Coplon: Weight loss opens door to new knees

Chuck Young’s knees had been deteriorating for years. By the time he went in for a surgery consult in March of 2012, Young had no cartilage left in either knee. Bone on bone. They had to be replaced.

As Young’s primary care physician, we already had been talking about his knees. We’d also been talking about his weight and how it might be a problem for the surgery. So when Young sat down with Dr. Greg Koski, his Kaiser Permanente orthopedic surgeon, the 62-year-old received some harsh (but not surprising) news.

“He said he wouldn’t operate on my knees unless I lost weight,” Young said. “He said I needed to lose at least 40 pounds.”

Young, a Medicaid systems analyst for the Department of Human Services, had watched his weight creep up to 338 pounds in the two years since a mysterious blood disorder and a pair of surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome had kept him off his bicycle. Young had once weighed 220 pounds and was an active cyclist with the Salem Bike Club who rode to and from work. Now his obesity was standing in the way of him getting the new knees he needed to stay active and enjoy his upcoming retirement.

“Dr. Koski said every pound I took off, the better my recovery would be,” Young said. “All that extra weight was really hard on my knees. I was packing an extra 135 pounds of weight.”

So Young went to work on shedding some pounds. His wrists felt better, and his red blood cell count stabilized, so he started riding his bike again. Meanwhile, his care team got him started on the Weight Watchers plan. Young is a Kaiser Permanente member through PEBB, the health insurance program for state employees. PEBB covers the cost of Weight Watchers, as long as the patient sticks to the program and shows progress every three months.

Young turned out to be a Weight Watchers star, mainly because it helped him improve his nutrition and diet and hold himself accountable.

“It gives me a way to document everything that goes in my mouth, “ Young said. “I’ve learned the things I can’t eat anymore.”

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