After two knee replacements, Lori Devries is getting up in the world.
Devries, who attends all of her daughter’s Hopkins High School basketball games, home and away, used to limp into the gym and sit on the ground-level bleacher.
These days, she can climb to the top.
Devries, 49, said the surgeries have changed her life. And her family’s.
And her daugher, Hopkins senior and varsity basketball player, Chloe, is noticing.
Sitting next to her mom prior to playing in a recent weeknight basketball game against North Pointe Christian, Chloe said she’s thrilled with her mom’s progress.
“It’s really fun now to see her at the top of the bleachers,” Chloe said. “When she was in a lot of pain, she didn’t do stuff. Her attitude is so different now.”
‘Go get ’em’
Prior to surgery, Lori, who works as a patient services representative at the Spectrum Health Byron Center Family Medicine, led a sedentary life.
She couldn’t clean. She couldn’t carry laundry and couldn’t cook, because standing in the kitchen for more than a few minutes caused great physical distress.
“She never wanted to go out before,” said the uniformed Chloe, 18, as she watched her team’s junior varsity team running the court prior to her own varsity game. “She’s so much more fun now. She wants to go out.”
Chloe departed for the visitor’s locker room, then returned to the court a short while later with her Vikings team.
“I don’t have any pain anymore and I’m so happy,” said Lori, as she watched her beloved No. 31 on the court. “There’s a huge difference in where I can sit now. You can see so much more.”
Prior to surgery, it could take up to 20 minutes for Lori to get from a high school parking lot into the gym. Now, a couple of minutes, tops.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself to walk right, though,” she said. “You develop bad habits. I used to walk side to side because that was the most comfortable. I have to remind myself to put one foot out in front of the other.”
Lori stood for the national anthem as Chloe and her team held hands in a semi-circle facing the wall-mounted flag.
As the buzzer sounds and the game begins, Lori watches intently, sometimes shielding her eyes during intense moments when players fight for the ball.
One of Chloe’s teammates sinks a three-pointer. Lori applauds.
“Go get ’em, Chloe,” she yells as her daughter grabs a Mustangs rebound and heads toward the opposite court.
She shoots the ball skyward. It rolls around the rim, teasing, flirting, then falls into the arms of an awaiting opponent.
‘Gave me a chance’
Lori knows opponents well. Beginning eight years ago, her knees were her fiercest foe.
Her right knee first. After limping for several years, her left knee caved to the added workout.
“Once that happens, you’re trapped,” she said. “The first (doctor) I went to said I was too young for surgery. He gave me cortisone shots. After a while, they didn’t work. What they don’t understand is that young people want to live, too. What they basically told me was I had to sit and watch the world go by before they would replace my knees at age 55 or 60. They were just dooming me to a wheelchair.”
Now, I have no pain at all. I have no limp at all. They taught me how to walk straight. I walk just like a normal person.
Eventually, Lori saw Susan Day, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with Spectrum Health Medical Group. Dr. Day revolutionized her world.
“She talked with me for a long time,” Lori said. “For the first time, I felt listened to. She gave me a chance.”
Dr. Day operated on Lori’s knees two days apart in May 2015. She remained at the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center at Blodgett Hospital for two weeks.
“I kept waiting for the day when the pain would be bad, but it wasn’t any worse than what I had been experiencing,” the Dorr, Michigan, resident said.
What Lori had been experiencing was severe osteoarthritis of both knees, according to Dr. Day. The smooth covering at the ends of the bones that allows bones to move smoothly over each other had worn away, leading to decreased motion, inflammation and pain.
Dr. Day said if a patient is going to have both knee surgeries done at the same time, she prefers to do them a couple of days apart.
“Pain is less and mobility is better,” Dr. Day said. “Lori is progressing well and is back to all of her activities. She is back to work and walks for fitness daily. Her prognosis is good provided she maintains a consistent exercise program.”
‘I could just live’
The acute rehab team at Blodgett Hospital encouraged Lori to set goals. Hers was climbing the bleachers to watch Chloe’s basketball games.
“They actually changed my therapy so I could learn to go up that high of a step,” Lori said. “Now, I have no pain at all. I have no limp at all. They taught me how to walk straight. I walk just like a normal person.”
But Lori had to learn how to trust her legs again.
“I had myself so conditioned to the fact that I couldn’t do things that I had to learn that I could do things,” she said. “I had to relearn every aspect of my life.”
She vacationed for the first time in years. She went for boat rides on Selkirk Lake. She swam. She stopped to walk around a park she had driven by for years, never knowing what the other side of the park looked like.
“I didn’t have to think about anything, I could just go,” Lori said. “I didn’t have to think about how am I going to get in there, how am I going to get up there. I could just live.”
Lori said she learned that knee replacements typically last at least 10 to 15 years. She’s grateful for every day.
“I’ll take 10 years and deal with whatever happens rather than losing those 10 years of living,” she said.
Chloe streaked down the court. Her layup swished through the net.
And a proud mom, viewing from the bleachers, effortlessly stood up, and applauded.