Because of my orthopaedic care, I can successfully officiate high school softball and football games pain-free.
It has been quite a journey to get to the point where I am now. I had three minor meniscus surgeries in the 2000s, but Dr. Hagen had told me I would definitely be a candidate for knee replacement on both knees at some point in the future. While I dealt with pain for some time, it gradually got to the point in late 2009 and early 2010 that it was almost unbearable to drive or ride in a car unless my legs were straight out and I was always in some state of discomfort.
I officiated by first softball game in late March behind the plate and really didn’t have too much trouble. However, the next evening I worked a 3-man game at a local high school that involved a lot of scoring and a whole lot of running. I really struggled the entire game and afterwards knew that I could not handle another game, let along a 50-game schedule. I went home that evening and contacted a person in Terre Haute, IN to help cover my southern games and another person here in Lafayette to cover games in this area. In my mind I was RETIRING from officiating. In doing so, I had two different people who contacted me about replacing me for certain games comment that they were familiar with people who had had knee replacements and came back to officiate. This lead me to contact Dr. Hagen’s nurse, Jean, to ask her a few questions. Among things I asked her were, “Can both knees be replaced at the same time?” I knew both were about equally damaged and painful. I also asked if she could get me in to see Dr. Hagen quickly and, if he agreed, about how long I might I have to wait to have this done.
Jean quickly arranged an appointment for me and while I felt like I was begging to have this surgery, Dr. Hagen explained what had been done over the years, why I was in so much pain, and conclusively pointed out that about two-thirds of the poeple who had knees like mine had them replaced already and the other one-third were just buying time. This is what I wanted to hear. I needed this done and I was ready! Also, a part of the discussion was that besides being able to live a normal life I hoped to still officiate high school softball. It has been a passion of mine since I started in 1989 and I had worked three state championship games and wanted to continue for a few more years. Then Dr. Hagen mentioned football. While I had been officiating this since 2001 and also tremendously enjoyed this, I had completely given this up in my mind. When he asked about football he said I could probably get back for the 2010 season. I asked him, “You mean by the tournament in October?” He said, “No, in August to start the season!” I was incredulous! He told me that if I did everything he and the therapists wanted me to do, it could be done. This really got me excited to have the surgery and start getting my life back to normal.
About three weeks later, on April 22, I went in for the surgery. Two hours later I was in recovery. I stayed in the hospital until Sunday and then my wife took me home. I was virtually pain-free and using a walker to go to the bathroom, etc. Getting a toilet safety rail was essential, as even with it, I was barely able to get back up after sitting on the toilet for the first couple of days! Otherwise, I was doing quite well. I slept in a rocker recliner and my wife stayed home from work on Monday, my first full day off. I was pretty self sufficient and convinced her I would be fine at home alone so she returned to work on Tuesday, April 27.
I did therapy and exercises diligently and I really cut down on food intake and ate much better than I normally do because I was afraid the relative inactivity would lead to weight gain and I didn’t need that! Dr. Hagen told me to take 4-5 weeks off of school (I am a teacher), but I came back after 3 1/2 weeks in time for finals and then went right into teaching Drivers’ Education in early June. At first, I was a little concerned about using my legs for the brake on my side, if needed, but while I had certainly not regained all of my flexibility, I was able to safely operate, if necessary, what I needed to teach Drivers’ Education in June.
Eleven weeks after the surgery, Dr. Hagen allowed me to start jogging and 15 weeks and 2 days after surgery I was officiating a football scrimmage at another local high school. I wasn’t very fast, but then I never have been, but I was pain-free! I went on to not only officiate every Friday through round 2 of the sectionals in late October, but also worked a lower-level game or two per week. As a sideline official, I would find the trainer before the game and ask them to watch our crew and see if they could figure out which one of us was coming off of a double knee replacement procedure. A few times I was not able to see the trainer after the game, but the times I did none of them thought it was me!
Then it was winter and I looked forward to softball. I had worked by 3rd state championship in 2007 and, therefore, was eligible to work my 4th championship in 2011, IF I EARNED IT!. Over the winter I continued to gain more flexibility, strength and coordination. In turn, I got my confidence back and became a better umpire than I had been before the knee replacement surgery. The season went well. My coach’s vote was again very good and I was honored to be selected to work the plate for the 2A championship in early June 2011. It was an extremely hot day and the game went extra innings, but I successfully made it through all 9 innings and most importantly, I was NOT a factor in the outcome of the game–the players were!
I must point out that each succeeding season I continue to improve from the previous season on being able to run as I officiate–smoother, quicker and faster. It continues to amaze me, my wife and various coaches that not only have I had the surgery, but what it has done for me and what I am able to do on a daily basis. I owe so much to Dr. Hagen and his team for enabling me to live a high quality of life as I approach the age of 60.