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Healthy You

Joint Replacement Expertise Injects New Life into Bad Knees

Melinda Abdallah is a big fan of Zumba, Pilates, boxing and serious weight lifting. “I like to feel strong,” said the 48-year-old grandmother of 11 who calls Kenosha, Wisconsin home. “The gym gives me a sense of peace, and working out energizes me to take on the rest of the day.”

Yet just a few years ago, excruciating knee pain left her barely able to make it down the stairs in her home. At first, Abdallah thought she must have injured herself in a workout. Some days she could not even lift her left foot. “It was the worst pain ever,” she recalled.

Melinda Abdallah

Tipping Point
Abdallah suffered from debilitating, bone-on-bone osteoarthritis. After living with pain for more than a decade, she finally had enough. She sought help an hour’s drive south at the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute in Skokie, consulting with a surgeon and joint replacement expert Anand Srinivasan, MD.

“I was stubborn. I kept thinking to myself ‘this is not happening, I’m too young,’” said Abdallah. “I pushed it and pushed it. I told myself I would keep working out, lose more weight and my knee issues would just go away.”

Dr. Srinivasan made it clear that Abdallah needed a total knee replacement, and he suggested an advanced procedure using cementless technology that would extend the life of her new knee and sustain her active life and exercise routine. Abdallah knew right away that she was in good hands with Dr. Srinivasan. “I put my trust in him, and I knew he would do what he thought was best for me.”

Advancing Technology
Cementless knee replacement is not totally new, explained Dr. Srinivasan, but there are new techniques, including novel materials used on the surface of the implant to support stronger integration with the bone with more longevity than standard knee replacements attached with glue or cement.

“This is a pretty exciting advancement in joint replacement that could allow new knees to last for a lifetime,” explained Dr. Srinivasan, who successfully performed a robotic and cementless procedure on Abdallah’s right knee in June 2019, followed by another repair procedure this past October.

“My recovery was amazing. Everyone at the Institute was just great and so was the physical therapy team in Gurnee,” noted Abdallah. “Looking back, I wondered why I let myself suffer for so long.”

Total Team Effort
Dr. Srinivasan, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, credits the Institute’s specialized nurses and collaborative care team with ensuring surgical procedures and recoveries go smoothly. Technology, including robotics and sensor-assisted pressure gauges, add to the fine-tuning and advancements in joint replacement surgery that are providing better outcomes, particularly for younger, active patients like Abdallah.

Although her gym routine was slightly curtailed during COVID-19 restrictions and temporary lockdowns, Abdallah never lost her “go strong or go home” spirit. She is back to her leg pressing 280 pounds on each knee and without pain. “I started going to the gym when my kids were little. I listen to my body now and I’ve worked hard to strengthen my legs around my knees.”

Melinda Abdullah

Rewriting Family History
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common conditions that leads to joint replacement and it also can run in families. Abdallah’s mother and all seven of her maternal aunts and uncles also underwent a knee replacement.

“I was so limited when I finally gave in and turned to NorthShore for treatment. My knees were always swollen to the point I couldn’t even walk. Now, I run around the park with my grandchildren, or we dance up a storm. I don’t want to be the grandmother who sits on the bench rubbing my aching knee.

Abdallah has even sent friends to Dr. Srinivasan, encouraging them not to wait as long as she did before getting help. “I should be carrying his cards all the time. I tell people it was the best thing ever. I love NorthShore—don’t put it off, just get it done,” she added.

Powerful Motivation
Abdallah’s children and grandchildren keep her exceptionally busy, for which she is quite grateful. She tragically lost her youngest son last year when he was shot in Chicago. “We’re still seeking justice, and are involved with an organization called Parents for Peace and Justice. No other family should have to go through what we’ve been through,” she said. “I need to stay as strong as I can for my grandchildren and they keep me going.”

Melinda Abdullah

“Even with everything she’s been through, Melinda is a very positive person, always pushing herself,” added Dr. Srinivasan. “She didn’t want her arthritic knees to hold her back and she recovered beautifully from both surgeries. Nothing makes me happier than returning a patient to a pain-free active lifestyle!”