Wait lists for some types of joint replacement surgeries continues to grow

Tamara Komuniecki and her son Finn have always done certain things a little differently.

They have to be creative. Since Tamara was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of six, her determination has been stronger than her joints.

“I don’t know normal,” she said. “I don’t know pain-free and I don’t know being able to make a fist or [doing a] cartwheel. I have forgotten what it feels like.”

Komuniecki has had to undergo several joint replacement procedures, most recently on her shoulder.

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“For her, it’s been a struggle because it’s multiple joints involved, so trying to be a young woman living life with ailing joints is challenging,” said Dr. Jeffrey Pike, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Adding to the challenge is trying to get the surgery she needs in a timely manner.

“Knees get the bulk of attention, even in media coverage,” she said. “We always talk about waiting times and replacement surgeries–you really never hear about the smaller joints, upper extremities.”

While wait lists for hip and knee replacements have been getting shorter, wait times for shoulders and ankles have been getting longer.

“Many of these patients are still in working years and for them to be off work or unable to work for a period of time is not only a negative for them personally and their families but for our society as well.”

Tamara is now on an 11-month wait list for an ankle replacement.

“The shoulder for has absolutely changed my life…and I would hope that they would make them more available for people who are waiting.”

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