Friday, 18 November 2011

Total knee replacements, three years on.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Ed Newman, examining an-X-Ray of my knees after two years.
A number of people have inquired as to how my new knees are working. Today it is three years ago since  I had the operation done and my old knees were replaced with Stryker Orthopaedics, Triathlon Knee System, pictured below. Photo: Bob McKerrow

 In 2008 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, my knees were on the verge of finally giving up. I had no cartilage, just bone on bone.The pain was excrutiating. I had to do something.

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 was 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.

1. Get yourself fit for the operation. Make sure the muscles in your legs are strong. I did a lot of stationery cycling and exercises prescribed by the surgeon.

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 an Exercycle for 5 minutes and this was a wonderful exercise that helped me get maximum flexibility in my knees.

An X Ray of my knees after two years. Photo: Bob McKerrow

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 loads 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 in Jakarta where I cycled a lot in the first 18 months. Photo: Ablai McKerrow

At one stage after about four and a half months, I increased my walking up to7 km a day , but then eased off as I realised that these new knees have limited life, so I eased back to a maximum of 5 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 3 years  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 climbing a high mountain soon..

10. And then there was the step counter I bought in late January 2009  in Singapore, almost 3 months after the operation.. I averaged a minimu of 10,000 steps a day. That has kept me competing against the counter and the weight continues to come off.

So after 6 months I was averaging 4 km a day,and leading a very normal life.

Three years later I am exercising every day either swimming, walking or a workout in the gym. I enjoy walking the most as I find gyms boring. Swimming is good as you can do stretching exercises without so much weight. A favourite exercise is kneeling at the shallow end of the pool and sittting back on your haunches. It increases the movement in both knees.

I have kept  away from jogging, but I lift heavy items and lead a perfectly normal life. I am planninmg to climb a high mountain next year and believe I can do it.

So if you are in doubt, go for double knee replacements. Don't go for s single replacement and then have to go through all the pain again. Get it done at one go. Contact me if you need advice.

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.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
I recall well spending time with you very shortly after your surgery. Your energy and spirit were an inspiration to me in facing my own replacement surgery. Being without that pain and being able to be back in the mountains and active has changed my life. Glad to read you are planning on climbing once again. Kia kaha e hoa!

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Thanks Robb, It was people like you who gave me the strength to keep at with the pain was intense and I struggled to sleep at nights.

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