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New knees on life

Firefighter regains his mojo after surgery


Barry McLean loves his job. For the past 19 years, McLean has been a firefighter for the town of Kernersville, North Carolina. Unfortunately, he began experiencing stabbing pain in his knees beginning in December 2011.

“I could hardly walk to the firetruck,” McLean said. “Loaded down with 70 pounds of gear and with my knees hurting, all I could think about was the shooting pain with each step I was taking. It hurt when I walked, when I sat and even when I slept.”

McLean, who is 42 years old, dreaded each time his crew got an incident call. “I was the weak link in our crew, and I knew the pain was putting both me and my crew in danger,” he said.

First, McLean received cortisone treatment for his pain, but it was not effective in treating his condition caused by arthritis and degeneration of knee cartilage. After four years of coping with the daily pain, he sought help from Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Winston-Salem. “Right away, they started me with exercise therapy and cortisone shots to evaluate my problem,” McLean said.

Dr. William Ward, an orthopedist at the clinic, recommended the MAKOplasty procedure for each knee. A MAKOplasty is a partial joint replacement procedure that allows surgeons to remove only the diseased portions of the joint, preserving healthy tissues and ligaments.

McLean underwent the first surgery on the interior of his left knee on May 5 and the second surgery on his other knee on June 9. He was shocked at how little pain he experienced following the first knee surgery. He saw improvement every day. “I was off crutches and walking nine days later,” McLean said.

Back at work in August, McLean said he walked around with a different posture, even when loaded down with gear. He acknowledged that he won’t ever run again, but he no longer dreads the fire calls any longer.   

His advice to other people living with joint pain is not to wait to seek treatment. “Firemen love their jobs, but this is not a problem you just work through. Get on it right away,” he said.





Published: 9/28/2016