement surgery this year. He suffered a stroke in hospital three days after the surgery. Luckily he recovered, but the operation had not been 100% successful. Because he has been unable to walk normally using the new knee, which is still very painful, his "good" knee has become unbearably painful. But the surgeon says, because of the danger of a stroke, they will have to wait at least five years befor ehaving another major procedure. So, my friend is left unable to walk more than a couple of hundred meters, and is always in pain, and there seems little chance of things improving. It is no wonder that he "whines". It is hard to think of words to console. I can hardly believe that we shouldn't feel sympathy for those who suffer.

Judie said...

Chris, I have a new post out today. Memorial Day in the states isn't what it used to be.

I hope you will check out Mari's blog. Her photos are wonderful!!

ChrisJ said...


What an awful situation for your friend. When faced with these surgeries, it's seems unthinkable that they won't put things right. I am appalled by the lack of sympathy, as well, that some display.

ChrisJ said...


Mari's blog is very nice. I'm glad she contacted me.

ChrisJ said...


Mari's blog is very nice. I'm glad she contacted me.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Chris:
We read this with much interest.

As it happens, and this seems to be the case with others too, a close relative has very recently undergone surgery for a hip replacement. This was carried out under the NHS [of the UK] and, it has to be said, the treatment she received was excellent.

We should point out that she waited a year for this operation, paid National Insurance contributions for the best part of forty years, was in extreme discomfort beforehand and is not obese. If there are insufficient funds for these kinds of operations, then should we not all be paying larger amounts of money into the system in order for it to meet the needs of all people at all times

Some money could, in our view, be diverted away from the proposed Trident missile replacement programme. But that is a personal opinion and one which is not necessarily shared.

We are delighted to have discovered you via Think Shop.

ChrisJ said...

Jane and Lance,

Thank you for your comments.

I couldn't agree more about reducing our contributions to war-making and paying more to relieving suffering of any kind.

The regular commenters here know that I have had both hips replaced in the last 15 months, so I am not unbiased. But I do know that neither surgery for me was about vanity or minor discomfort!

Pearl said...

It's frustrating when muckraking articles like that get approved for print. Misinformation that sells is poor journalism and poor judgement.

Glad there is the start of options for joint degeneration. I saw somewhere a story about ankles being injected with a soft plastic to replace the soft bits instead of the bone-bits.

Good to see you post again.

Pearl said...

there's also this resource among others: http://www.invisibledisabilities.org/educate/butyoulookgood/ on "concern trolling" of people who try to override the ill person's life: http://laurietobyedison.com/discuss/?p=4912

ChrisJ said...

Hi Pearl,

Thanks for the links.

It's amazing what can be done. Apparently there are injectable compounds for knees as well. Maybe by the time my hips wear out there will be nano-technology for hips or something equally non-invasive!