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Kathy (back) pictured with her daughter Kelli.

“It was like I was in my own prison”

Living with the type of knee pain that requires total joint replacement surgery can be crippling.

Imagine that pain times four. Kathy Bernal didn’t imagine it, she lived it.

“I just did not want to get up. I knew there was going to be so much pain,” she said with a wince. “It was like I was in my own prison.”

Due to inability to control her weight – Kathy used to weigh 400 pounds – she has had each knee replaced twice over the past 15 years.

“The human knee sustains five-to-seven times a person’s body weight when going up and down stairs and when doing heavy lifting,” said George Crickard, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Quincy Medical Group and Blessing Hospital Medical Staff member. “That is a tremendous burden that the knee feels.”

Dr. Crickard performed each of Kathy’s knee replacement surgeries.

“He is the only one I would let do any of my surgeries,” stated Kathy. “When no one else would touch me, he took a chance. Dr. Crickard is a compassionate and caring doctor.”

Each of Kathy’s surgeries was performed at Blessing Hospital.

“I felt as though they rolled out the red carpet for me and I was the only patient they had,” Kathy said of her last knee replacement in January 2017. “It was phenomenal. I would recommend Blessing Hospital to anyone. The staff was absolutely the most gracious they could be.”

Patients receiving a new knee at Blessing Hospital are in the hospital less than two days and a majority - 90 percent - are discharged directly to home. Pain management that begins before surgery has Blessing total joint replacement patients reporting they are nearly pain-free after surgery.

Kathy’s prison break

Kathy lives with her daughter, Kelli, son-in-law and three grandsons.

Kelli also had a weight problem that aggravated chronic back pain. One day, she decided to change her life and lose weight. She invited her mother to join her.

“No way,” Kathy remembers saying. “I like food too much.”

But as Kelli began to shed pounds, Kathy began to rethink her position.

“I woke up one morning and it was like a brick had fallen on me overnight,” Kathy recalled. “I really need to do something, because if I don’t, I’m not going to live to see my grandsons graduate from high school. I just made up my mind right then and there.”

When Kathy’s third knee replacement failed due to her weight and she entered the hospital, this time she was 250 pounds lighter.

“She needed the surgery since 2011 but was scared,” stated Dr. Crickard. “Her weight loss and its effect on her outlook on life gave her the motivation needed to address the pain.”

Prior to Kathy’s weight loss, she was hospitalized for several days and required rehabilitation for several weeks after her knee replacements and one time needed to use a walker and a cane during her recovery.

“This time I was in hospital a day-a half. No issues. No problems,” she stated.

“This time she was up and walking shortly after surgery,” Kelli chimed in. “She came home with just a cane, used it for 24 hours and then used nothing after that and her bedroom is upstairs.”

New knee sets her free

Kathy leads a new life after her most recent knee replacement surgery coupled with her weight loss.

She does not expect to need a fifth knee replacement based on her commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. That’s great because Kathy is too busy for surgery these days - attending her grandsons’ school-related activities and sports events, exercising with Kelli five times a week at the Kroc Center in Quincy and squeezing in a little shopping in-between.

“Now I have to race her to get the deals,” Kelli said with a smile.

Kathy has also become an extra set of hands around Kelli’s home. She can now take out the trash, help with the dishes and laundry. Kathy loves it.

“There are things I could not do before,” she observed. “I enjoy life now, I am not just existing. It is so nice.”