Like many retirees, Dr. George Kimberly of Mocksville, North Carolina, stays pretty busy.
An 83-year-old retired family physician, he still has a part-time job as medical director at the Davie County Health Department, and he sees patients as medical director of the free clinic at A Storehouse for Jesus. Then there are his regular household chores.
On top of everything else, Kimberly is a competitive athlete. “One of the fun things I do is race walking,” which, he said, is essentially “walking fast in competition.” Speed, however, is only one factor in race walking.
“It has to be done a certain way,” Kimberly said. USA Track & Field (USATF), which sanctions race walking, says that the racer must “maintain contact with the ground at all times and … the leading leg (must) be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body.”
“If you’re not doing it correctly, the judges will disqualify you,” Kimberly said.
It wasn’t the judges but severe knee pain that almost disqualified Kimberly for good. His pain began more than two years ago, he said, and got steadily worse. His race walking was the first activity to go. By the following spring, he was in intense pain, on crutches and no longer able to do chores.
Then he saw Dr. James Comadoll of Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Salisbury, who diagnosed Kimberly with degenerative arthritis. As with many knee patients, Kimberly’s disease was limited to one side of the knee, also called “unicompartmental.”
In May 2015, Comadoll used the MAKOplasty, a robotic-arm-assisted procedure, on Kimberly’s diseased knee at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. Kimberly’s diseased tissue was replaced with long-lasting surgical implants.
Kimberly said the pain relief was immediate. Although he had some swelling, he was up walking right away. Within two weeks after surgery, “I was walking pretty much all I wanted to.” Four to five weeks after surgery, he was practicing his race walking again.
Only six weeks after surgery, he participated in a competitive race, “and I’ve been doing it ever since. I don’t have any pain. I don’t have any dysfunctions. It works perfectly.”
Comadoll said Kimberly’s case is typical of most MAKOplasty knee procedures. “The success rate is 95 to 97 percent still performing well after 10 years,” he said. “The success is due to precision robotic technology that allows it to be reproducible with each patient.
“People recover faster than with traditional knee replacement,” he said. “They have a much more normal feeling knee, because you don’t sacrifice any ligaments like you do with a total knee replacement.”
Candidates for MAKOplasty partial knee replacements, he said, are people of virtually any age who have not been helped with nonsurgical treatments, such as medications, injections, bracing or physical therapy. However, people who are morbidly obese should not have the procedure.
Only a few months after his surgery, Kimberly raced in the North Carolina Senior Games in Raleigh, and he said he beat the people in the age group below him. He competed last winter in USATF-sponsored events and in other local races since then. When he can’t find a walking event, he sometimes race walks in a running event.
Walking or doing chores around the house, Kimberly is glad his robot-assisted knee surgery allowed him to stay active. “I’m so grateful, so happy about it.”