Jerry Nelson: A recap of Mrs. Nelson's stem cell knee procedure

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

Some of you have been asking how my wife’s knee is doing.

A person’s joints aren’t normally a topic of public discussion, but my wife feels that she is participating in something that might eventually result in a measure of public good.

To recap (ha!), my wife’s knees have developed osteoarthritis. Having this condition isn’t very surprising given that she’s a woman of a certain age.

We hoped that this problem would be covered by the factory warranty, but it had long since expired. We now bitterly regret deleting all of those emails we’ve received that touted opportunities to purchase an extended warranty.

Once it was determined that my wife’s knees were, medically speaking, “shot,” we consulted with an orthopedic surgeon who recommended – surprise! – orthopedic surgery. While I thought that it would be cool to acquire some nifty new Space Age hardware, my wife wanted to take a more conservative approach. She asked about stem cell therapy and was referred to Dr. Herman, an orthopedist who specializes in that field.

If you go onto the internet you will find all sorts of people who are offering stem cell therapy for all sorts of ills. I’ve spent countless hours searching for a stem cell therapy that would make me look like Brad Pitt, but no luck so far.

My wife went with Dr. Herman because she’s conducting an FDA-regulated study that has been designed to measure the effects of stem cell therapy in knees. The theory goes that when you inject refined stem cells into an affected body part, the stem cells will look around, put their microscopic hands on their microscopic hips and declare, “This joint could really use a good remodeling!”

The stem cells, it’s hoped, will roll up their tiny sleeves and set about to repairing things. It’s not clear if stem cells, like many contractors, have to deal with such issues as materials shortages, overtime pay and those pesky OSHA inspectors.

It has been a few months since my wife received her stem cell treatment and people have been asking how it’s going. It’s difficult to know. My wife says that she has some good days and some bad days, but the same thing could be said about nearly anyone on the planet.

My wife and I recently visited Dr. Herman for a follow-up exam. Dr. Herman is very kind and gentle, the sort of person you would want to assess a painful body part. In other words, she’s not the kind of physician who would exclaim, “Oh, come on! It can’t hurt that much!”

During the examination, Dr. Herman determined that some of my wife’s ongoing discomfort was due to an inflamed bursa.

“Who is this Bruce guy?” I demanded, “And where can I find him? I’ll show him to mess with my wife’s knee!”

Dr. Herman patiently explained that bursa are small sacs of fluid that help reduce friction and create a cushion. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned tiny waterbeds sloshing around in the vicinity of the body’s joints.

“So, you’re saying that this Bruce guy isn’t to blame after all,” I said. “What can we do about this… ‘itis’ thing that’s going on?”

The doctor recommended injecting a steroid into the affected site.

“I’m all for anything that will make my wife feel better,” I said. “But I have one question. Will the steroids cause her muscles to bulk up? Because she almost beats me at arm wrestling as it is. I think we have to give some consideration to my fragile male ego.” 

We were told that the steroid injection would simply tamp down the ongoing inflammation. This was a relief for both of us.

An electronic gizmo was wheeled into the exam room. The doctor put a small amount of gel – it looked like Dippity-do – on my wife’s knee. By placing a wand-like doohickey against the gelled area, Dr. Herman could view what was going on beneath the surface.

I had seen live ultrasound images before, most memorably when our two sons were in the fetal phases of their lives. Back then, I couldn’t make any sense of the gray squiggles and blobs. Modern ultrasound machines have high-def imagery; I wouldn’t be surprised if they also feature surround sound.

I was able to watch as Dr. Herman skillfully guided a needle to the affected spot and inject it with dexamethasone. That ought to show that mean old Bruce guy!

The jury is still out regarding my wife’s stem cell therapy. And if you happen to see a guy who sort of resembles Brad Pitt, it might be me.

Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at and in bookstores nationwide