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Before her total knee replacement surgery in February 2017, Julie Frisby was in excruciating pain from a series of injuries. The Ponte Vedra, Florida, resident had damaged her right knee in a water skiing accident 35 years ago. Then a fall in 2012 resulted in a spine injury that exacerbated the degenerative disc disease and myelopathy she already had, causing her right side to jerk and drag.
Her problems didn't end there. Over the years, scar tissue from orthoscopic surgery to repair Julie's knee after the skiing accident, along with arthritis, led to the development of valgus deformity — a condition where the knee bows inward. And that problem affected her back, too.
"I had excruciating pain in my back and knee. The only exercise I could do was water aerobics," Julie says. "I would ride a stationary bike, but my leg was so crooked it would knock into the bike."
Getting a good night's rest was also a challenge.
"Sleeping on my side put pressure on the knee that was bowed in, and sleeping on my back was hard because I couldn't straighten my leg totally. It was very painful," Julie says.
The process of finding relief began with a suggestion from a friend who had undergone successful knee replacement at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus and encouraged Julie to make an appointment. That encouragement made all the difference.
Julie and her husband had recently moved to Florida from Washington, D.C., so after hearing her friend's glowing report, Julie requested an appointment at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. She met with orthopedic surgeon Cedric Ortiguera, M.D., in January 2017. After evaluating her condition, Dr. Ortiguera was confident surgery could help Julie.
"Because of my back and the severity of the valgus deformity, he strongly recommended a total knee replacement," Julie recalls. "He told me the surgery would straighten my leg."
Julie took that recommendation and went forward with total knee replacement on Feb. 22, 2017. After some physical therapy the next morning, she was able to go home.
"From the minute I woke from surgery, I've progressed quickly and pressed ahead," Julie says. "Dr. Ortiguera is brilliant. He aligned everything so right. My leg is straight. It's a miracle."
Julie spent three weeks after her surgery doing outpatient physical therapy, and she got back on the stationary bike that has caused her so much trouble before surgery. After seeing someone riding a recumbent trike, she bought one for herself in March. Since then, Julie has become an avid cyclist.
"At first it was my rehab for my knee, but it's turned into a new passion," she says. "I ride over 100 miles a week. I'm enjoying this wonderful gift Dr. Ortiguera gave me."
Julie no longer takes pain medication for her knee, and the surgery has improved her back.
"The pain in my back is subsiding. I garden in my yard, which I haven't done in years," Julie says. "I used to walk with a cane, and I hardly ever do that now. It's just amazing."