Healthwatch 16: Knee Pain Leads to Weight Loss and More

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Five minutes with Debbie Craig of Forty Fort and you feel like you've known her forever.

Debbie wanted to meet us at the pool at Odyssey Fitness on Coal Street in Wilkes-Barre, a place she loves.

"I used to weigh 457 pounds. Haven't had any surgery, just a lot of exercising," said Craig.

But this isn't a story of weight loss, necessarily.

It's the story of a woman who credits her doctors with helping her get her health back, physically and mentally.

"One of the things I'm particularly proud of here is that we try to focus on the entire patient," said Dr. James Murphy, orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Murphy met Debbie when she came in with severe knee pain. He knew she needed a double knee replacement but suggested she lose some weight first.

"Let's start with trying to get some weight reduction. That's where she found the pool. That is what assisted with the weight loss," Dr. Murphy said.

But Debbie points out. Dr. Murphy and Orthopaedic Physician Assistant Rob Emery also took it a step further, digging into how she got to be so big, what else was going on.

"I was sexually assaulted as a child, violently, for many, many years, and it changes the personality of who you are," Craig explained.

The abuse started when she was an infant and continued through her teenage years. She blocked it out, and a few years ago, her late husband Dick realized she needed counseling.

Debbie was diagnosed with disassociation and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I didn't want to ever say that I had PTSD. I didn't want to dishonor our service members, but PTSD can come in all kinds of forms."

Debbie was Dick's caretaker until he passed away in January of 2017.

"The big joke with my husband and I, he was a phenomenal man, is he always told me I should go meet a Tom. Even in the hospice, go meet a Tom! My dad's name was Harry and my husband's name was Dick."

Two months after Dick died, enter Tom Craig, also a widower, whose late wife, coincidentally, helped train some of the nurses who cared for Debbie.

She soon dreamed of a goal: to dance at their wedding.

Dr. Murphy and Rob Emery studied PTSD and disassociation to be able to treat her better.

After losing enough weight, they went ahead with the knee replacement and the therapy that followed.

Sure enough, they showed up at Debbie and Tom's wedding to watch her dance.

"It is one of the most rewarding feelings that you get, when you see a patient struggling, who has goals to dance at her wedding, and to help someone achieve their goal is incredibly rewarding," said Emery.

Her doctors say Debbie will be just fine if she keeps up her counseling, her activity level, and most importantly, her positive attitude.

And after years of not being able to work, Debbie is about to start a new job, working in customer service for Geisinger.