At 88, Albuquerque resident Betty White doesn’t let too many things keep her from traveling and doing what she wants. “To me, age is just a number. I don't think about it much. I just really love to go. I guess you could say that I have itchy feet.”
So two years ago when her aching knees began to limit her daily activities, she decided to get them examined.
“Every year I put up a 9-foot Christmas tree, so I climb up and down the ladder a lot to decorate it,” she said. “I also arrange my ceramic village collection underneath, which involves a lot of crawling around on the floor. That year I discovered that my knees just weren't what they used to be. I worried that I couldn’t depend on them.”
That’s when Betty visited Dr. Patrick Gilligan (pictured above), an orthopedic surgeon at Lovelace Medical Center, who diagnosed her with arthritis in both knees. He recommended that she have both knees replaced.
‘Surgeries went like clockwork’
As a widow with three grown children and grandchildren, Betty managed their home until her youngest started school. Soon after, she became a part-time marketing director for an engineering firm. But it was her hobby that turned into a long career, with lots of travel and a couple of connections with Betty White the actor (more on that later).
“For a while, I bred Siamese cats,” Betty said. “Then I became a cat show judge. For 25 years I traveled all over the world judging cat shows. I've been to Malaysia, China, Japan and all over Europe. I love to travel, so when I started having trouble with my knees, I knew something had to be done so I could keep doing that.”
Betty didn’t know much about knee replacement surgery because none of her friends or family members had experienced it. But Dr. Gilligan and his staff gave her all the information she needed.
“They gave me lots to read and a video to watch,” she said. “Later, when they asked if I had any questions, I said no. Everything I wanted to ask was answered in the materials.”
Dr. Gilligan performed surgery to replace her right knee in February and then her left one in June. “He's just wonderful – a great surgeon and a very personable and nice person,” said Betty.
“The surgeries went like clockwork, very efficient and well done from start to finish. I am very pleased, even though I now have an 8-inch scar on both knees!”
Walking more to regain her stamina
Betty plans to keep traveling, even though she gave up judging cat shows years ago. Still, her love for animals was a common trait she shared with Hollywood’s Betty White. Both served on foundations that support the care and research for many types of animals.
Albuquerque’s Betty White was once in the Far East to judge a show when she checked into her hotel. When she opened the door to her room on a very high floor, she was greeted with fresh flowers and a fruit basket. The hotel must have thought Hollywood’s Betty White had made the reservation!
Her successful knee surgeries have empowered her to stay active and plan her next adventure.
Before her knee problems, Betty walked two miles a day, three times a week, usually around the track at the local high school. Now that she has recovered from both surgeries, she is back to walking the track and working back up to her previous mileage.
“I've already booked another trip,” she said. “My oldest daughter and I are going to take a cruise next spring around the British Isles.”
Bon voyage, Betty!
If you are experiencing pain in your knees, hips, or other areas, call Lovelace Orthopedic Services at (505) 727-2727. You can also read more and schedule an appointment on our Orthopedic Services web page.