After decades of marathon running, tramping (bush walking), climbing, skiing, triathlons, lugging heavy packs full of hut repair equipment up to tramping and alpine club huts, and later resupplying huts in the Mt. Cook National Park, and frequent praying in the kneeling position, my knees were on the verge of finally giving up. I had no cartilage, just bone on bone.
Orthopaedic Surgeon Ed Newman on the day of the operation, marking my legs to guide him during the operation. Photo: Ruia McKerrow
Six months down the track, I am walking 5 to 7km a day and feeling healthy, happy and delighted that I took the plunge and got the operation done. Now that I am able to exercise without pain, I have lost 13 kg in weight.
In St George's hospital, the day I left. Photo" Ruia McKerrow
So what information can I pass onto others planing to get this operation done.
Cycling on my 19th floor balcony in Jakarta.Photo: Ablai McKerrow
2. Get yourself well set up at home or where ever you are going to recover, and ensure you have a raised toilet seat and a shower hose to wash yourself. I was fortunate as I stayed with my daughter Ruia, who is a nurse, and looked after me so well.
3. In the weeks folowing the operation, listen carefully to the physios as you need to get movement back in your knees as quickly as possible. They will push you and it will be painful, but you must concentrate on gradually getting a 90 degree bend in the knee, and slowly extend it in excess of 110 degrees.
4.See a top physiotherapist for as long as necessary. My last appointment with Leslie Kettle, was after 7 weeks. After one month, she put me on and Exercycle for 5 minutes and this was a wonderful exercise that helped me get maximum flexibility in my knees.
5. Don't overdo it. After being discharged from hospital after 9 days, I built up over the first two weeks, walking one km twice a day, After a month, I increased that a little plus extra short walks and all the prescribed flexibility/stretching exercises. After 6 weeks I was walking at least 2 km 2 to 3 times a day.
6.. Don't carry any heavy load in the first three months.
7. From month 2 onwards, I mixed cycling with walking. Say 3km of walking, and 2 km of cycling.
The view from my balcony as I cycle in the mornings. Photo: Ablai McKerrow
At one stage after about four and a half months, I increased my walking up to 10 km for a week, but then eased off as I realised that these new knees have limited life, so I eased back to a maximum of 7 km a day.
8. Massage your knees regularly to help circulation and perhaps it helps the nerves to grow and bring back feeling. Even after 6 months I do not have full feeling in my knees, but the feeling is slowly coming back.
9 It is a major operation. Develop a positive attitude. Set small targets and make sure you attain them. In the early and dark days when you are struggling to take ten steps, visualise yourself walking freely across grassy meadows without pain. Even now, I visualise me climbing a mountain in a years time.
10. And then there was the step counter I bought in late January in Singapore. I average a minimu of 10,000 steps a day. That has kept me competing against the counter and the weight continues to come off.
Special thanks to Ed Newman, Surgeon, Leslie Kettle physiotherapist. Ruia and Gavin for putting me up in their home for two months, and Aroha for regular massage on my legs in the first six weeks.