"But immediately after the surgery, they got me up to walk, and I did it. It was like a lifelong problem was gone in an instant."
Edward Guerrero had gotten used to the rude comments and stares. He suffered from extremely bowed legs, a condition known as genu varum. Taunts of other children had driven him to tears as a boy.
To his great surprise, double knee replacement surgery at age 56 changed his life.
"Growing up, it was tough," he said. The teasing pushed him to prove he was equal to, and even better than, the other kids in physical activities. He ran, played sports and excelled so no one could say he was handicapped.
In the Air Force, he met every physical requirement. But there was pain. His legs caused problems with his back alignment and put unusual pressure on his knees that, over time, deteriorated the cartilage.
"After high school, I didn't realize the more I exercised, the more damage I was doing," he said. Eventually, pain forced him to seek a waiver from the service's physical requirement. After 1995, he stopped high-impact exercise. He stayed fit with cardio workouts and was deployed overseas three times. But when he left the Air Force in 2001, he could no longer run or jump due to the pain.
In 2010, Edward became diversity director for Maricopa County. But merely standing during presentations was a struggle. The little relief he got from doctors and pain-management specialists was always temporary.
By 2012, at age 56, he had severe osteoarthritis in his knees. For his back pain, he saw a chiropractor as often as three times a week.
Finally, he visited orthopedic surgeon Steven R. Kassman, MD. "Dr. Kassman said I definitely needed my knees replaced," Edward said. "They were bone on bone."
"It was obvious that his deformity had taken a serious toll on his knees," Dr. Kassman said. Fifty-six is young for a total knee replacement, but bad alignment from the genu varum condition meant stress was not distributed evenly across his knees. As he got older, they wore prematurely."