Rogersville woman in need of new knee

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ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A disabled woman in Rogersville says the pain her knee is unbearable. She had knee replacement surgery six years ago. However, the implant used to replace the knee was recalled by the FDA.

The doctor who performed the surgery says he can help her, but he now works in Georgia, where her TennCare doesn’t apply.

Knee replacement surgery is rather common, but sadly, the number of patients who require follow-up surgery because of defective artificial knees has doubled in the last 10 years, according to court records.

Linda Miller’s problem isn’t the defective replacement or her surgeon, but that she can’t afford surgery out of state.

Every step is painful for Miller. It nearly takes her breath just to walk to her refrigerator. Miller had total knee replacement surgery on her right knee in 2013 following years of a degenerative joint. Unable to work anymore and a divorcee, she draws $771 a month on disability. Her health insurance is with TennCare.

Miller cared for her disabled daughter Michelle until her death of a heart attack a few months ago. She believes it’s time now to take care of herself.

“I can’t stay in one spot at one time, even in the bed. It’s killing me. Sometimes I feel like I want it sawed off cause it hurts too bad,” Miller said.

Miller’s surgery was in Kingsport at Holston Valley Medical Center. Her surgical record shows the knee was replaced on September 4, 2013.

That very year, the FDA recalled the knee replacement device Miller received. The recall stated patients may “suffer pain, disability, or require revision surgery.”

“It never did really feel good,” she said.

Miller said there was follow up surgery to remove scar tissue, but the pain continued. When she asked her original surgeon about the recall and possible replacement, he had moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

“He said he will do it, but I don’t have the insurance for the hospital. I have Medicaid. He will see me, but the hospital will not do it,” she said.

Miller said she’s contacted medical offices from Johnson City to Nashville for revision surgery. They said it’s complicated and they can’t do it. They told her she needs to see the doctor that did it. They don’t want to take the responsibility.

“I need to get to Atlanta and get this out of my knee. I am suffering,” Miller said.

“I don’t recall what point her follow up was, maybe six weeks after the surgery, but it’s never healed,” said Miller’s sister Paula Snapp.

Snapp, a probation officer for the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency, is an advocate for her sister.

“She just has no freedom from the pain. She just wants some relief. She wants a new knee,” said Snapp.

Miller is not a part of any lawsuit against the knee manufacturer and her story is not about the recall. With her original surgeon in Atlanta, she’d have to pay out-of-network hospital bills, but can’t afford it.

WATE 6 On Your Side contacted TennCare and explained Miller’s situation. TennCare wrote that they asked their MCO care team to find Miller the best in-network orthopedic surgeon in her area that can perform an evaluation and, if necessary, revision surgery.

Miller was thrilled to hear the good news and can’t wait for the next step along this painful path.

“I want my knee fixed so at least I can walk. I don’t care if I have to walk with a little limp,” she said.

There’s been no promise that there will be revision surgery, but a TennCare spokesperson said there are circumstances where prior approval has been granted if an evaluation shows surgery is necessary.

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