Because of my orthopaedic care I can climb “14ers” again – mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet. There are 54 in my home state of Colorado. After my two knee replacements I chose to climb Mount Evans (35 miles west of Denver, near Idaho Springs in the Arapaho and Pike national forests) at 14,265 feet on Sept. 2, 2013. I did this just 14 weeks after my second surgery, with my good friend and climbing partner Ken, and our wives.
The climb went GREAT!! At least the knees did. The climb was tougher than I imagined, with a 1 mile trail straight up the east side of Evans, going some 1,450 vertical feet. Great news: while my lungs hungered for oxygen, and my leg muscles worked really hard, I did not feel any pain in my knees throughout the entire ascent. This was the first time I had not felt knee pain in seven years. Much of the ascent was like climbing two stair steps at a time, putting plenty of weight on both knees, and a significant test on the success of my knee replacements. The final climb from the parking lot on Evans to the actual summit was easier, but included a descent—again – and no pain at all! The whole day was about testing my knees during strenuous exercise. And at the end of the day, I looked down at my knees, and they never hurt.
There is something very spiritual about climbing a mountain, about getting to the top. The emotion is achieving something that you don’t start off thinking is within your reach, and the only way you do it is with the strength of God and what’s inside you. Accomplishing the climb put an exclamation point on the end of my two knee replacement surgeries! This year I have accomplished another “14er” – up and down Mount Democrat (14,148 feet) on August 2nd. My climbing partner, Ken, and I have several more 14ers in sight for 2015 and beyond– including Mount Elbert, which is Colorado’s highest peak at 14,433 feet, with a 4,100 foot ascent. This will be, by far, my tallest and longest climb yet– thanks again to Dr. Blackwood and his advances in knee replacement surgery.
I advise other patients to not put off having your knees checked out if you are having pain. The relief from getting them taken care of (in my case replaced) is so worth it. Also, research your doctor completely. Look for advanced, state of the art procedures, like I found through Dr. Blackwood. I can’t tell you how much of a difference his procedures and methods made. Finally, find a physical therapist that is going to push you hard, and make you work in getting your strength and bend back– like Katie.And lastly, have a goal in mind for your “second first”– something that drives you through your recovery, and gives you a very tangible reason for making the decision to fix your problem– as I did with my knees and my desire to climb again.
I have been working for IBM for almost 46 years. I had been feeling bone pain for nearly seven years. In 2012, while climbing Pike’s Peak with my hiking partner Ken Larsen, I knew I needed to do something or I would never be able to climb a mountain again. I had had the regimen of shots to try and relieve my knee pain, but it was finally bone-on-bone, so a next step was needed. Like most people, I procrastinated, but when I saw the announcement of Dr. Blackwood coming to Boulder, and of his more advanced techniques, everything clicked and I knew it was time to look into that next step.
My treatment and recovery
Dr. Blackwood replaced my right knee on March 13 and my left knee on May 15, 2013. He used a less invasive procedure that involves making a 5-to-7 inch incision during each surgery, versus the more traditional 8-to-12 inch incision. I also started medication before surgery to control pain and inflammation more effectively, and received a spinal anesthetic instead of a general anesthesia which makes recovery easier. Like 90 percent of patients that Dr. Blackwood treats for this type of knee surgery, I was discharged from the hospital the next day.
After that, I began physical therapy, which continued until I could bend each of my knees at an 128-degree angle, and straighten them completely. My physical therapy — Katie Madsen at Physiotherapy Associates in Longmont–worked miracles with me, helping me to make the progress and recovery I need, on both knees. The work was not easy, but Katie helped encourage and rive me through the process.
Dr. Blackwood did an incredible job, and his less invasive, more advanced (surgical) methods allowed me to get back on the mountain WAY before I would have ever expected to, just 14 weeks after my second knee replacement surgery. Climbing the mountain before the snow hit in September was a goal for me and my motivation to get through rehabilitation as soon as possible.
Dr. Blackwood not only gave me my knees back, he gave me my next hiking trip which I didn’t think I would ever do again.