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Is a Total Knee Replacement Worth It?

Hi my favorite readers! I keep getting questions regarding whether it is worth getting a total knee replacement. Throughout my blog, I have mentioned the good and bad about having this surgery. Well, overall, it is without a doubt – worth it.

Prior to my tkr (total knee replacement), I could not go anywhere without carrying a pair of crutches. My knee was locking up, causing excruciating pain, and had a “mind of its own”. I did not know when my knee was going to “lock up”. It was bone on bone without any cartilage at all. And, bone spurs had formed due to this. Plus, my leg was misaligned due to my knee being so deformed. Enough.

There was one time that I did not carry my crutches with me, and I was left to rely upon strangers to help me walk. I vowed I would not have that happen again. Hence, carrying crutches around with me everywhere. No matter where I drove, my crutches were in the car.

So, if any of my readers get the impression that having a tkr is not worth it – think twice. There is no way that I would say it is not worth it.

Yes, the recuperation process is timely, painful, and a lot of work. It is worth it no matter how much pain is involved. The pain and recuperation is temporary. Having the ability to walk without pain is not. My love of walking outweighs the pain of recuperation – without any doubt.

Gotta go. The Detroit Red Wings are on. I’ve gotta go watch them beat the Minnesota Wild. 🙂
BTW….I ride my exercise bike while watching hockey. Hockey players are inspiring to me. Whatever it takes. 🙂

Hope this helps others going through the same thing.

Find interesting? Kindly share…Thanks!






43 comments to Is a Total Knee Replacement Worth It?

  • I see I missed a good game! We lost though, ah shucks!

  • booktoots

    It was a good one! 🙂

  • Melissa Moore

    Really good blog. I’m 54 with severe oa in left knee, moderate in right.. I can’t make it through the day without pain pills since I’m bone on bone. I’m extremely active, have an independent bookkeeping service so I’m always driving around from client to client. And of course, they ALL have stairs.I also workout with a trainer 3 hours per week. I’m considering a TKR after tax season. My biggest worry is that I’ll be out of commission for a long time – since I own my own business, if I don’t work – I don’t get paid. Do you think it’s realistic to hope that I could be back to work (with someone else driving) 2 weeks post surgery? All my work is in front of the computer – it’s just the getting there.
    Thanks, Melissa

  • TIna

    I am 48, have both knees replaced 5 weeks ago. After a very tough first week and a promising and ever improving 2nd to 5th week. I can tell you that you can likely get work done in the computer, I did after 14 days, but going to Physcial Therapy 3 times a week, and doing your PT exercises everyday really cuts ff the time you have to work ( during the days) . Also you are still recovering from major surgery, and so your body needs more sleep and attention. Also you will be moving much slower. I will be going back to work ( I am an architect, so I walk and go up and down stairs) after 6 weeks. As for the stairs, as you describe your pain, you will feel much better and should be amble up with the stairs within the 3rd week. Slow and easy, but you will probably be moving better than before.

  • I am impressed that you had both knees done at one time! I am 53 and had my right knee replaced Dec.5, 2008. I was bone on bone. I was a special education teacher for 30 years. My students were severly disabled teenagers and I spent a great deal of time doing one person and two person lifting form wheelchair to mat table, etc. I retired last year and finaly got around to having this surgery.
    I never expected this to hurt so much. And you had double the pain! Anyay, I am still in physical therapy 3 times a week, and somewhere around the middle of the 6th week I started to feel better! Now (1/25/09), I am walking up and down stairs using alternative legs and, when rested, my pain level stays between 2 and 3. Before that I was always at a 7.
    I look hopefly towards the day when that level is at a Zero. Please keep me posted on your progress.

  • Tina

    Well, I was pretty much bone on bone on both legs, and as an architect was starting to notice structural changes in my body due to OA such as hips were hurting, back not as straight, and legs were more bent , not able to flex. So, I had to correct the structure that was burdening my entire body. Additionally the damage a year of 600 mg ibuprofen 4x a day was doing to my stomach and liver.
    After the initial first week of incredible pain, the second week was great compared to the first. And at the beginning of the second week, I am driving, going to dinner parties, sleeping almost through the night. Now I can make travel plans to walk exotic cities, enjoy my job, my neices and nephews, and look for an active future instead of life in the siidelines. So I felt that suffering this once, putting faith in my OS, PT, and my drive to get better ….the inital pain and the continuing work in progress is worth it. Everyone has their own condition, mine was just the both knees were bad, luckily, I did not wait too long til surgery before further bone damaged and structural degradation to my body .

