Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Skiing? Doctor Says No

Back in 1978 I discovered how much fun cross-country skiing is. In 1980 I had a massive automobile accident (kids, don't drink and drive on twisty mountain roads in the rain -- ask me how I know). I broke a lot of bones: my right ankle was shattered, my right hip and right shoulder were broken, some ribs (who's counting at this point?) were fractured ... and my left knee -- from about three inches above the joint to an inch or so below the joint -- was turned into bone shards. 

The ER doctors did what they could to paste me back together. "Looked like gravel in there," the surgeon commented. 

I spent 3 months in the hospital, 6 months in a wheelchair. A second surgery was needed for the knee because it wasn't knitting. More wheelchair time, then a walker, then crutches, then a cane. And for 17 years I was pretty okay. Lucky to be walking. 

But the knee started to wear out, and in 1997 I achieved that lovely bone-on-bone pain that happens when the meniscus is worn through. 

I got opinions from several knee men (I say "men" because they were all men) and the concensus was that I needed a TKA -- total knee arthroplasty, or total knee replacement. In 1998 I was cut open again, and the end of the femur (thigh bone) and top of the tibia (shin bone) were removed and this wonderful titanium Terminator-style knee was put in. It sets off alarms at all airports. Secondary screening is routine. 

My skiing days were over, said Dr. James C. Esch, M.D., the man that did the procedure. Because the femur had been broken into so many pieces, and because the original surgeries were only able to put things together so well, the prosthetic knee they ordered up had a special long stem that was shoved up into my femur for at least 8 inches. 

The stem has a hexagonal cross-section. "One fall with a ski on that leg with a good twist, and it could shatter your femur," he said.

Walking is pretty painful sometimes, because of my bad ankle. I've got a bad limp, too. Bicycling, which I love anyway, does not hurt my leg joints and I cycle whenever I can. 

But now we're in Bend, where there is cross country skiing, and downhill skiing, and snowshoeing and other winter activities to do when cycling isn't such a good idea on the icy roads. 

So I decided to get a fresh opinion on this whole skiing versus my knee thing. 

My primary care physician recommended two knee men at The Center: Dr Hall and Dr Beuhler. I checked out their cv's, and they both looked qualified, and they both enjoyed winter sports. So I flipped a coin and picked James A. Hall, M.D.

Saw him yesterday. 

He looked at the new X-rays and said that he could see that Esch had had to make a lot of revisions (special modification) to deal with the wreckage he was working with. And that there's no way I should ever get on skiis. Even cross-country on a meadow. But I could snowshoe. 

Snowshoeing looks like a bit of a slog compared with cross-country skiing. But it's better than nothing!

1 comment:

  1. :
    Ouch! No, double-ouch! I've heard some bad knee stories in my days around the ski lodge, but yours is one of the worst, of the ones that ended up still being able to walk. Yowsa! What a team to put it back together for you.

    Cycling kicks-ass over skiing anyway.


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