The Changing Face of Joint Replacement
The power of pain often seems impossible to overcome. Ronnie Haislip is a fit and healthy 58-year-old man whose knee pain has suddenly threatened his active lifestyle. Follow his story as he walks through the questions, challenges, and hope of joint replacement surgery.
Back on the Farm
Now, more than a week out, it's good to be home. I have to say, looking back, the doctors and staff at Saint Thomas did all they could do to comfort me. I had a very special night technician, Lyn, who I must have called 10 times Tuesday night. It was a very weird night, but she made things much more bearable.
I’ve been able to settle in at home. All the animals were glad to see me. (Well, I don't think the ducks and chickens cared, but my dogs and pet crow, Herman, were happy about my return.)
I’ve been sleeping much better. I got up one time and was back to bed. I’ve had my first therapy session at Star Therapy in Nolensville. It was a little painful but went well. I was pretty sore the rest of the evening.
Not much to report, as most of my time has been spent on the couch. But I expect that to change soon!
The Other Side
Well, it’s over. And I’m doing fine, but it’s been a little more intense than anyone expected.
Thanks to Dr. Berklacich and his crack team, they identified a significant meniscus tear, as well as a large cyst in my knee. (Could have been all the work I put my knee through leading up to surgery.) They repaired the tear and wore my bone down to account for the cyst.
Not your routine knee-replacement surgery!
After my surgery at 7:30 a.m., I was approached by the PT to get up and walk around the floor. It wasn't bad, since my leg was dead. I was able to rest a little.
The next day was another rough day, but I did order all the meals and ate a little more each time. I was put on a regular diet after 24 hours. I’ll spare the details of that night to say this: nighttime TV is really bad, and I don’t see why anyone would have 19 kids and counting.
Thursday was a better day, but I was ready to go home. I was still sick and had pain but felt I would be better off at home being as to staying there. Saint Thomas’s Dr. Mark Peacock was assigned to me for my general care, and it seemed he really took an interest in me, which I greatly appreciated.
Waking up Friday morning must have been how Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz felt after her house landed and she stepped out of the door. It seemed the air was better, my sight was crisper and the good part of life was coming back. I had physical therapy at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Dr. Berklacich’s assistant, Angela Stewart, visited me and tried her best to explain everything I had been through. She was very nice. I did most of the PT exercises and graduated with a new pair of Saint Thomas Health shorts and shirts.
Overall the surgery experience was more intense than anticipated. But, things usually are in my world. I'm looking forward to getting back to the things I love to do, like walks with my wife and animals on our farm trails, being with my family and friends and yes, especially, CROSSFIT. It's going to happen, but I just don't know when.
It's Go Time
The night before surgery, and I’m feeling a little bit nervous. Everything will go fine. I know that. The doctors at Saint Thomas will have me better than new in no time, but I keep thinking about how I will feel afterward. In my preparation class with the doc, he told me how painful coming out of surgery can be and how long that pain can linger. Patients who receive a hip replacement typically need pain medication for three weeks; for knee replacements, it is double that – 6 weeks of meds.
I’m also growing somewhat worried that I will push myself too hard after surgery. I hate being sedentary. When I had my meniscus operated on a few years ago, I came back too fast. With that type of surgery, a 100% return is expected. However, I grew impatient with rehab quickly and wanted to start pushing my body to its limits again. I need to take it a little easier after this surgery – even though, as I pointed out last week, I won’t be able to mess up anything but my stitches.
I don’t want my age to catch up with me, and that’s the whole reason I’ve elected to undergo this surgery. I have to keep my mind on what it will be like afterward – not the pain and medication and struggling – but how wonderful it will be to have a healthy knee I can use to its fullest.
Wish me luck.
How Will I Get to CrossFit?
I had a two-hour preparation class this week, 10 days out from surgery, to go over some of the pre-surgery requirement – blood work, etc. There was a Q&A section with my doctor which was very helpful. I left feeling more comfortable after getting to ask the questions that have been wracking my brain in the days leading up to surgery.
The good news I learned: once the surgery is complete, I won’t be able to hurt anything in my knee but the stitches. They say it’s really hard to mess up these state-of-the-art joints they’re using these days.
The bad news: I’ll be unable to drive for three weeks! My very first thought was, “How will I get to CrossFit?” I was trying to come up with solutions to that before I even stopped to think, “Maybe my body won’t be ready to get back in the gym.”