    I am thanksful for this site as I know I will have more questions and look for support in some of my bad times.

  • Tina

    Correction, I started doing all the driving and going to parties after the 5th week. Just did not read before submittal.

  • sharon

    hey tina
    how great it is to hear about someone who has the results that we all wish for. i am just 6 mos post op tkr on my right knee that had 3 other surgeries on it prior. i am also 48 yrs old. i had the otismed custom fit knee with stryker triathalon put in. i was wondering what type you had put in and did you have prior surgeries on your knees.

  • Tina

    I have te Biomet Vanguard knees , it is supposed to be able to go to 145 degrees. Minimally, I would like to
    get to 120 degrees. I am currently at 103 on the left and 100 on the right with no pushing.
    I had no surgeries prior and opted to not take cortisone shots. My knee pain came on suddenly in Dec 2007 after walking a bunch of high rise condos and apartments during 3 years of constrcution. By January, the first OS said, both knees were pretty close to bone on bone, loose weight and get some PT and see me when you are ready for you replacements.

    Did not use him, but did loose some weight and took some PT pre operative exercises. That helps a lot since the muscles are building up that you need and quite helpful post surgery. After two more OS interviews, which practices I did not like, I asked Physical therapists who are the best at TKR in Chicago, and took their names and picked the one I thought had the best hands ALONG with the best practice. This is important because we need the support from their nurses, hospital and PT service.
    This surgery is a major commitment in time and perserverance. It took months to prepare for the surgery, get the office( staff) and home in order, and arrange for my husband to be availble for post operative care after the acute rehab facility ( 5 days in hospital, 8 days at rehab center with 2-3 hours of PT daily). Now I have PT for 45 minutes MWF until mid Feb (8 weeks total) And I perform daily PT execises in between working from home and daily life. I have purchased a bike this weekend, thanks to the website advise,I got a recumbent to get me started, I will use the upright bike on the street/bike path this Spring. Obviosuly, I will have to do these exervises for the rest of my life.

    Good luck, nice to hear form you all…TINA

  • booktoots

    Thanks for the wonderful comments, all. It’s interesting to hear how others are doing and what situation we are in prior to having our tkr. Kudos!

  • Wow! Thank you very much!
    I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Sincerely, Timur Alhimenkov

  • dorothy angelique

    Hello, I had total knee replacement on my right knee, bone on bone on Nov. 11, 2008. I took pain med’s and had no pain.
    The dr. tells me i am doing great and so does the PT. I have been able to bend my knee just as far back as my other one, 135 for some time. However, I am still walking with a cane. and this is almost 3months post op. Today is Feb. 2, 2009. I have a small amt. of pain in the inside of the leg and pain ubove my knee when getting up from chair and when i drive and push down on the petal. I wonder how long I will need this cane??? I tried to walk without the cane and am wobbly and sometimes my left buttocks hurts…. I did this because i wanted my life back//

    anyone know how long with the cane. thank you.

  • sharon

    well congratulations on the decision to get your life back. it sounds like you are doing fantastic at 3 months. the pain you speak of sounds like you just need to get more strength in your quads. that will take the pressure of the knee. until that happens your knee is taking all the pressure. but check with your doctor or pt person and keep working on those excercises. i am 6 mos post op and my muscle strength is not there yet either. this can take up to a year, unfortunatly. as far as the cane i used it too, until the therapist told me that its a saftely thing that i need it but i should get used to not using it in the house to build up confidence and before your know it its gone. but there is nothing wrong with using it until then for however long you need it. it kept me walking correctly too when using it, but your muscles have to be trained again to do their job. give it time and you will know when you can get rid of it. but work on it. you can do it we all did. on our own time. everyone is different. but sounds like you are on your way and you made the right decision to get that new knee. take care and keep in touch.

