The risk of infection from knee replacement surgery is relatively rare--less than one percent. However, about 600,000 knee replacements are performed in the US each year on patients whose knees have been severely damaged by arthritis or injury (according to the Cleveland Clinic) so Steve is one of about 6,000 patients who wind up with an infection--and his was bad beyond belief. And that is a conservative estimate: People who undergo revision surgery have an even higher risk of developing infection.
Although Steve contracted infections in hospital, he believes the culprit is the knee replacement itself, in his case the Stryker Triathlon replacement.
Photo: Steve (right) and his father on Father's Day.
Right from the get-go, Steve, age 58, says his knee replacement implant failed. “It grinded and felt like it had sand in it and it made a “clicking” sound, it was locking up and it was painful,” he says.
That was in 2008. By November 2012 he had undergone multiple surgeries. The infections never cleared up and he came within days of having his leg amputated.
“Although my Stryker knee started grinding instantly it took 15 months for my surgeon to agree that something was seriously wrong,” says Steve. “He took out all the plastic parts and tried to readjust the device, to no avail.” Instead, Steve wound up with a staph infection??"and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Steve is a big guy, and he’s tough. But by his own admission, he was crying his “brains out every night”.
In early 2010 the same surgeon at the same hospital scraped out all the infection from his knee, but he got another infection. This time it was MRSA--the term for Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. “Obviously I picked up both infections at the hospital but I think it has to do with my knee device,” says Steve, “and from my research I found some claims against Stryker regarding unsanitary knee replacements."
Steve was pumped full of antibiotics for almost four months??"he was that sick. By May his surgeon gave up and handed him to a “super surgeon” in Orlando who told Steve that the titanium in his knee absorbs the MRSA cells. His plan was to remove Steve’s entire knee and implant a concrete spacer to keep his tendons and ligaments the same length.
“In September my blood samples indicated that I was supposedly healed so I had a revision surgery, this time with a DePuy knee replacement, which I now have in the closet,” Steve says, laughing. “Things were going along fine and I started a new job in April 2011. It was my first day of work and by lunch time my knee was extremely sore. I am a cost estimator for big equipment and utilities so I have to fly into job sites and it involves a lot of walking??"I need my knees. But I couldn’t even walk to my car so I had to quit my job that same day.”
Next day Steve was back in Dr. George Haidukewych’s office??"an orthopedic surgeon internationally recognized for joint replacement surgery and trauma. “He could tell by looking at me that my infection was back,” adds Steve.
“He took my knee back out, just three weeks after I had the DePuy, and put in another spacer. In June 2011 I had another operation and stayed in hospital two more weeks, then back to the nursing home for a few months. By this time I had to give up my cat because I was never home. I live in a two-storey house alone and I could barely get up the 17 steps. It wasn’t pretty.
"In February 2012 they put another spacer in and by this time my insurance had run out. I didn’t have COBRA so I went home without therapy. The infection was under control but I still had the PIC line in. Antibiotics were costing $2,100 a week??"thank god I had a good insurance policy. In the last four years insurance has paid out over $3 million.
"My insurance agent’s comment--Whoa!
Around May 2012 the infection was still bad and my surgeon said there was nothing else he could do but amputate six inches above my right knee. I even met with all the prosthetic people and had measurements taken??"I was crying my brains out every night.”
Take this part of Steve’s story with a grain of salt, but Steve is a sensible, sane man and he swears that this “machine” saved his leg.
“At the end of May I was online checking out people’s amputation stories. I stumbled across a site where an inventor in Arizona guarantees to get rid of MRSA. He sounded legitimate and at this point I was willing to grasp at anything. For $1,000 he would send me a machine called ‘Aquatonic’ to cure my infection.
"It is an electronic zapper that you plug into a wall while you sit in a tub full of water. At first I was a little apprehensive, to say the least. I put ½ lb of salt into the bath water for conductivity and I had a little wand that I held above my leg where it was most painful. I flipped the switch…It was like a sharp sting, like sticking your finger in a light socket. I used it one hour a day for seven days and hoped for the best.”
Steve’s amputation was scheduled for June 5, his daughter’s birthday. He couldn’t have it done on that date so rescheduled for the following week. And he asked for one more blood test.
“My surgeon couldn’t believe the results??"I was completely healed,” says Steve. “Now I had tears of relief. I never told my doctor about the machine??"he would probably think I was nuts but whatever you do to save your leg isn’t that crazy. My blood work has been perfect ever since. And I have had tests weekly, up until November 2012.
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"I’m not a greedy person, I just want what is due to me and I need to get help fast. My statute of limitations is coming up this year so I just want to find a lawyer to represent me.”
Steve is in possession of the original Stryker and DuPuy knee replacements and he has all operative reports and other records from the hospitals.