A Young Woman Gets a Double Knee Replacement – and Feels Better Than Ever
Derisha Prophet, 42, knew from a young age that her purpose in life was to help people. It has been the driving force behind her career. As a certified nursing assistant, she gently nursed patients back to health; while working at a behavioral health clinic, she was a bright light for patients in times of darkness. But when severe knee arthritis inhibited her from fulfilling her purpose, she knew she had to do something about it.
“I know we’re not here for ourselves—I know we’re here to help other people,” says Derisha, a Redford resident. “But there came a time when I physically couldn’t help others without first helping myself. I was trying to encourage others when I was in pain.”
Back To Childhood, Where Derisha’s Leg Problems Began
When Derisha was a baby, the pediatrician checked her range of motion and her right leg made a loud popping sound. (The doctor told Derisha’s mom it was just her reflexes.) After Derisha started walking, she screamed anytime someone came near her right leg. As Derisha grew, it became clear that her right leg was bowed.
“It didn’t bother me as a kid, but it ended up playing a factor in how active I was,” she says. “I had been a majorette in Thanksgiving Day parades, I played volleyball, I ran really fast—faster than the boys in my neighborhood. I tried out for track, but the teacher said my leg would prevent me from being on the team.
“As I got older, my weight stared to fluctuate. I had self-esteem issues and childhood trauma that made me eat, so I wasn’t as active. Then, when I got pregnant with my daughter in 2000, my weight spiraled out of control.”
Moving Into Adulthood, Where Derisha’s Leg Issues Worsen
In 2007, Derisha became a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a job that kept her on her feet all day. She was soon diagnosed with arthritis in both knees. Having favored her left knee for so long (due to her bowed right leg), she developed a meniscus tear in her left leg. It was repaired, but her cartilage was extremely worn down.
She was given a series of three cortisone injections to reduce inflammation and pain, but when the effects wore off, she was right back where she started.
“Eventually, my primary care doctor said I couldn’t be a CNA anymore, that my knees weren’t strong enough,” Derisha says. “I was really frustrated. I had put on all this weight, I wasn’t as active, I couldn’t wear heels, I couldn’t walk without hurting. I felt really down.”
Before Joint Surgery, Derisha Undergoes Bariatric Surgery
Years later, in 2016, Derisha started working at Henry Ford Health in the orthopedic department. It wasn’t long before she started hearing patients rave about how great they felt after seeing Jason Davis, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Henry Ford. Derisha promptly made an appointment.
Before she could have knee replacement surgery, however, she had to lose weight. Having too much excess weight can put excessive pressure on the knees, causing the cartilage to wear down, says Dr. Davis.
“I had gotten up to 411 pounds,” Derisha says. “I prayed and prayed about it. I felt that God had a huge purpose for me and I always ask Him to help me help others. I was feeling badly because I couldn’t offer support to anyone else if I wasn’t where I needed to be. I started doing little things to lose weight and lost 50 pounds. But I was still taking a ton of pain medication and anti-inflammatories to function and I said, ‘this cannot be life.’”
In July 2019, Derisha underwent bariatric surgery with Jeffrey Genaw, M.D., a bariatric surgeon at Henry Ford Health. As part of a comprehensive program, he says, bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most successful means of achieving long-term weight control.
“Derisha selected sleeve gastrectomy for her bariatric surgery procedure,” says Dr. Genaw. “This involves essentially removing about 75% of the volume of the stomach to allow for some restriction (feeling full, eating smaller meals) and the significant metabolic changes that take place to help with long-term weight loss and health. On follow-up visits, she had lost nearly 100 pounds and had some improvement in her knee pain. Before surgery, she had also had hypertension, which was now resolved.”
This dramatic weight loss helped Derisha become a better knee-replacement candidate, as losing weight helps to lessen complications with knee surgery. It also helps to increase the durability of the replacement.
A year after bariatric surgery, Derisha returned to Dr. Davis’ office and scheduled surgery to replace her left knee.
Finally, Derisha Feels Relief After Surgery
“The day of that first knee surgery was the day my life changed for the better,” Derisha says. “I was not in pain like I had been all my life. I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The following year, Derisha’s right knee was replaced. With it came a new lease on life.
“This is hands down the best I’ve ever felt,” Derisha says. “I can walk without devices, without pain. I can bend down without hearing cracks. I can walk through the shopping mall. I love dancing, and now I can go out and dance. I just feel free—I have my life back.”
She’s back to fulfilling her purpose, full steam ahead, working at a women’s health clinic. “I’m just following wherever God wants me to go. I’m taking care of myself. I thank God and I thank the doctors because they helped get me where I am.”
As for Dr. Davis, he is inspired by his patient’s positive outlook and determination.
“Derisha is a fantastic example of someone who changed her whole mindset and works on eating right and exercising daily,” he says. “I couldn't be prouder of her energy and motivation, all with a positive attitude.”
And he has a message for other young people struggling with joint pain: “Arthritis in 40-somethings used to be very challenging to treat, but as implants and techniques have improved, we now have a good chance that their first knee replacement will be their last. No longer are we waiting until people hit 65 for surgery. They can get it fixed earlier and get more out of the prime of the lives by staying active.”