A successful knee replacement allowed Miriam Margolyes to fulfill her acting schedule, she explains to Iona Walton
Miriam Margolyes has been acting for over 50 years. Her achievements are phenomenal and show no signs of slowing down. A BAFTA in the 1990s was joined by an OBE in 2002, and more recently in 2007 she was given a Theatregoer’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. A well-known voice on the radio, Miriam was in the Harry Potter films, has starred in countless theatre productions and drama series and has another busy 12 months ahead of her both on screen and stage in the UK and Australia.
She may sound as if she’s superwoman, but at 75 years old, like everybody else, Miriam experiences issue with her health.
“I actually noticed the first symptoms of osteoarthritis when I was only 35 years old,” she remembers. “Some swelling in my knuckles turned out to be Heberden’s nodes [see boxed text], and I was grateful that it didn’t progress any further at that stage.
“Ten years ago, my knees started to protest. I had broken a bone in my knee when I was at school and that was where the new problems began.”
Miriam’s GP confirmed that she had osteoarthritis.
“For a while I lived with it, but the pain became progressively worse and began interfering with my life and work to the extent that a knee replacement operation was the only option,” she explains. “I did some thorough research using the National Joint Registry website, which gives the statistics for surgeons and hospitals.
“The South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre seemed to be a state of the art hospital for knee replacements and other operations, and luckily was local to where I was living. I was keen to see a particular specialist called Giles Heilpern, and that’s who I was referred to. He was very honest about the outcome I could expect, explaining that about 80% of patients have a good outcome, and the other 20% are not as happy with the result.”
Miriam’s knee replacement operation in May 2016 went well and she booked herself in for a five-week recovery stint at The Clavadel, a purpose built short stay care centre that specialises in post-operative, rehabilitation and convalescent care.
Miriam has been thrilled with her recovery and has since made some lifestyle changes.
“A personal trainer is helping me to build up my muscles, especially my quads as the knee is not quite fully stable,” she says. “And I have moved house so I have less stairs to take on every day.
“I suspect I have osteoarthritis in other joints, certainly my hands and shoulders, but I have learned to live with it. The pain seems worse when the weather is damp or wet, and better when I’m busy and active.”
“It’s staggering how many people have arthritis and my situation is nowhere near as bad as others. My good friend Patsy Byrne who played Nursie in Blackadder was confined to her home by osteoarthritis. When you’re young you just never think you’ll get things like this, it never enters your consciousness.
“My advice for anyone living with arthritis pain is to keep moving as much as possible and don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Get up and stretch and bend… and do that little bit more than you want to. All of the illnesses we can fall victim to have societies and it is worth getting involved and sharing experiences. Be proactive, don’t get sunk in the depression of the disease. Nobody escapes pain or stress, we’re all having a problem and we all need an inside strength to keep going.”
For more information about Miriam Margolyes visit www.miriammargolyes.com.
What are Heberden’s nodes?
Firm, knobbly swellings that form on the end finger joints over several years are caused by osteophytes and are known as Heberden’s nodes. Once the nodes have fully formed, tenderness and pain usually improve; the fingers may be knobbly and slightly bent but they still work well. (If the nodes are at the mid-finger joint they are known as Bouchard’s nodes.)
Photography: Mark Douet, Design: Kathrin Jacobsen
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