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Published: Saturday, 4/27/2002

Former pilot praises results of surgery

Forty years ago, I was a passenger in a Breezy, an open cockpit aircraft, when my pilot spotted an airplane, a Luscomb, parked in a field directly below us.

On impulse, we landed close by and piled out to introduce ourselves to the Luscomb pilot. His name was Lester Woodyard, and he lived on Section Road, just over the Michigan line.

Mr Woodyard's career included a stint working one of the early hydrogen bombs outside Albuquerque, N.M., shortly after the first bombs were tested. He was one of the many young pilots who flew the local skies during that period.

“At the time, the project was secret,” he said, “It since has been well chronicled.”

That was my only meeting with Mr. Woodyard until four decades later, when he called at my office to ask a favor.

Now 77, he was no longer flying. The Luscomb was only a memory. Mr. Woodyard had a new fascination. He wanted me to pass the word to arthritic patients, telling them not to postpone needed joint surgery because of any fear of the result.

Although in considerable pain from an unusable knee joint, Mr. Woodyard had some misgivings about such surgery, but his sister, Shirley, earlier had undergone a successful double-knee-joint replacement.

He decided to try it, and on May 16, 2001, a surgeon at Toledo Hospital cut away his defective right knee joint and installed an artificial one.

He's as pleased as he can be with the outcome. He now walks without the pain and stiffness of the disintegrating joint. He wishes he hadn't delayed the surgery.

“I only wish arthritic patients were told a little more about what to expect after surgery,” he said. “What really is needed is a support group to help the patient during the painful normal recovery period.”

He talked it over with his doctor and a number of fellow arthritis patients and is now in the process of forming a group. He also hopes to issue a periodic newsletter of arthritis information.

Nowadays, Mr. Woodyard exercises daily, monitors his development closely and carries on most activities considered normal for a man his age.

“If you have knee pain from arthritis, talk to your doctor about joint replacement surgery,” he said. “Consult a second doctor, if you need to. And once you get the go-ahead, don't hesitate. You'll be so glad to walk pain-free again.”

Millie Benson is a Blade Columnist.

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