  • Erv

    I had TKR on 11/7/08 on the right knee. My best flexion (bent position) is only 93 degrees and that’s after an hour exercise. I’ve been in PT for two months and have hit a wall…increased exercise, but no improvement. I use both Duna splints; the flexion is the tough one, I can’t keep it on for no more than 30 minutes. The extension one is no problem, I sleep with that one. All that being said, I go in for an Anesthesic Manipulation on Saturday where they put me to sleep and force my leg back manually to increase the ROM. I’m not looking forward to it, but there aren’t many options left: they don’t like to perform the AM three months after surgery. Any words of wisdom out there?

    Thanks.

  • Juliet

    I had TKR on both knees on 12/9/08 and recovering well. I was off the walker and on a cane on day 6, and off the cane after two weeks. I have good ROM, 126-130. I was able to attend social events after two weeks, and by three weeks was doing some light shopping and cooking. I started to drive after 3 weeks, and was able to return to work ( I am a therapist) after 4 weeks. I go to physical therapy three times a week, and work hard at it. Before the surgery I could not walk without pain, as I had bone on bone and spurs. But, if I was not on my feet I didn’t have any pain. Now I can walk any distance without any of the joint pain that I had before. However, by early evening my knees ache, and only narcotic pain relievers helps this. I have also had trouble sleeping since the surgery, even when my knees don’t hurt a lot. I am only 8 weeks post-op, so I guess I am doing well, and am pretty satisfied, except for the evening aching, which is severe.

  • sharon

    juliet, wow what a trooper you are. how old are you, just curious? and what type of knees did you get? I think your doing extremely well. i did not do alot of the stuff you accomplished so early on until much later. so good for you. but maybe your knees are telling you something now. slow down a bit. you had a big surgery, having both done. and your body has to heal from that. possibly the narcotics are giving you trouble sleeping. check with your doctor on that, if you haven’t already. its rough when your not sleeping, because that is also important for the healing process. hang in there, your doing great ! take care.

  • Tina

    Juliet,
    I had both knees done the week after yours, and I seem to be in the same progress line. I am curently at 110 degrees on the left, and 103 degress on the right. Some more pain is experienced on the right, don’t know if its just scar tissue and my own body infrastructure still adjusting. My question is how do you know when you have maxed out your own ROm and is time to stop PT? I am overweight and I do not think I have ever had a great ROM. Or better yet, how do you see the second and third month progress on the bilateral. I need to be able to climb ladders and walk on uneven sites ( construction) as a PT and a bilateral TKR. What are your thoughts ?

  • Melissa

    Hey Everyone & especially Booktoots!
    After all this dialogue, I have scheduled my Left TKR for April 20 (bookkeeper so after tax season). One little tip I learned – my surgeon operates Mondays/Thurs/Fri & I was able to pick Monday because you DON’T want to be in the hospital over the weekend.
    So…I continue to work out at the gym, strength training, 3 hours a week. Paying a lot of attention to glutes & quads. I have 3 teenage boys at home that will be very helpful, husband that cares but with a bad back and a very demanding job. Friends have volunteered to do the cassarole thing. Thinking about renting a bed for the living room since our bedroom is up 16 stairs for the first couple weeks. Continuing to keep the 60 lbs off that I lost 4 years ago when this all started so luckily the weight is okay. I think they’ll be sending me home with a CPM.
    Anyone have any suggestions? Unfortunately my OCD is working overtime (why do you think I’m a bookkeeper?) so I’m into planning all the details.
    Thanks all.

  • I had 2 tkr’s in 2008 – left knee January and right knee in June. I was 61 yrs old when I had the surgery – now 62. I am doing great – but just can’t go downstairs very well at all without holding on and even then it is a problem. I can go up using alternating legs with no railing almost perfectly. Any suggestions as to what exercise might help this.

    As for the cane – I basically skipped that altogether – used it very briefly and just really because they told me to.

  • Dinah

    Two years ago I had both of my knees replaced at the same time at 59 years old. I was walking bone on bone, and avoided stairs as much as possible. The damage was caused by osteoarthritis. Walking was painful, each step was painful, although I walked every day for 45 minutes to get some exercise, and to try to keep by muscles from turning to mush.

    I was back to work in 6 weeks. The first week after surgery was difficult, mostly because of having a hard time getting comfortable so I could sleep. I was able to drive in 3 weeks so that I was able to stop home Physical Therapy, and go to the clinic for P.T. I did my exercises just like I was instructed, every day 3 to 4 times a day.

