Hearing first-hand accounts of a patient’s journey is extremely beneficial. Many of our patients come to us after hearing about someone else’s experience. This is the first blog, in a series of posts, that will be published about this inspiring man.
A National, Academic All-American cross country runner in college, Joe Young grew up lifting weights and cross training. Activity and movement was part of his everyday life.
In 1995, he married his best friend, Mary, and began to embark on a crazy adventure which has definitely had it’s ups and downs. With many health challenges between both Mary and Joe, it’s proved to be a difficult journey. But as a result, it has caused them to grow stronger as a unit and really unify their family.
Back in 2000, at the young age of 26, Mary and Joe decided to go out for a drive. During that drive, they hit another car which resulted in their vehicle flipping. They believed they walked away from the accident without injuries, but Joe ended up in the ER later that evening. After the accident, his left knee became bruised and swollen. Over the next year, Joe started having difficulties running. Little did Joe know that this would be the beginning of his run with chronic pain.
During the next few years, his family expanded with 3 beautiful children Abigail, Patrick and Morrigan. There were definitely happy moments, but there were tough challenges as well. Mary’s health fluctuated and Joe’s chronic pain really began to wear on him. Over this time, Joe’s physical and mental health started deteriorating. Little by little, his self esteem seemed to disappear, with the ever increasing knee pain.
A civil engineer by trade, Joe spent most of his days behind a desk. In an effort to be closer to his family, Joe switched jobs. His new job forced him to do a lot of walking in boots, on uneven ground. Up to this point, Joe had been stable enough to go to CrossFit, but would need to modify the workouts. Running or bouncing was difficult, but he made it work! Unfortunately, this job switch really seemed to impact Joe’s knee. In the end, it left him immobile. He needed to grab onto things to get up or hang on to the railing to get up the steps. Ultimately, Joe ended up leaving this job for his old desk job because his knee became very badly inflamed. “It became intolerable.”
Chronic pain affects every aspect of your life. It’s always there- aching, burning, tingling, shooting. “Chronic pain affects your concentration. You can’t focus. It almost gets to the point where you have attention deficit disorder.”
Little by little, it all mounted on top of Joe’s shoulders and truly began to ruin his self esteem. When Joe talks about it, he says that the word depression can’t even describe it. It took him to a really dark place. He explained how he didn’t have the will to even try to help himself. The constant, increasing pain was so much more than physical, it was a big barrier for him and his life.
“It wasn’t just holding me back, it was holding me down with a foot on my chest.”
Looking For Answers
Fed up, Joe knew he had to take action. Up to this point, he had had a meniscus surgery, an OATS procedure to help with the longitudinal stress fractures he had within his kneecap, and many rounds of injections and steroids.
He started to look for answers to his chronic pain. His doctor in Wheeling estimated that his knee was more reminiscent of a 60-65 year old’s knee and wouldn’t be opposed to replacing it. After getting a second opinion, another doctor estimated that he had about 6-10% of his cartilage left in the medial part of his knee. That doctor wanted to do a partial knee replacement.
After hearing about the partial knee replacement, Joe was excited. This was it! He was going to get a partial knee replacement and it was going to fix his problems. One night, while having a few beers with his friend, he explained how he was going to have the procedure done. His friend, a Physical Therapist, suggested that he look into the Regenexx stem cell procedures. He had been doing research on them and found them to be fascinating.
Initially Joe wasn’t phased. He said it sounded too good to be true, but they subsequently went into the house to watch some youtube videos about it. After seeing the segment on the Doctors (click here to watch it!), he was hooked. The MRIs showed a difference in the woman’s cartilage, something that doctors had been telling Joe wasn’t possible. After seeing the videos, Joe couldn’t just dismiss the option.
Reaching out to RAPS, he made an initial consult. Upon receiving his enrollment packet, Joe began absorbing as much information as he could. Within the packet was a copy of Orthopedics 2.0 and he read it cover to cover.
“It was amazing. It just made so much sense. Stem cells are not some magical thing. They are present in our body, but they evacuate an area because of toxicity. If you put them back where they need to be, they will heal you. My friend and I had a discussion about how long an actual knee replacement would last. He said they tell you 20 years, but if you’re active it wouldn’t last as long. Even if you’re slightly active, you’re lucky to get 10-12 years and it’s hard to redo it. You might end up permanently in a wheelchair and not be able to fix the problem.”
At that point, Joe was sold. He made up his mind that he didn’t want his actual joint amputated, but he wanted to heal it.
Stem Cell Doubt
Joe took to social media to air his excitement on finding the fix to his chronic pain! A friend responded back telling him not to waste his money. She explained how her husband had had it done, three times, at a place in Weirton, West Virginia. Initially it helped him for a few months, but then it’d stop working.
He was taken aback. “Wait a minute. That can’t be right?”, he thought.
But since Joe had been trying to absorb and learn as much as he could about the procedure, he dug a little deeper. His friend’s stem cell procedure had been performed using fat extractions. Having thoroughly read Orthopedics 2.0, Joe knew how different the results could be using bone marrow vs. fat stem cells.
Time and time again, Joe found testimonials online from other Regenexx patients who had had amazing results.
“It became apparent to me that this wasn’t something that they were making up. You can see the emotion in people’s testimonials. I started wondering, why had I not heard about this? I had been to so many doctors and had been told by two of them that once cartilage is gone, it’s gone.”
Joe’s Initial Consult
Walking into his initial consult with Dr. Adelsheimer, Joe was excited, but nervous. What if he wasn’t a candidate? What if he couldn’t have the procedure done?
In his consult, Joe remembers Dr. Adelsheimer explaining how a lot of his cartilage was missing, but how he believed that he had a 90% chance to recover 2/3rds of a normal knee. Joe’s socks were knocked off.
“It was like if you had a religious experience or something that has really moved you. It was on that level. It’s not just the physical injury, it puts you in such a state that you’re not even yourself anymore. And to be told, Hey! Here’s a mechanism by which you can pull yourself out of this hole and not be there anymore. I think I cried on the way home. I was just so excited.”
With all the excitement, there had to be some nerves too. Joe had heard some bad things about the bone marrow extraction. Things like, it was extremely painful and that it would hurt so bad that he wouldn’t be able to walk or sleep.
He also had lingering doubt in the back of his mind. Having suffered so badly, having had to use a cane and having been so miserable and absolutely in the dumps – what if it didn’t help his chronic pain? How could this procedure possibly work? What if it truly was too good to be true?
But he made the commitment to himself.
“It’s like a second chance, that people don’t normally get when you have an injury like this. The bone marrow extraction and all that – I don’t care if they have to cut a toe off to do it. The pain and misery I’ve been in couldn’t possibly touch the bone marrow extraction.”
Did anything hold Joe Back? Absolutely. The financial aspect of the procedure held him back initially. He had to go through the process to free up some money before he actually scheduled the procedure. Joe ended up taking some money out of his retirement account to do so.
“Because I believed so strongly about the procedure, I didn’t care that I got hosed in penalties. What I anticipated recovery to be like, I knew I couldn’t put a cost on that. I hear people say that all the time, ‘well I can’t afford that’, and I think really? Are you sure? If you really knew this was going to save your life? If you were hanging by a rope, off a building, and someone could pull you up to the top and you wouldn’t fall – would you come up with the money somehow? You can’t put a cost on it.”
Joe scheduled his procedure for late February 2016 and started to mentally prepare for the life changing experience.
Follow along on Joe’s recovery with us! We will be posting updates on our blog throughout the rest of his journey to whole healing and health.