You will know when it is time.

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, June 8, 2024

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I was not yet old enough to drive when I found out I had to have knee surgery.  After a football injury at Girard Junior High and a basketball injury while playing for the Rec Center Bombers, my kneecap developed a bad habit of sliding to the back side of my leg.  After a lot of therapy and more needles inserted to drain fluid than I could count, I found my way to the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, where the legendary Jack Hughston operated on my knee himself.

I spent a week in the hospital, had a morphine drip for several days and left sporting a nine-inch scar that had been tied together with steel wire.  Although I went for checkups for many years and later met Dr. Hughston in his role as Auburn’s team doctor, I still remember his last words to me following my discharge.  “One day, you will have arthritis”.  He was right.

Thirty years later I began going to orthopedic surgeons again, first for the same right knee, then later for my left knee.   Thanks to good doctors, physical therapists, and some innovative treatment with injections, I managed to keep the deteriorating knees in check.

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After my move to Auburn, I began to have trouble with my right hip, then my left.  I found myself going to a physical trainer two days a week and a physical therapist for three more days a week.  I kept the pain at bay and discovered that I could live without pain if I did not do anything.  That meant giving up walking, avoiding steps at all costs, not sitting in stadium seats, and having periodic episodes involving various levels of pain.

Three different doctors told me that I would have to have surgery.  It was hard to accept because more than half the time I felt just fine.  They all said the same thing to me.  “You will know when it is time”.

After a particularly tough time with my back (also arthritic) which relegated me to walking with a cane for two months, I decided to have something done.  I visited a back specialist who informed me he thought my hips were the biggest issue.  “Your problem is you have a lot of problems”.  He then suggested it was time I considered having some of these joints fixed.

Over 55 years later, I found myself back at Hughston Clinic seeing a young doctor who was not even born when my knee was done by Dr. Hughston.  After looking at the x-rays he simply said, “Which one do you want to do first?”

This past Tuesday I had a full left knee replacement.  More specifically, I had a “Total Hip Arthroplasty, Direct Anterior Approach”.  I was in surgery for an hour and a half, in recovery another hour, and walking down the hall just after lunch.

I spent the night in my own bed, took a shower the next morning, and cautiously put my full weight on my new hip.  I gained 8 pounds that day, not because of the weight of the knee, but rather from all the fluids they had pumped into me.

I only took one pain pill in the hospital and another that night.  The next morning, I committed to only using Tylenol as the Percocet pain pill just made me feel awful.  It was not a problem as I really have had only minimal pain.

  Tomorrow I will have my bandage removed.  Hopefully the stitches have dissolved.  If all goes according to plan, I will start walking with just a cane and perhaps drive myself by the end of the week.

I realize that surgery has changed a lot since my knee surgery in 1968.  In particular, hip replacement has become one of the easiest and most successful joint replacement surgeries, partially due to the newer anterior approach.  This method involves making the incision in the front of your thigh and moving the muscles and tendons rather than cutting through them.

I knew it was time when I could no longer put my sock on my left foot.  I just could not get my ankle up that high.  Not a huge thing for a retired man, but I could not bring myself to go sockless to church.  After all, it took me fifty years before I could worship without a tie.

I would add a bit of advice that I neglected to take when it was offered to me.  Do not wait too long.  As easy as this surgery has been, it would have been better if I had done it five or ten years ago.

Thanks for the cards, emails, texts, and prayers.  Hope to see you around soon.  I will the guy walking around without a limp.