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Patrick McCoy

Pain and Wobble Are Gone

Holy Name Orthopedic - Patrick McCoy

Patrick McCoy lived with some good-natured teasing, a distinct wobble in his walk and severe, unrelenting pain for years. He needed both knees replaced but doctors told him he was too young for the procedures. Finally, he had surgery on his right knee, which only magnified his pain. 

“It was so bad after my surgery I said I would never go back for the second knee,” Patrick said. “I made myself go to work but basically stayed in bed the rest of the day, for three years.”

Patrick had been an athlete in school – playing football and baseball, wrestling and running track. Later, he thought nothing of walking from one end of his hometown of Paterson to the other and played softball as an adult. The wear and tear on his legs took its toll, and his bad knees caused his legs to bow more dramatically as he aged. 

His co-workers at the school where he worked as a custodian teased him mercilessly about his walk but also encouraged him to have his knees fixed. They knew Patrick wanted to work until he could get his full pension and questioned whether he would be able to achieve his goal.

At the same time, doctors told him throughout his forties that he was too young for knee replacement surgery. At 54, a physician agreed to replace the left knee. That’s when Patrick’s decline accelerated. 

“I started work at 3pm and I would wait to eat until right before I had to go in because walking downstairs was excruciating,” Patrick said. “When my wife and I went to Las Vegas, I needed a wheelchair. And I was taking way more Percocet everyday than I should have been.”

He knew he had to face having surgery again but waited until several years later, when Patrick heard great things about Dr. Mark Hartzband, an orthopedic surgeon at Holy Name Medical Center.

“Dr. Hartzband showed me an x-ray of what a good knee replacement was supposed to look like and then he showed me mine. I had piece of metal on the outside of the bone on my left knee, not attached to anything so every time I moved, it rubbed. He said he could replace my right knee and fix the left one at the same time. He made me feel so comfortable; I just trusted him.”

Relying on Dr. Hartzband’s explanation and promise to get him up and walking without pain, Patrick agreed to the surgery. But by then, the COVID-19 pandemic had swept the country.

“A friend of mine who had a knee replacement told me not to do it until the pandemic was over,” Patrick said. “But I had confidence in my doctor and in Holy Name that they would keep me safe. All I kept thinking was that I was finally going to be better.”

Patrick thought about how many times he stood, as president of his union, in front of a room full of people, fighting for one of his members. He stood upright and proud but when he walked out, he couldn’t help but wobble. He wanted desperately to have an even gait.

The first thing Patrick did when he woke up was look at his legs – they were straight. He was elated. That same day, nurses encouraged Patrick to get up and walk.

“I was in Holy Name for four days and it was fabulous. The nurses were so attentive and made sure I got what I needed. They also explained why it was so important to get out of bed. When I climbed a few stairs, they were all cheering.” 

Prior to his surgery, Dr. Hartzband wanted Patrick to do one thing – stop taking Percocet. “He told me to go cold turkey and I really cut down but I couldn’t stop completely. After my surgery the nurses kept me on a schedule with my pain medication and wouldn’t give me the pills any earlier. I learned from that and it made me stronger.”

Once Patrick went home, physical therapists visited to make sure he started an exercise routine that would help his healing. He was walking by the second week after surgery, and though he used a walker or cane to steady himself when he got started, he could then put them aside.

“I was still wobbling, though, and the therapists explained that I needed to retrain my brain,” Patrick said.

About three months after his surgery, Patrick returned to work. His co-workers will now have to find something else to tease him about and he is in the best shape he’s been in for decades. As for the pills – he hardly thinks about them anymore.

“I gained two inches back from not having my legs bowed and I lost about 25 pounds because I can move around a lot more. After my first surgery, I thought knee replacement was the worst thing in the world. Now, I have my life back. My wife is so happy because I’m not laying around in bed and I can go places with her. Like where? Wherever she wants to go,” he said with a chuckle.

Learn more about Patrick McCoy's Orthopedic Surgeon