A swimmer and athlete in her youth, and otherwise physically active throughout her life, former professor Ashrafa Jeelani never anticipated that she would face mobility issues in her later years and would need a knee implant to get back on her feet.
So, when she began to experience pain in her left knee in 2018, Jeelani assumed it was just one of those mild pains that would go away in a matter of days.
Jeelani, who spent the better part of the previous two decades travelling to different corners of the globe, split her time between London, Kuala Lumpur and Bengaluru – where her children and grandchildren reside – and in her hometown, Srinagar.
Tending to her garden and sharing a hearty laugh with friends and family over a cup of noon chai would keep Jeelani busy until the knee pain put a pause on the otherwise usual routine of the former principal of four colleges in the Kashmir Valley.
Having been so physically active and having included walking to her regular fitness routine, Jeelani thought that her knee pain was a result of her routine physical activity; she simply assumed that she had tired her knee out and it just needed a few days of rest to recover.
But unfortunately for Jeelani, days turned into weeks, and the pain in her left knee only grew worse.
“I tried to sooth my pain by applying ointments and painkillers, but they hardly helped. The painkillers also had very unpleasant side effects,” the 75-year-old recalls while narrating her health ordeal to Happiest Health.
Shortness of breath, dizziness, upset tummy and brain fog were among the side effects Jeelani experienced.
Five or six months after it showed up, the pain turned unbearable, and that is when Jeelani decided to get an X-ray done. The X-Ray report revealed deterioration in her knee, especially the knee cap.
When Jeelani consulted an orthopaedic doctor, she was told that medication would not work for her condition and that she would need to undergo an immediate knee implant operation to alleviate her pain.
“I consulted another orthopaedic specialist to get a second opinion but was advised to undergo the same course of action and suggested I go for a knee implant,” recounts Jeelani.
“I then flew down to Bengaluru, where my son and daughter-in-law live, and they took me to see another orthopaedic surgeon at Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru,” the senior citizen adds.
When his medical opinion echoed what the previous two specialists had suggested, Jeelani made her decision to resort to knee implant.
“The very next day after visiting him, I underwent a total knee replacement surgery at the same hospital. The bones of my entire left knee were replaced with titanium,” she shares.
The surgery went smoothly. Less than a week after the surgery, most of Jeelani’s pain had disappeared. She could finally sleep at night without waking up because of pain or feeling restless.
But regaining complete mobility took more effort on her part. For the first month after the surgery, a physiotherapist visited her at home every day. Following that, she continued with physiotherapy on her own.
The 75-year-old credits her recovery from the surgery and return to an active lifestyle to physiotherapy.
“I was able to go to places, meet people, attend social events once again. For many months, I could not do all those things because of the pain,” she shares.
“In my opinion, physiotherapy is a must for recovering from knee pain or a knee surgery. Walking a lot is equally important,” feels Jeelani.
Her recovery took about two months, and then Jeelani was back to being her active self. She could now walk long distances and travel once again. She was free to meet people and do all the things that she had been holding herself back from over the previous months.
For nearly three years after the surgery, Jeelani comfortably continued with her active lifestyle. No length of airport was too much for her to walk. No fleet of stairs was too much for her to climb.
Then in late 2021, Jeelani began to experience the pain once again, this time in her right knee. Once again, the pain lasted for months, and ointments and painkillers did not help much. She returned to Bengaluru and after consulting several specialists at various major hospitals, she underwent a total knee replacement surgery in her right knee at Apollo Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru.
According to experts, this is quite a common occurrence among patients. Those who require knee replacement in one leg might also end up needing the same procedure in the other knee. Usually, the same factors are behind the cause.
“The knees are the load-bearing joints of the lower body. Often with age, there is a natural degeneration. They stop functioning as they once used to. Sometimes, it’s a vicious cycle – people who are elderly find it difficult to be mobile because of weak joints and bones, and so they choose to be less active, but this only further weakens these parts,” reveals Dr Steve Paul Manjaly, a geriatric specialist at Apollo Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru.
While research shows that more physical activity reduces the probability of developing mobility issues in later years, it is not the only factor. Being physically active is not a guarantee that one will not experience mobility issues at some point in life, as was seen in the case of Jeelani, who has maintained an active lifestyle throughout her life.
“Weight is also an important factor. Since knees are weight-bearing joints, the more one weighs, the greater are their chances of wearing out their knees and needing knee replacement in later life,” cautions Dr Manjaly.
While we cannot be certain what exactly caused Jeelani’s knees to deteriorate, Jeelani is happy to get back to her active lifestyle following a month of recovery, including physiotherapy. Her knee ache doesn’t keep her up all night anymore. Jeelani is back to attending social events. While she does not need support to walk anymore, she makes it a point to use a walking stick as a precautionary measure while taking the stairs.
Jeelani is grateful to the medical practitioners attending to her, including the specialists, surgeons, nurses, and physiotherapists, for helping her regain her mobility following her degenerative knee ailment. The 75-year-old is now on her way to publish her 10th book.
Knee replacement implants have, in fact, transformed the lives of thousands of those suffering from knee pain. A tech entrepreneur told Happiest Health how a former senior diplomat in New Delhi recovered from his “severe knee pain” after he went for a knee replacement surgery. “When I met him a few years later, post his surgery, I was surprised to see the speed at which he covered a long walk we had together.”