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Back to nature with a bilateral breakthrough

The right doctor made all the difference—and now John is living life without knee pain to slow him down.

John Krafinski rides his bike in the woods.
John Krafinski enjoys a rigorous bike ride in Bethpage State Park after his successful surgery.

Mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, hunting, walking his three dogs—at age 60, John Krafinski still does it all. But John’s knees were beginning to have trouble keeping up with him and the pain was becoming too intense to bear.

“I’d had numerous injuries in both of my knees,” said John, who works for the New York City Transit Authority and is married with two grown sons. Due to a few workplace injuries and his active outdoor hobbies, he had damaged the cartilage in his right knee at least two or three times over the last 25 years—in fact, his right leg was so bent that he couldn’t stand with his legs closer than 14 inches from each other. And his left leg wasn’t doing much better, having torn his anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee at some point.

More than anything else, the pain John felt was making it nearly impossible to walk.

“I’d known for the last 10 years that I needed knee replacement surgery, but I was concerned that it would be a debilitating process, so I postponed it,” said John. 

When he finally decided to see a doctor about surgery, John knew he wanted to have both knees operated on at the same time, a procedure called simultaneous bilateral knee replacement. He did not want to undergo anesthesia more than once. However, the orthopedic surgeons he saw insisted on two separate procedures.

Then John found Dr. Jonathan Danoff, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knee replacement surgery at Northwell Health. Dr. Danoff was open to performing surgery on both knees at once. “He took the time to review my healthy lifestyle and thought I was an excellent candidate for the bilateral procedure,” said John. “He had the ability to see that I could handle the surgery and recover quickly. Other doctors didn’t want to discuss it.” 

John started preparing for his surgery four months beforehand, building up his leg muscles and flexibility by using a Stairmaster or biking for 30 minutes three or four times a week. On September 6, 2018, Dr. Danoff performed the procedure at North Shore University Hospital using computer software to ensure the proper alignment of John’s knee replacement systems. While single replacement knee surgery takes about 90 minutes, John’s simultaneous double knee replacement procedure took three hours. Dr. Danoff successfully resurfaced the knee joints by removing the diseased bone and cartilage and replaced these tissues with metal and plastic implants to help alleviate John’s pain and increase his mobility and function. For the first time in what seemed like forever, John regained full range of motion in his knees.

The surgery was a success.

During his four days of hospital recovery time, John worked on his strength and mobility. “The care I received at Northwell was fantastic,” he said. “The nurses were attentive, and the physical therapists were willing to take on my goals and get me to where I was climbing stairs in the hospital postsurgery. Everyone was top-notch.” In fact, John was able to walk the length of the entire orthopedic unit the morning after surgery. He did so well, in fact, he was able to discharge directly to home from the hospital.

Once he returned home, John got started with in-home physical therapy and rehabilitation for two weeks. He built up his strength quickly and attended several more weeks of outpatient rehab. Notably, the flexibility in his knees was soon where he wanted it to be—so much so that he started riding his mountain bike and hunting in a tree stand again at just eight weeks postsurgery. “My biggest concern was not being able to ride my bike, but I ride better than I ever have before.”

John was also surprised at how manageable his pain was postsurgery. Considering he had replaced both knees at the same time, the discomfort from surgery began to dissipate in less than a week. John took prescription pain relievers for only about two weeks and then transitioned to prescription nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs. “The postsurgical pain was nothing compared to what I’d experienced over my lifetime because of my damaged knees,” he said.

A man smiles at the camera. He is wearing a a navy blue coat and bike helmet. Trees are in the background.
After surgery, John now enjoys an active lifestyle without any pain.

In addition to riding his mountain bike, John can now work a 10-hour day and walk 5 miles in the woods to go hunting—all without pain. He credits his newfound freedom to finding the right doctor. In fact, his advice for potential patients is to have an open and honest conversation with their surgeon, and to discuss personal physical activity goals.

“Find a doctor who is willing to take on the challenge that you pose,” he said. “And, don’t be afraid of the procedure. I unnecessarily postponed the surgery when I didn’t have to. After years of pain, my knees feel fantastic.”

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