I’m confident it will be ready to go in no time though. I wanted to get my name on the board at Talon CrossFit in Franklin one last time before surgery, as recognition for the best results of my age group. I did it in rowing, as well as a category called “Wall Ball,” where you have to throw a medicine ball high against a wall. It was great to end on a high note.
Relaxing and Stretching
If you know me, you know that I don’t stay still for very long. I’ve still been pushing myself to live the lifestyle I want, bad knee or not. This lifestyle often includes chasing around ornery animals and working out, but I also work in plenty of relaxation time riding jetskis and traveling. Most of the time my knee doesn’t hurt too bad, so I decided to take one last trip before my surgery: to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. And I’m only packing t-shirts and swim trunks.
Surgery is not far away, and I’ve been in the gym just about my typical amount. It recently struck me that I’ve gotten used to using my left knee (the good knee) for most of my activities, which I’m sure is taking a toll there. I’ll have to be careful in the future.
More and more, I can feel my knee joint wobbling inside my leg. It’s not exactly painful, but a little bit gross. CrossFit utilizes a yoga stretch called the “pigeon,” where one leg is extended behind you on the ground and the other is crossed in front of you. When I put my hand on my knee during the pigeon stretch, I can feel the joint shifting and shaking. Each time, I can’t help but imagine what it will be like after the surgery.
I can’t wait.
Curiosity, Cats, etc.
I'm a very curious person. I love to learn about new things. Usually, that means I’m checking out a car engine I’ve never seen before or investigating what kind of animal I’d like to add to the farm. Sometimes, however, this trait comes back to bite me (and I’m not talking about animals).
Recently, I decided to do some research on my own about my upcoming joint replacement surgery. An innocent Google search quickly led me to YouTube, where there is a whole assortment of videos of the joint replacement process, including some that matched exactly what I’m about to undergo. Let’s just say, these videos did nothing to help put my fears to rest.
I am anxious. It’s a very strange thought, almost like a nonsensical dream. A manufactured, implanted body part? Yes. As I said in my last post – it’s still hard to believe that what I watched in the video will be happening to my very own knee. But the doctors at the Saint Thomas Joint Replacement Institute have been absolutely exceptional in all of my ongoing interactions with them, and it certainly helps to know that I’m in such good hands.
CrossFit exercises require a demanding combination of strength, endurance and agility. After my upcoming surgery, I plan to make it back into the gym just as soon as physically possible. I work out at Talon CrossFit in Franklin, where my trainer Dennis and his wife Tara have had to listen to me complain about my knee for too long. I’m already looking forward to remembering what it’s like to have a fully functioning knee, without the pain meds. And once that’s the case, I’ll have about three months to get my conditioning back up to par.
That’s because the CrossFit Open competition takes place near the end of February each year. The top 200 make it to The CrossFit Games – something like the Olympics for us fitness-heads. As Crossfit.com describes it: “At each CrossFit Games, the athletes engage in a series of challenges unknown to them until right before the competition. The combination of highly-trained athletes and unknown workouts makes for an explosive mix. ESPN Magazine went so far as to call the Games the ‘best way to spend 50 bucks’ in sports.”
Last year, I finished 219th out of 1,500 participants in my age group. While it hurt to barely miss the cut, that number has motivated me ever since to one day make it over the hump. I know I can do it – even if I never planned on doing it just three months after a knee replacement.
Most days, if I can avoid looking in the mirror, I still feel 30-something. So it’s a little hard to believe that I’m just under a month away from joint replacement surgery. I never expected to be a joint replacement patient, especially at the age of 58.
But I also never expected to have such a miserably painful knee. I love to travel (and have been lucky to take a few wonderful trips lately), but the knee pain caused by being cramped up on the plane has been almost more than I can take.
More importantly, however, I love the workouts I do as part of my CrossFit routine. Last week, I went to the gym for the first time since my trip to Italy, and frankly, it was a nightmare. I’m already having fluid removed from my knee every two to three weeks, but the pain is only getting worse. The doctor doubled the cortisone shot last week, so I’m at least able to get around.
What else can I tell you about myself? I’m semi-retired, sharing an 83-acre farm with many colorful animals in Davidson County. I once reached fourth-degree black belt, but that’s been many years ago.
Mostly, what you need to know is that I don’t want to waddle through life. I want to run. And as I run through the joint replacement process, I hope you’ll try to keep up. Lucky for me, I have a special goal keeping me motivated – more on that next time.