Jan Bulls on the success of her surgeries: "“Most people I play with never know I had a knee replacement — or two of them.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY NATE ABBOTT
When Jan Bulls’ tennis opponents saw her running across the court on her toes, they might have wondered if she owed her high level of play to quirky style. In truth, she was just trying to keep full weight-bearing pressure off her knees. Agony from bone on bone spoiled multiple activities she otherwise enjoyed.
“It got so painful that it hurt to go hiking, especially going downhill,” the La Quinta resident says.
By the time Bulls reached her late 40s, the cushioning cartilage between her femur and tibia had worn away. A doctor said her future included a knee replacement. That was especially tough news for someone as keen on sports as Bulls. As a child, she performed gymnastics. At the age of 30, she took up tennis and became such as avid fan of the game that she played almost daily.
Ten years after the diagnosis and the failure of gel injections to alleviate her suffering, Bulls recognized that the time had come for knee-replacement surgery. Dissatisfied with two consultations on the requisite remedy, she decided to return to an orthopedic doctor she’d had prior to moving to the Coachella Valley. But before she could fly off to Texas, someone recommended she visit Ghassan Boghosian, D.O., of Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center.
“I knew from the minute I shook his hand that he was the one I wanted to do the surgery,” Bulls recalls of their first meeting. “The other thing about Dr. Boghosian, which is almost unheard of these days, is that he gave me his cell-phone number and said, ‘I am here for you.’ What doctor does that?”
Bulls further recounts that Boghosian called her the night before her operation in May of 2017. She was dining at a friend’s house so didn’t answer her phone. “I still have the message, and it’s the only message on my phone,” she claims. “It says, ‘You don’t need to worry about a thing. I will take good care of you.’”
Bulls went home the day after surgery on her left knee and began physical therapy. In June, she informed Boghosian that she was ready for the right-knee replacement. The second surgery, in July, and her recovery went as smoothly as the first.
“I would tell people it is not an easy road,” Bulls admits, referring to a regimen of strengthening exercise. “I started going to the gym at 10 days and doing whatever my physical therapist told me to do, even if it was just walking the indoor track. I was riding my bike at seven weeks. I was playing golf at two months. I was back to hiking.
“At a year, I was doing really good. At two years, I was doing even better. Believe it or not, at three years last summer, it was the best I ever felt,” Bulls proclaims.
“I tell my patients, ‘You need me to do the perfect operation. I need you to do the perfect recovery and physical-therapy program,’” Boghosian says. “Jan is one of those people who takes that to heart. She worked really hard and has a beautiful outcome.”
The doctor compares his experience with patients he’s had in Cleveland and in the Coachella Valley where seniors enjoy active lifestyles.
“There, people waited until the last minute for surgery, and it was rare to have motivated patients,” Boghosian relates. “Here people say, ‘I want to get better now. I want to get better yesterday.’ That really sets us up for success, because they’re 50 percent of the equation. The combination of motivated patients and our orthopedic group’s technology is as good as it gets. I don’t ever want to practice anywhere else.”
Bulls should be happy with Boghosian’s commitment to the local community, especially given her desire to pay forward the referral she received.
“I have sent five people his way, and they have all said he is the best.” And she is back to playing high-level tennis — without having to “toe the line.” “I am running for every ball,” she says ecstatically. “Most people I play with never know I had a knee replacement — or two of them.”