Robin Wilson was told she would never walk again.
Her life came to a halt in 2011 after she tripped over a piece of carpet in the garage and fell, shattering her left femur.
Because of severe osteoarthritis, Robin was already in need of a double knee replacement when she fell. An orthopedic surgeon fixed her femur and replaced the left knee but warned she’d be in a wheelchair if she didn’t have the right knee replaced.
By the summer of 2013, she’d had the right knee replaced too, but she was still unsteady on her feet and in pain because the femur had failed to heal properly.
“I was so unsteady that for a long time, I couldn’t even carry my purse,” says the 63-year-old. “My sweet husband would hold it for me.”
Robin found little relief in physical therapy. She finally graduated from a wheelchair to a walker, and eventually to a cane, but she still remained off-balance. She kept falling, damaging the left femur and the rod that had been inserted to fix it.
The breaking point
Robin, a nurse for 39 years, had to stop working because she couldn’t walk independently. She was also unable to cook, clean, or tend to her garden, a favorite pastime.
“I couldn’t even kneel,” says Robin. “It was beyond frustrating.”
Determined to find a solution, Robin turned to Cedars-Sinai’s Dr. Guy Paiement for one last attempt to get back on her feet.
“Robin was in the same predicament as someone who has a bone tumor, where you have to decide if you’re going to do reconstructive surgery or cut off the leg.”
When Dr. Paiement saw Robin, she was in excruciating pain. The metal rod that was supposed to be stabilizing her femur was moving and causing severe muscle spasms that traveled to her groin.
“She was in agony,” says Dr. Paiement, the residency director of orthopedic surgery. “The metal that was holding her femur to her knee was coming completely out and the femur was about to break.”
Dr. Paiement knew Robin’s case was complex—part of her femur had already been replaced—but he wanted to give her a chance to walk. “Robin was in the same predicament as someone who has a bone tumor, where you have to decide if you’re going to do reconstructive surgery or cut off the leg,” he says.
Back to life
In 2016, Dr. Paiement replaced Robin’s left knee cap and distal femur with titanium. This allowed the leg and knee to have a full range of motion.
The surgery took 5 hours—the longest procedure Robin had gone through. The next morning, though, Robin was stable, secure, and standing. For the first time in 5 years, she walked with confidence.
“It was amazing!” says Robin. “I could tell right away everything was stable. When I told Dr. Paiement he was my hero, he said ‘I’m just doing my job,’ but I know it was more than that. I am so grateful. He gave me my life back.”
Robin has now returned to nursing part-time, enjoys vacations with her husband, and can tend to her lavish garden.
“My dahlias are my pride and joy. They are spectacular!” says Robin of the 12-inch flowers. “Every day, I spend hours in that garden, and I couldn’t be happier. I have Dr. Paiement to thank for that.”
Robin is a grateful patient and supporter of the Campaign for Cedars-Sinai. Learn more about the Campaign.
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