    I am pain free, and after that first week, I was sure that this surgery is worth it–without a doubt.

  • Dinah

    Trisha,

    I recommend that your bed be downstairs. At least for the first month or so. It will be much easier on you and your family for you to be “centrally” placed! 🙂

  • Pauli

    Hi Melissa.

    Sounds like you are very active, which is great and will help with your recovery.
    I am pretty active as well, but I had 3 flights of stairs to deal with at home. Fortunately, my insurance approved me for a rehab and I stayed there about 10 days. They really helped me practice my stairs before I got home! You might want to consider a rehab if there is a good one near you that specializes in ortho. I found it really helpful. Food wasn’t great but friends and family brought in meals.

  • About my stair situation – my house IS one story, so that isn’t the problem. But, in my job I go all over the place and never know what I will encounter and deep steps are still hard for me and sometimes I find steps without railings. I think it is actually because I have no stairs in my house and it wasn’t worked on much in my physical therapy. And, it is really my right knee that was done last June 08 that is the worst. The left knee done in Jan 08 is pretty good and no concentration on stairs in that therapy either. I really think I need a swimming pool or a stationery bike to work this out.

    .

  • galewins

    I am have a left total knee replacement on April 13th. I will be 58 years old on the 10th. Can anyone tell me what type of medication worked best to relieve pain during the first month or so? And what exercises were best for you.
    Thanks.

  • Gale,
    Your doctor will be able to advise you about pain meds as everyone is different in that department. The best advice I ever got from any doctor about pain is to stay ahead of the pain. Don’t try to be the martyr and tough it out. If you take your meds as prescribed you should be fine.

    About exercises – your therapist has done this over and over with patients. Do EXACTLY what they say when you are with them and NEVER skip your homework exercises. That is the key to a good recovery. Even when you hate it, remember that you did it to get better and you want a good result.

  • booktoots

    Gale,
    I never had any luck with pain meds, but Trisha’s advice does apply. (Thanks Trisha!)
    And…read through my blog for posts on different PT exercises that work. Be diligent, though. It’s hard work, but worth it.
    Good luck!

    Trisha: I highly recommend an upright exercise bike for increasing your flexibility and making conquering stairs easier.

  • Jeff Fuiman

    Hello all,
    I had TKA on March 17th, 2009 (happy St. Patty’s Day to me..haha) . I went to the Rothman Institute & had one of their best surgeons do the procedure. Regardless of doing everything as told I am still having issue with both the flex & extension. My flex is only @ 90 & extension is off 16/20 degrees, therefore, I limp. Overall the TKA was never really painful, uncomfortable yes not painful. However, they now believe that scar tissue is stopping me from getting the mobility that I need & they scheduled me next Monday for a manipulation. He stated that after the manipulation I should have full mobility, & get the flex/extension that I need…Wish me luck as I have heard a few horror stories of manipulations…

  • Tina

    Congratulations! Had bth knees done before Xmas l2008… I had troubles with extension so I just did more PT and hung a 5 lb weight on the legs and face down, kept the position. I also kept a belt by my office desk and every 30 minutes ( I programmed the notification on my calendar to buzz every 30 minutes). I did some extension streches. I have foam roller under the table and I roll it with my feet back and forth, S0mehow after the third month, it all loosened up…I am now 127 degrees on the lefdt leg and 120 degrees on the right leg…5 months later. Keep massaging the area around your knees and scar. Treat yourself to a clinical massage therapist monthly. YOu wil see the warm weather will also loosen things up a bit. Exceise bike helps with both flex and extend, Good luck on the manipulation. TINA

  • Kelly

    Tina,
    If I may ask, who did your knee? I am bone on bone but have not had knee pain. My issue is that I can’t straighten the leg and, at this point, can barely walk with a cane. I can’t get answers from anyone as to why it won’t straighten. Am told it is “most unusual.” Am afraid to have surgery w/o knowing if this is another issue. Have been to 2 orthos who were very dismissive of my questions. PT has never seen this before. Am very depressed and afraid.

  • Tina

    My pain came on suddenly at year end in 2007. And my back and hips were beginning to hurt as the range of motion on my knees has been reduced ( couln’t even make it from the gate at Ohare to the bagage pick-up without wheelchair. And I was living life in the sidelines , cancelling trips, making excuses why I can’t meet friends due to stairs , simply a sad way to exist considering I was pretty active socially and physically. Had to get the knees done.

