Saint Francis Orthopedic Surgeon Helps Patients Navigate Choices Around Joint Pain

We have all dealt with some level of pain. For some it is the occasional ache, while others deal with more chronic issues. There are times when we ignore it and hope it will go away on its own. Sometimes it does. Other times something has to be done. Even then, when we finally decide to see a doctor, we pray it is a simple fix: A pill, an injection, even physical therapy — anything but surgery.

Recently, Sheila Neighbors, a custodian at Southeast Missouri State University, found herself in such a quandary. She had knee pain due to arthritis caused by a fall. Her job requires a lot of walking, bending and lifting — all of which had become increasingly more difficult and painful. She sought help from Patrick Knight, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Advanced Orthopedic Specialists, a Saint Francis Medical Partner.

Neighbors learned that Knight, like his patients, was not eager to start with surgery.

“I will never tell you that you need surgery,” Knight said. “I will never tell you it is the best thing to do.”

Knight makes sure his patients understand a knee or hip replacement is an elective procedure. He tells them all the available options before they make a decision.

“He did what I asked him,” Neighbors said. “Some doctors start to tell you what to do. He listened to me, the patient, to what I wanted to do. And I really liked him for that.”

Knight says Neighbors was the perfect patient.

“She is so pleasant to be around,” he said. “She is very easy to talk to.”

Knight presents patients with their options.

“There are basically four ways to treat arthritis,” Knight said. “Number one, you ignore it; number two, you take pills; number three, you try injections and number four, you do surgery. There is no right or wrong answer in those four treatment options. It is what the patient thinks they need.”

Neighbors had already tried ignoring the pain, but it was not working anymore. Going down the list with Knight, she tried pills and cortisone injections. Those did help at first, but the pain persisted. It got so bad that her knee would lock up after sitting for too long.

“I could not even get up,” Neighbors said. “And once I did get up, I could not walk. I would just have to wait, stand there and tell my brain to tell my knee, ‘come on let’s go.'”

It got to the point where surgery was the only real option available, but Knight left the decision up to Neighbors.

“He did not rush me to get my knee replaced,” Neighbors said. “He asked if I was sure it was what I wanted to do.”

Of course, Neighbors was nervous and anxious about having something as serious as knee replacement surgery.

“I told her,” Knight said, “If you are unsure, we are not going to do it. I told her to think about it, and Sheila called back and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And we did it.”

Neighbors is glad she did. Now, her brain and knee are communicating fine.

“We drove to Atlanta right after Thanksgiving. When we stopped for gas, I could get out and walk without pain.”

Knight thinks of himself in humble terms, giving Neighbors all the credit for how well her recovery has gone.

“I am a tire changer.” he said. “I fixed her tires. She completed the therapy and did everything that she needed to do to get her function back in her knee. That is the perfect patient.”

In follow up visits, Neighbors would tell Knight, “I still have a little pain, but it is a lot better than what it was.”

“I am not going to tell them I am going to make them a 25-year-old again. I say, ‘You may have a little discomfort when the weather comes in. You may have a little discomfort when you drive a car and keep the knee bent for two hours, but is it better than before surgery?'”

Neighbors enthusiastically confirmed, “It is the best decision I ever made. I feel so good I might get my left knee done.”

Would she recommend Knight to others?

“No, they cannot have my doctor,” Neighbors joked at first, but then she laughed and said, “I would. I would tell somebody about him, I really would. I love Dr. Knight. He even sang songs with me. We had a little duet of Patti LaBelle, ‘Got a new attitude.’ He was just a good doctor. He cared!”

Story by Danny Walter, Southeast Missourian