Promising yourself to lose weight is a goal most of us have made at least at one point in our lives. Just ask 49-year old Genevieve Steitz, Wilton, Iowa, and she’ll tell you just how intimidating that journey to fitness can be when she faced her own goal of losing half her body weight. “I weighed 310 pounds when I saw myself in a picture taken at Christmas — that was the moment I knew something had to change.”
In her words, “finding your ‘why’” is the first step. What fueled her desire was not just wanting to look thinner in a picture, but it was to end years of suffering from the excruciating pain in her knees. “I have had knee pain for more than 10 years. I just couldn’t take it anymore.” So, three years ago she made a promise to herself to end the weight gain contributing to her pain.
“I started at 310 pounds, lost 40 pounds, and then my husband got on board,” she recalls. “He was my support, and we both needed to make healthy changes.” But no journey is without its surprises, setbacks, and sorrow. Her husband passed away when he was just 61 after suffering a heart attack at work. “I was just 46 and knew it was more important than ever to build my own future now that I was alone.”
It was a wake-up call that propelled her to greater weight loss success. Her life plan had changed. She made a new promise to find the stronger, healthier, independent woman she knew she could become. “I took some time off and went to California to work on me,” says Genevieve. “I kayaked and walked 5 miles every day and just focused on myself.” She hit another milestone with a loss of 100 pounds, but her knees were still so painful. “I joined a gym to swim and practice yoga because I couldn’t walk.”
Genevieve returned to the Quad Cities in 2019 and started a new life. A friend recommended she see Total Joint Surgeon, Dr. Ryan Pokorney, ORA Orthopedics. “I heard Dr. Pokorney was great. I was only 48 years old, but there was no question I needed a double-knee replacement.”
“Genevieve’s knees were worn out from years of arthritis and the tremendous pressure her weight put on her knees,” Dr. Pokorney explains. “Weight has a significant impact on our bones and joints, and that in turn, affects our health.”
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), obesity frequently contributes to soft tissue damage and osteoarthritis—a progressive wear- and-tear disease of the joints. The impact of obesity is especially felt in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee joints.
“Every pound of body weight places four to six pounds of pressure on each knee joint,” says Dr. Pokorney. The AAOS also reports obese individuals are 20 times more likely to need a knee replacement than those who are not overweight.
The AAOS also notes that the detrimental effects of obesity on surgical outcome results and complication rates are well-documented in medical literature. These effects include higher rates of infection and prosthesis failure/loosening of the implant when compared to patients of normal weight.
Genevieve says when Dr. Pokorney made a successful case to insurers to allow a double-knee replacement to go forward, her weight loss journey would pay off. “I had lost about 130 pounds on my own, and the surgery just made all those months of weight loss worth it.
“My recovery was great. I walked the day of surgery,” she says. She completed her post-surgical physical therapy in half the time. “I was walking 13 miles a day after seven weeks of therapy. I joined a gym, and I’ve gone from a size 28 to a 12!” Genevieve continues to work out four to five times a week. “I am so grateful and Dr. Pokorney is awesome. My knees are fantastic! I have a whole new life.”
Dr. Pokorney says Genevieve has been successful because of her focus and dedication. “She has done the work and is a great example of how weight loss and total joint surgery together can transform someone’s life. Her arthritis is gone. Her implants will likely last longer because her weight range is within normal limits. It is so gratifying to see her succeed. Her story is proof the program can work, and we’ve seen others make amazing, life-changing progress when weight loss is combined with joint replacement.”
With a new decade, new life, and new knees comes even more challenging goals. “I am training for a marathon for my 50th birthday,” affirms Genevieve. “If I have to walk it, I will. I want to cover the distance. I just want to finish!”
Her advice for the rest of us: “Just focus on baby steps, anything in the right direction is progress. Keep a journal and recognize the smallest accomplishments because they do add up. I am not a health nut, but remember to find your “why,” know there are humps, but the end is so worth it!”