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Traffic Accidents Led to Arthritis

Lisa and David Michaels (not their real names) both have had trouble over years managing pain and arthritis caused by old traffic accident injuries, and much more.

"(Lisa) was involved in an automobile accident while coming home from college in 1973," said 64-year-old David in a telephone interview. "The surgeon reset the joint, but didn't get the ankle cleaned out right. He left a bone fragment in her ankle that caused a great deal of pain for the next year." When the fragment was discovered, another surgeon said Lisa would have problems down the road because of damaged cartilage. Over the years, she would have seven ankle surgeries, including ankle joint replacement surgery in 2002, which improved her mobility for about two years. Then a surgeon performed another corrective procedure.

"And that didn't work either and it went downhill from there," said David. "Today, she's in constant pain, so much so a doctor has brought up the possibility of amputation."

As for David: In 2004, he was on a motorcycle that clipped a wayward truck crossing the center line. He broke an ankle, which has since become arthritic. Then in 2008, David was visiting a surgeon about fixing a severely arthritic elbow caused by a 1973 traffic accident. Scar tissue in a nerve leading into the hand was causing feeling loss in his fingers and reduced hand strength. More importantly, in David's pre-operation physical, doctors learned he had atrial fibrillation, which is a serious heart issue caused by a faulty heart electrical system. It involves an irregular heartbeat rhythm or speed. David would have several operations to correct or manage that problem, including have a pacemaker installed.

Said David, "Because of heart problems, I'm not able to walk really far anymore. I also have an arthritic ankle, a couple of bad knees, and I don't have a lot of stamina. When I try walking my dog down the block the return block can be challenging. In cold weather, I don't even go. It makes me short of breath. Some days are better than others."

When Lisa and David had their injuries (her ankle and his elbow in 1973; his ankle in 2004), doctors said they likely would have trouble with arthritis "later in life." David said, "But what we both found out was 'later in life' would be in only five or ten years."

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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at

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