    I think the doctor has a lot to do with your surgery, but the preop and post op care has a lot to do with your recovery. I just felt that Joint university (at Weiss Hospital-see weblink) was great as I had looked into three diffrent Ortho specialists in 6 months in early 2008.

    I polled Physical Therapists and Rehab outpatient staff. Dr. Finn at Weiss and Dr. Berger ( Midwest Ortho at Rush Hospital) were the Rock Stars in their eyes in the Chicago area. After all they are the ones that have to work with the patients .

    Finn was in network my insurance plan, and Weiss is closer to home. I was able to get an appointment and even if Finn kinda behaves like a rock start, his staff ( nurse Betty, and residents were great) as well as when I went to the Weiss Joint U floor and interviewed the PT and patient care nurse. I wanted to get taken care of the first two week, and we formed a strategy to get what I needed….I knew I needed help those critical 2 weeks post op.

    I wanted the push for aggressive PT. If your insurance pay for sub acute rehab, take it, you will be well cared for. If I am at home, I would not work so hard. And they have so much alternative PT equipment that you can use ( some machines, or techniques are not a productive – this depends on you tolerance) So if you get at home, you may not benefit from other tools… .

    http://www.weisshospital.com/medical-services/excellence-centers/orthopedics/joint-university.aspx

    Its now almost 6 months I have gone on at least 6 busness trips, went to Palm Springs and Joshua tree National Park in April for a week of hiking andvisiting friends and I can shop, ride a bike, and stand in line at teh grocery store. My knees still are healing, but its is just a little stiff ( morning and especially cold wet mornings) but fine and fain free. According to Finn, I will fell it get even better ( less inflamation) in another 6 months.

    I hopew this has helped. GOod Luck.

  • Gale

    Hi All,
    I am now almost 2 months post Left TKA. The great news is I never had to go for out-pt physical therapy because I was flexing 130 and 0. I had the surgery done at the N.E. Baptist Hospital by Dr. Donald Reilly.

    OK now the bad news. I developed an ugly looking keloid scar about 2 weeks ago. While I was sleeping I felt my knee throbbing and when I felt it there was a bulge between the incision. I opened the light and it was deep purple and I thought my scar was going to burst open. Not really painful, but it was very scary. IT NEVER WENT AWAY. Now I am stuck with a raised purple scar I have to deal with. When I called my surgeon, he said there is nothing I can do about it. If anyone has had any luck with any treatments whatsover, please, please let me know. There are home remedies on the web like applying garlic, apple cider vinegar, but wanted your feedback.

    Problem #2: As I have become more physical, the left side of my left ankle, left foot, and toes are very painful for about a week now. Almost like I twisted it. Thinking about going to a foot specialist. Wondering if when I had the TKA it was aligned properly and now it is affecting my foot.

    Good luck all. This is a great site and thanks very much for all your replies.

    Gale

  • karen

    Be careful and see an orthopedist asap. I had a damaged right knee- had to wait for surgery since my accident happened at a young age. Now I am having both knees replaced in 2 days. BUT I developed a plantar fibroma on the bottom of my left foot. Apparently from a combination of causes- much of it related to repeated damage from limping. The early stages of development include severe foot cramping and pain.

  • Phyllis Taylor

    Gale, I am considering having Dr. Donald Reilly do my knee surgery. Have been reading about him on the internet. How was your experience with Dr. Reilly?

  • Carol

    I am scheduled to have both knees done, one Dec. 1 and one Dec. 7. Did they give you the option to space the surgeries out, or why did they do them both at same time? I am not looking forward to being put under twice. Thanks.

  • sharon

    WOW! Good luck. I never heard of it done that way before. Will you be in the hospital all that time? And I would not like going under twice either. What kind of knees are you getting put in? Where are you from?

  • steph

    I live in Atlanta and am having a hard time finding a doctor who will do both knees at the same time. How did you find yours?

  • Tina

    I asked physical therapists I met who they like in terms of good MDs ( since they have to do rehab to theri paitents). And I asked who have they known that have done both at the same time.

