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When Jill Miller competed at the Pan American Masters Weightlifting Championships in Orlando, Fla., in late May 2019, hoisting an 88-lb barbell over her five-foot-two-inch frame, people watching would never have guessed she was due in a Toronto operating room five weeks later, for surgery on her arthritic right knee.
Jill, who is 68 years old, has a high pain threshold. She could weather the tightness in the joint, but she also describes sudden pangs of "a knife-like pain."
During the operation to repair her meniscus – the C-shaped disk of cartilage that cushions the knee and that breaks down in arthritis – her surgeon removed seven floating fragments of bone, adding up to some 13.5 centimetres. These fragments would get stuck in her joint, locking it.
"A lot of the time it wouldn't hurt," Jill recalls. "But when one of those pieces of bone shifted, eeoowww!"
And that was the good knee.
Diagnosed with arthritis in 2012, Jill had the same surgery on her left knee last year – on top of cortisone shots, an injection of stem cells taken from her lumbar area and platelet-rich plasma to trigger healing.
She shouldn't even have been walking, her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Darrell Ogilvie-Harris, at Toronto Western Hospital, told her.
Four days after her July surgery, she was off the anti-inflammation drugs. Within a couple of weeks, she had returned to her gym in Collingwood, Ont., where she would gradually work up to her usual level.
Walking long distances is challenging, and it still hurts to travel up and down stairs, but in late July she was in Peru, refereeing a weightlifting championship.
"If I wasn't a bit of a Pollyanna," Jill admits, "I couldn't do any of this. I wake up in the morning and it hurts."
Jill Miller is as typical as she is exceptional.
One in six Canadians suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). By 2035, it will be one in four.
Krembil Research Arthritis Magazine featured in The Globe and Mail.
There are six million Canadians currently living with arthritis. The Krembil Research Institute has teamed up with The Globe and Mail on a special project to highlight the groundbreaking research and clinical advancements happening within UHN’s Arthritis Program, at Krembil. Inside this issue, you’ll learn how our dedicated scientists and clinicians are developing innovative techniques and technologies and pioneering new discoveries to help patients prevent, treat and recover from arthritis. The
Arthritis Magazine, 2019 edition is now available online.