Hard work, but a good idea


A new knee is a wonderful thing. But that’s not exactly the word I’d use to describe mine right now.

Since there’s a new artificial knee joint now resting in my left leg, it looks like there’s no turning back. I have to believe that it was a Good Idea to have the old, worn-out knee joint and the accompanying arthritis removed and replaced with one made of metal and plastic. I sincerely hope the new hardware gives me years of easy, painless movement doing everything I want to do. That includes playing with grandchildren and riding my bike.

In this 21st century, joint replacement surgery is as common as cell phones at the dinner table. In fact, some 600,000 knee replacement surgeries are now done annually in the U.S. since the first knee replacement was done in 1974.

Once my surgery was first scheduled and as the date grew closer, nearly everyone I encountered volunteered that they had a new knee. Or two or maybe three. One man I know even had both knees replaced at the same time. A good friend has had both knees and both hips replaced. And no one even suggested that having a new knee turned out to be a bad idea once they came out the other side of recovery and therapy.

Just because this is a common surgery, though, doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. I started physical therapy just a few days after discharge from the hospital, and it continues several times a week until mid-December. It’s hard work, and I’ve done lots of things that are more fun, but I look forward to again moving with ease and without pain. Right now that seems to be a rather distant goal.

Still, consider how lucky we are to be living in a time when this type of surgery is available and safe, as are so many other medical procedures. Years ago, it used to be quite common for people to die from infection after stepping on a rusty nail. Now we just get a tetanus shot and don’t think much about it. People used to die from appendicitis, too. My grandfather died in 1932 from a burst undiagnosed pulmonary embolism, a condition we still consider serious but one that can quite easily be detected. And when I recently got a vaccination the nurse remarked about how few parents are having their children vaccinated against polio now. Her theory is that’s because virtually nobody these days has seen polio or even knows what it can do.

Just stop for a moment and consider how blessed we are to be living in a time when having a new joint put into our body is routine and available to just about everyone. I’ll try to remember that in the weeks ahead.