  • Trisha

    To Everyone in General:

    I had my tkr on the left knee Jan 2008 and my right knee June 2008. I was in the hospital for 2 days then stayed with my sister for about a week. My therapy was: one done at home and the other was out-patient. I see that in February and March of 2009 I wrote about having trouble with stairs. That is almost completely gone with all the activitiy I have in my work where I encounter stairs.

    I asked my doctor in December 2008 on my last follow-up visit “when will I get to the point where I will forget I ever had the knee surgeries” and he said probably never. He said that replacement hips on the other hand were different and once it is done – it is forgotten. He said that there will always be things that will remind us about having “knee trouble”. However, I don’t have the desire to play tennis, snow ski, or run – so I am good in that respect. Having said all that – he was wrong – there are many days and weeks that I do “forget” and I am almost completely free from my angst with stairs which was mostly going down being the problem.

    So, to everyone I just want to say that I NEVER regret having them replaced although I am 62 and might face this again 20 years from now when these wear out. I am way, way too active to live like I did before and in addition live with the pain.

    One more comment: to the person or anyone having trouble sleeping – remember this – the narcotics can mess up your sleeping, especially when you are getting off them. Ask your doctor how best to taper off. I had the same problem with my first knee, but learned my lesson by the next one and never had the insomnia from drug withdrawl.

    My advice is: Do your therapy and don’t rush it. I read on this site where people are pushing to return to work, drive and some have problems afterwards. It takes time and the return of your quad muscles mostly. Mine were turned to mush from 3 yrs of babying my knees prior to the surgery. Also, as for the pain – I had a lot with the first one, but found out that I was allergic to morphine which was being given to me when I woke up screaming. I think I never “got ahead of the pain” from that very point, but eventually got past it with enormous combos of drugs. Had different drugs for the next surgery and all went well.

    P.S. I would NEVER have considered doing 2 knees at the same as I am way, way too independent on having someone help me do anything. Period. And, my doctor said that the recovery for one at a time isn’t too much longer than doing it at the same and easier all around. Not having “a leg to stand on” sold me on doing it separately so I could take of myself even at my sisters house.

    Good luck to everyone.

  • Pam

    I had a total left knee replacement on January 26,2009 and I still have pain on the outside of my knee and have trouble doing stairs. I ride my exercise bike daily 5 miles, but I don’t see any difference. Has anyone else had this problem?

  • Janice

    I had TKR on my left need November 19, 2009 and am still on the mend. What a process so far! There have been some very low, depressing days. I never thought it would be this difficult and I am only 47. BTW, I was bone on bone with bone spurs and arthritis behind my knee caps. Will have to have the right one done in the future.
    Doing well with ROM, still using a walker but I was not cemented, it is fusing. Has anyone else gone through with fusing instead of having it cemented? Any advise?
    On another note, anyone have advise on trying to get comfortable sleeping? My knee feels so heavy! I am scared to lie on my stomach and if I lie on my side, it is really hard on my shoulder and I am in shoulder pain for it so no luck that way. When I sleep on my back, I wake up because of pain in the top left side of my foot, like a cramping.
    Thanks for any input.

  • Trisha

    Janice,
    I had 2 TKR’s in 2008 (January and June). Neither of my knees were cemented and I was 61 yrs old. The doctor went on and on about what great bones I had. He said that it was better than having them cemented as it is the cement that wears out and since you are so young, this is the way to go.

    Don’t know why you are having pain sleeping, but maybe you should try putting a thin pillow under your calves/feet which would keep them elevated and getting more blood flow so to speak. I am no doctor, but it would certainly be worth a try.

    Hang in there – it IS worth it.

    Trisha.

  • Annie Marie

    Wow, after reading all these comments, I’m wondering if I even need a total knee replacement. I’m so grateful for this site.. I have an appnt with my specialist in 2wks, and will go to him for an opinion instead of just TKN. I can’t thank you all enough for sharing your experiences. I’m 72yrs, and only have difficulty with my right knee from an old injury. My pain is bad on change of weather, but do have (now slight)trouble walking anywhere. I am so grateful to all you helpful people sharing your experience online. So now I’m going to ask for further examination on my knee. My Dr is not the one who suggested a TKN, I thought it would just be like a ‘cup of tea’ but looks like maybe not!

  • Hi Annie Marie,
    Thanks so much for visiting my site and finding it so useful. Good luck with your doctor’s visit! Keep in touch and good luck!

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