A New Man - One Piece at a Time

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

John Takara, one of our prolific alumni bloggers recently underwent some heavy reconstruction.

He tells the story of gimping around to the ski slopes in just a couple of months.

On the first run I must've fallen 15 times, each fall requiring a strenuous effort to get back up.  Despite the strain, the hip held up just fine. Eventually, I reached the backside of the mountain where, sheltered from the wind, I returned each day, venturing out only on the easier runs. The conditions there were very nice and I enjoyed two days of easy skiing. But on the last run of the last day, I took a hard fall, landing on my right side, spraining my right shoulder. Ironically, the bionic hip was just fine.

It's now been seven months post-surgery. Life is back to normal. There's no pain in the hip and I'm able to do everything I was doing pre-arthritis.  My son was right; I was trading good years for bad.

Symptoms of arthritis in my right hip developed suddenly during a rigorous Alaskan fishing trip two years before. The pain was severe enough to interfere with sleep, my workout routine and household duties.

I initially considered joint replacement, but decided to delay until the pain became intolerable, hoping that the alternatives of glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, turmeric and Advil would be effective.  I may also have been a little fearful exchanging tendons and bone for ceramic and titanium.

Then, last October, my attitude changed while on vacation with family in San Diego.  When I couldn't join in on a cherished tradition, a 5-mile sunset bike ride along Mission Bay, my son sat me down for a heart to heart talk.

First acknowledging my hesitancy over surgery, he asked me if I wasn't trading good years for bad ones.

Those words echoing in my head, I made an appointment with a surgeon immediately upon my return.

Three weeks later, I had a new hip!  Just as I was told, recent advances in surgical technique made for a relatively easy and quick recovery. Initially, the area below the 6-inch vertical incision felt bruised and the muscles weakened, no doubt the result of pulling the muscle bundles apart to expose the joint.

This is a far preferable alternative to the old technique of cutting horizontally through muscle, which requires a long, painful healing process.  

The pain was moderate throughout the recovery and easily managed with Advil.

The requirement to move the new hip was immediately enforced.  In the recovery room, I was required to walk to the bathroom.

The following day, I was made to practice using crutches, including climbing up and down stairs. After one night in the hospital I was sent home with an assignment of four leg exercises to complete in bed three times a day.

I was walking with a cane after a week, climbing stairs without crutches after two weeks and driving after three weeks.

After three months, I went skiing.

The city of Bend in central Oregon is a popular destination in the summer when tourists flock to the area for hiking, fishing, kayaking, and biking. But just 20 miles from town is Mt. Bachelor, a ski resort with 8 lifts and over 30 runs.  In early March my family and I arrived for 3 days of spring skiing.

It had been seven years since my last ski trip, but I had no doubt that skiing is like riding a bike; you don't forget. Wrong!

Unfortunately, conditions that first day were very difficult.  Heavy snowfall and cloud cover dimmed the slopes to a uniform grey, eliminating depth perception.

Worse, thirty miles per hour winds blew deep snow drifts onto the groomed runs.  Grooming a run is like paving a road; it makes for smoother skiing. The runs this day were like driving on a muddy mountain trail. The snow was deep, loose, wet, sticky and difficult to navigate.