Carole brown at native american ceremonyKnee Replacement Gets Carole Brown Back into the Dance of Life

Total knee replacement changes a person’s life for the better in a number of ways. Not the least of these is enabling them to return to the activities they love.

For Carole Brown of East Providence, a member of the Seaconke Wampanoag tribe, that meant recovering part of her cultural identity: dancing at Native American powwows in the region and beyond.

Orthopedic surgeon Derek Jenkins, MD, of the Total Joint Center at the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute made it possible.

In 2013, Carole already was hampered by arthritis in her knees, but it was an accident at a powwow in upstate New York that put her on the path to Dr. Jenkins’ door. Rushing as she left her tent in the encampment, she tripped and fell onto tree roots on her right knee and wrist. She didn’t seek medical attention then, but as months passed, her troubles mounted.

Finally, her daughter insisted she go to the emergency department. An X-ray showed serious arthritis, a healed fracture, and a torn meniscus. She persevered for months longer before visiting a sports orthopedist, who recommended a meniscus repair and physical therapy — with a likely knee replacement in her future.

Carole decided to leapfrog right to the knee surgery, and was referred to Dr. Jenkins.

“He is the best doctor. He is so good,” says Carole. She was reassured, she says, when Dr. Jenkins told her he specializes in just knee and hip surgeries.

Before her knee replacement surgery, Carole says, she had stabbing pain and could only sit for a few minutes before she was forced to stand. “It was a chore for me to straighten out my leg” or to bend it to take a seat again, she says. Retired for several years, Carole was accustomed to being on the go, helping others. The bad knee held her back.

Carole brown at native american ceremonyWorst of all, Carole had to give up her dancing, “which made me very sad.” The northern ladies’ traditional dance that she performs requires that “we have to bend our knees a lot. And sometimes we’re in the (dance) circle for 10 minutes.”

Dr. Jenkins says he takes the time to get to know his patients and to understand their needs and wishes. “I treat every patient as an individual. We choose a type of knee replacement that fits them best and will be the best for their lifestyle,” he explains. “So for someone like Ms. Brown, who is a dancer, or for an athlete or someone who has a very physical job, I take that into account.”

Dr. Jenkins continues, “I chose an implant for her that I thought would be able to withstand the type of activity that she wanted to do and would give her the high-level performance that she was looking for.”

The orthopedic surgeon began his college career studying engineering.

“As an engineer you learn an approach to solving complex problems and to ‘Plan your work and work your plan.’” Those are lessons Dr. Jenkins continues to follow as he meticulously plans and carries out his patients’ joint replacement surgeries.

During operations, he uses technology to enable precise placement of the joint implant for the best possible outcome for his patient, but emphasizes that “part of the surgery is really an art and you depend on your judgment and your hands.”

As an assistant professor of orthopedics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the surgeon says he teaches this philosophy to his students and residents.

Dr. Jenkins performed Carole’s surgery at The Miriam Hospital in April 2016. Walking within a couple of days, she worked with a physical therapist for several weeks, graduating from a walker to a “rollator” and then a cane.

“It’s very satisfying to be back in there dancing with my friends. If it wasn’t for Dr. Jenkins, I’d be sitting on the sidelines, being sad. He is the best doctor. He is so good."

Carole brown at native american ceremonyBefore long, she was able to retire the cane and resume her regular activities.

Praising the care she received as a patient of the Total Joint Center, she declared, “I will go to no other hospital than The Miriam,” where, coincidentally, she worked as a nurse’s aide in the 1960s.

With her new knee, Carole is able to participate fully in the powwows again. “It’s very satisfying to be back in there dancing with my friends. If it wasn’t for Dr. Jenkins, I’d be sitting on the sidelines, being sad.”

 “I am grateful for the work I can do for others as a hip and knee replacement specialist, and I really love doing my job,” says Dr. Jenkins. “The positive impact you can have on another person’s life is a very special thing. It’s been great to see Ms. Brown return to doing what she loves and our goal is for her to continue to be active in dance and her community for many years to come.”

Learn more about the LIfespan Orthopedics Institute