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A joint replacement story

Bob Pratt is having knee replacement surgery on Sept. 24. It’s been a long journey to this point.

If you were to metaphorically compare a patient’s journey towards joint replacement surgery to a rolling cart, the patient would unfortunately sometimes have to be the squeaky wheel. They must bring attention to the fact that while the cart is moving, something is not going smoothly.

Photography of Bob PrattBob Pratt, 65, from Edmonton had to be that “squeaky wheel.”

He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the knees in 2015. Expensive out-of-pockets cortisone shots wouldn’t help much with the pain and he struggled with physical and emotional distress.

He eventually asked his doctor about knee replacement surgery and was told he was too young. The second time he asked, 18 months later, he was told he needed surgery in both knees.

“Is there really such a difference between being 60 and 61 ½ years old?” he asks.

For Bob, it was a stressful and difficult time.

“Nobody should endure useless pain like that. I had to challenge my medical team every step of the way to finally get approved for the life-changing surgery I needed. Not a surgery I wanted: I needed it!”

Between his two doctor appointments, it was suggested he consult a dietician and a physiotherapist. Sadly, these professionals had little to no impact on his health management since Bob was already applying the strategies the nutritionist proposed. Also, the physiotherapist he was assigned specialized in working with people with no mobility at all, which wasn’t Bob’s situation.

Bob finally had a preliminary meeting with a screening surgeon five months after his doctor gave him the nod for surgery. The screening surgeon then told him it would be a four- to six-month wait to meet the operating surgeon. Luckily, one week after meeting the screening surgeon, Bob met with the operating surgeon when another patient cancelled their appointment. The operating surgeon then told him it would be another nine-month wait for the actual surgery.

“It felt like I was jumping through hoops.”

To make things worse, the pandemic hit, further delaying all elective surgeries. However, Bob should be operated on in the coming month. It’s a surgery he is desperately looking forward to.

“Bob is just one of many examples of the gaps in the current system,” says Siân Bevan, Chief Science Officer of the Arthritis Society.

Arthritis is the leading cause of joint replacement, including over 99 per cent of knee replacements and over 80 per cent of hip replacements.

“At the best of times, living for months or years with limited mobility and pain is devastating, both physically and mentally. And delaying and waiting for surgery can lead to additional health challenges, adding costs to the health care system, and leaving patients living with unbearable pain. Even before the pandemic, we were struggling to meet benchmark wait times for hip and knee joint replacement surgeries,” she says.

“If we are to improve wait times across the country, we need a pan-Canadian strategy and action plan that is consistent across all provinces.”

Read more about what the Arthritis Society is doing and add your voice to help reduce joint replacement surgery wait times at

Help people like Bob get back the mobility and the life they deserve.

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