The mountains were calling. When the pandemic hit and Cara Shultz's digital marketing job in Cincinnati went fully remote, she packed up her mixed labs Kimber and Charleigh and moved west to Colorado.
Surrounded by nature and rugged terrain, Cara set out to explore the wilderness. Her favorite mountain activities – hiking, rafting, and camping – were now right in her own backyard.
It was an amazing change from life in the Queen City. Especially considering there was a time when progressive knee pain grew to dominate Cara's life. Sports became completely off limits. Even the simple act of walking was excruciating.
"Every morning, I would wake up with a dull ache in my knee," remembers Cara. "By the time I walked my dogs and got ready for work, the pain was sharp."
Cara's knee troubles are hereditary and started around age 12. Sometimes, her kneecaps shifted out of place as she walked and ran. Once, during high school softball, both kneecaps dislocated at the same time.
"I was running from first to second base. Everyone said I just collapsed and crumbled," says Cara. "Mid-run, one knee went out and then the other. And before you knew it, I was on the ground."
A call to
The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center was the start of a new path that restored her mobility – and the freedom to experience the world again on her terms.
Years of sports injuries added to Cara's knee pain
As Cara grew up, she managed as best she could. When her kneecaps slipped out of place, she moved them back. When they swelled, she iced. When they ached, she used crutches or took Tylenol. And through it all, she did lots of physical therapy exercises, trying to strengthen her knees.
At age 16, Cara's pain got worse. She tore a ligament in her right knee during a bicycle accident and needed surgery to repair it.
"They told me not to run anymore—to avoid anything that is high-impact on the knees."
Around age 20, she tore another ligament when her kneecap shifted while walking down steps. Arthritis set in, and at age 23, she started taking cortisone shots every three to six months to ease the pain.
"During these years, I could not do sports. My friends enjoyed volleyball leagues, but I could barely bend my knees. I could not even dance at semi-formals in college," remembers Cara. "I just moved my hands. Never worth messing up my knees because they went out so often."
"I had gained a ton of weight because I couldn't be active. I decided it's time to do something more."
Finding solutions and pain relief at The Christ Hospital
Finally, at age 28, after five years of taking cortisone pain shots, Cara turned to the
specialists with The Christ Hospital Physicians - Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.
"My doctor looked at my X-rays and couldn't believe it. He would have assumed I was at least 60," remembers Cara. "I had horrible
arthritis, and my knees had degenerated because of all the wear and tear."
To treat her pain and poor knee mechanics, Cara's doctor suggested a partial replacement for her right knee.
"Our conversation turned on a lightbulb for me," remembers Cara. "I had gained a ton of weight because I couldn't be active. My arthritis was getting worse. I decided it's time to do something more."
Cara decided on partial knee replacement
Using the latest robotic technology, the surgical team at The Christ Hospital removed arthritis, cartilage and bone pieces left in Cara's knees after all the dislocations.
Then, they replaced the bottom part of her right kneecap with a plastic button and inserted a smooth metal plate for her kneecap to sit in. This means no more pain from bone rubbing on bone when she bends her knee.
"Thanks to my partial knee replacement, there's no more grinding pain. It's a world of difference," says Cara. "Although I still have some mechanical issues that I was born with, it doesn't catch or snag anymore, and I have zero pain with walking!"
Cara says her experience with partial knee replacement was less intimidating than her previous surgeries. Her nurse navigators at The Christ Hospital walked her through the pre-surgery testing and helped her feel safe and secure.
Cara raves about her
physical therapists, too. "They taught me the correct way to strengthen specific muscles around the knee and gave me easy instructions so I can do the exercises at home."
"The actual maneuverabilty of my knee is so much better. I now do workouts that I couldn't do before."
Cara's message for others: Don't wait!
Years after surgery, Cara's quality of life has improved drastically. She lost weight, and she's in great shape again.
"The actual maneuverability of my knee is so much better. I now do workouts that I couldn't do before."
Already, Cara has hiked through the Rocky Mountains and several national parks, with just a knee brace for extra support. In fact, she feels so much better that she's considering a partial knee replacement for her left knee.
Her message for other people struggling with the idea of knee replacement surgery: "Talk with your doctor and weigh the pros and cons. Think about what you're missing in life and see if your doctor can help you get back to it," says Cara. "For me, knee replacement at The Christ Hospital opened the door to a normal, pain-free life.
Learn more about how our
experts at The Christ Hospital can help relieve your knee pain.