After literally decades of dealing with knee pain and restrictions in my life, I had made the decision to get double knee replacement surgery. Yes, both knees at the same time. I had come to this conclusion in the past but had backed out and tried many other alternative solutions. I have decided to document my journey so that others in my shoes will have a map to follow.
The first recollection of my having issues with my knees was probably shortly after high school. My knees would ache and “catch” from time to time. As I got older, they got progressively worse. I realized I had a real problem when I started training for a half-ironman distance triathlon. I had been competing in triathlons for a couple of years increasing my distances and performance. As the runs got longer I would be in such pain that I could hardly walk after a run workout. I would rest and they would get a little better and I would run again.
Confused and frustrated about not being able to do what my peers were doing I went and got an x-ray. There it was in black and white. I had lost most of my cartilage in the medial (inner part) of my knees. From this point through the next 8 or 9 years I tried EVERYTHING I could think of to improve my situation. Supplements, Therapy, Prescription Drugs, PRP, Prolotherapy, Stem Cell Injections, Rest, Chiropractic Care, Massage, Steroids, and CrossFit. I even tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain Human Growth Hormone.
It seems like everything I tried allowed me to keep going a little further. Believe it or not, CrossFit probably helped me more than anything. There were always setbacks and acute injuries but I would rehab my injury and deal with the chronic pain. Every set of x-rays I received showed a little more deterioration of my knee joints.
February 2017 was the last straw. I was sitting on my butt in my attic and my right knee just began to hurt. As the pain increased and mobility decreased my frustration increased and my motivation to keep going was gone. I have had doctors and therapists tell me that knee replacements were in my future but I was too young to get them done. I am going to be 48 years old in June 2017 and my knees are DONE!
A little footnote here; I had been praying for about 2 weeks consistently for new knees. This is not the first time I have done this and certainly would not call myself a “religious” man, but I am a man of faith and believe in the power of God and the power He instilled in me to make things happen. It’s just that sometimes it does not look like you have it pictured in your head.
These old knees have taken me thru triathlons (including Sprints, Olympic Distances, and Half Ironman Distance), 10k races, 5k races, obstacle course races, 50-100 mile bike rides, backpacking across mountains in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and California, CrossFit competitions, and countless hours of training. I was able to Deadlift more than twice my body weight, Back Squat 335lb, Front Squat 285lb, and Pistol Squat (single leg squat). As I write this, I am thankful for all the places and things I was able to accomplish with them.
I made the decision, did my research, chose my surgeon, and made the appointment. It took over 2 weeks to get me in to see him. He confirmed what I already knew and was fantastic at walking me thru the steps and answering my questions. The surgeon told me he has seen people with x-rays like mine and those people came in on wheelchairs. He apprehensively agreed to do both knees at the same time and he was going to work on a surgery date for me. I went home and told my family, and waited for my date with destiny.
To my surprise, the surgeon’s assistant got back to me the next day. She said they had a cancellation and had an opening the next week (3/16/17)…. Then, shit just got REAL! I agreed and we got the process moving. Scared, excited, shocked but ready. I was not sure how to treat my body for the next week. Do I workout out, do I live it up for a week, does it even matter what I do? I decided to continue to do the things that have gotten me this far. Train, track my calories, drink a few beers and prepare myself for what lies ahead.
I went the next day to my
-op interview (4 hours of fun). When I arrived there were 3 others in my Joint Class. One of them was in a wheelchair and the other was very slow walkers, both having to use canes. This is where I realized that not only is it unique that I have to have this replacement at my age, I also have much more mobility and strength than the average candidate. I was again feeling very thankful for being able to do all the things I have done over the years and that my future without replacements would be very limiting and painful.
The week before surgery had me doing all kinds of prep work and tying up loose ends. I had breathing treatments to strengthen my lungs against pneumonia, nasal gel and antibiotic cleanse, and wipes to prevent staph and mercer infections. I had no idea I had to do all this pre-surgery work, but I guess it’s better than the alternatives. I also have business and home responsibilities that I wanted to take care of.
Definitely, a lot goes through your mind when you prepare to embark on a journey like this. I thought back on how long I have been hurting. I not only remembered all the activities and events I was a part of but also all the pain and things I missed out on because of that pain. I even was debating in my mind whether or not this is still too early. I was anxious about the recovery and rehab, wondering how long would I be down, how long before I get to train again and how bad is going to hurt.