30 July 2009

Is There Surfing After Knee Replacement? Hull Yes!!! YES!!

And there it is. You can surf with a titanium knee.

Four waves. Three rights. One left. Some pain. Much joy.

I love my Paul Gross hull!

29 July 2009

If You've Never Surfed in Costume . . .

you're just not down with the cause.

This was apparently taken at last year's Doo Dah Surf.

Just Received This Dispatch from a Vacationing Friend

I rented a surfboard and am going to try surfing later today. Can you give me a couple basic tips? Like where to stand on the board and when to stand up on a wave? I have the board for the rest of the week -- so who knows how good I'll be by Friday. Wish me luck.

Yeah, I can teach you how to surf via email. No problem!

27 July 2009

Good Luck, Tom and Mike!!

Two of my boys are going under the knife this week. Both are surfers whom I met online as a result of this knee. Tom is having surgery as I type this. His knees are jacked up to the point that both are being replaced. I applaud that. Most people prefer to do one at a time. My mother, whose knees were replaced eight years ago, also did both at the same time. People like them are truly incredible. I don't know that I could take that kind of pain.

On Friday, Mike goes in for fusion in his neck. Whatever it is that ails him, it's prevented him from surfing. It's time to get that taken care of.

Both of these guys helped me soldier on as I've recovered from my knee surgery. All three of us are surfers. All three of us are surfers with bad joints. I swear when this is all said and done, we're going to finally meet and paddle out together. Pain-free.

When am I going surfing again? August. That's set in stone. That's a promise. Ain't no half-steppin'! I'm no longer content to sit. No matter what I do, the knee is still going to hurt. I'm not far enough along in the healing process to be without pain on a regular basis. Since that's the case, I'd just as soon be doing something I love while I'm in pain. My range of motion is still somewhat limited, but I've decided I'll work with what I've got. I have neither the time nor the patience to wait for my knee to catch up. I've not given up on it by any means. I still see the massage therapist and the physical therapist once a week for my range of motion issues. I'm swimming. I'm riding the bike on the stationary trainer daily. I'm lifting weights. I'm doing all of this because I want to get back on a surfboard. Well, it's time. I figure a few more weeks of healing will be good enough. Then I'm paddling out, dammit. This week I'm moving boards back into the Woman Cave. Hell, I may even paddle out before the month is out. I don't know. I just know I'm done. Surfing involves a lot of sitting in cold water. Neither of those things will hurt this knee. I can pop-up. I can stand. I can stand with the knees bent. The only problem I see is a wipeout on a sizable day. So I won't go out on a day like that. I'll have to start with the smaller rollers and work my way back up.

But I am paddling out in August. That's a promise.

24 July 2009

The SW Swell of 7/09

I'm bummed that I'm missing a good swell.
I'm not bummed that I don't get to surf it with a thousand of my new best friends.

22 July 2009

Nine Miles and One Sore Knee Later

My knee is a bit more swollen than usual today. Who would have thought that a short bike ride of nine miles would be as much as I could handle? I take that back. I can physically handle more mileage than that. My knee cannot. Oh yeah, I did swim yesterday morning too. I'd forgotten about that. Two workouts in one day? No wonder my knee is unhappy.

The knee is holding up. Unfortunately, recovery is a long process. The fact that I'm physically able to pop-up and ride a wave doesn't mean my knee is ready to do it. My first sessions back in the water will probably see me take a couple of waves before calling it a day. There won't be any of my three-hour sessions any time soon. I have no idea when I'll be able to surf with the kind of intensity I did prior to surgery.

20 July 2009

Knee Replacement: Three Months Later!

Ninety days, a few tears and a couple of titanium pieces later, I'm beginning to appreciate joint replacement for what it is.

I'm almost there. I'm taking the bike outside for a short spin tomorrow. A few of us on the knee replacement forum decided we can no longer stand to ride in place. So, we've synchronized our watches—making adjustments for time changes since we're in different states—and resolved to do a group ride of 10 miles. Of course, the group is really symbolic because those of us on the forum are spread out all over the country. There are two of us here in L.A. who will meet up for the ride. Had I not had my knee replaced, I'd think the plan a silly one. What's the big deal about riding a bike? It's huge for me. Two weeks ago I was barely getting the pedals to turn in a full revolution. Tomorrow I'll be riding in earnest. The plan is to keep the mileage low—10 miles. We're all mindful of the fact that full recovery takes about a year. Most of us are still a few months past the surgery.

My initial date for a return to surfing was July 25th. Am I physically up to the challenge of catching a wave as I sit here today? Probably. My physical therapist had me do pop-ups today. She wanted to see what movements are necessary to get up on the board. I haven't done a pop-up in months. I was truly worried that there would be serious pain once I got to my feet. There was no pain. The question then becomes: Will there be pain tomorrow? The knee might wait until tomorrow to lodge its complaints about today's fun (i.e., massage therapy, physical therapy and pop-ups). Then again, it might not feel any worse than it does today. I do know I'll be surfing soon. I've already moved my surf gear back into my car. I put my 4/3 away, left the 3/2 in the rotation and also grabbed the shorty john. I have the feeling my physical therapist will tell me I'm cleared to surf shortly.

I'll certainly be on the mat soon. I tried to ride it last weekend. I was out at the beach bright and early on Saturday. The waves, unfortunately, weren't worthy of a mat or a surfboard. I'll continue to bide my time. I'm anxious to get on the mat again. I was still getting the hang of the mat when the knee died. I can't wait to get some fins on and put this new knee through its paces. I may get a chance to go out on it some time this week.

You know what's good about this knee stuff? It's forcing me to become front foot dominant. Since my surfing attention is fixated on hulls, that's perfect.

Yeah, I can see the bright side in any situation.

13 July 2009

Swim, Rinse, Repeat

I swam to the buoy again today.That's me doing my best imitation of Buoy, Jr.

Note the tiny thigh above the bionic (left) knee. A year from now, the muscles in that leg should be firing on all cylinders.

Busy day today. I managed to squeeze in a buoy swim between my massage therapy appointment and my physical therapy appointment. I've gained four degrees of flexion from somewhere. I can't believe how happy that news made me. I guess I was getting discouraged. Now my resolve is even stronger. I'm going to get this leg to bend, dammit. I'm not giving up on it yet.

Oh! My physical therapist cleared me to ride the mat. She said I should go no longer than 30 minutes for the first couple of sessions. Then I'm to see how the knee feels. If the pain isn't too great, I'm good to go (i.e., do short mat sessions a few times a week).

12 July 2009

Are We Boring You?

Behold the footrest known as Oxley. I spend an inordinate amount of time, while at the computer, trying not to squish the dog. Do you see why?

As I type this, he's snoring loudly. All it takes is some playtime with his brother at the dog park. Oxley will be quiet for the remainder of the day. And I'll have warm feet.

That Was Way Too Easy

Perhaps it was the low tide. Or the nice, buoyant wetsuit. Or the dolphins? The sunshine? The good company?

I swear it took me all of about five minutes to reach the buoy (with Ria paddling her board next to me). I'm a different swimmer than I was last year when I did this swim on several occasions. I wasn't at all nervous. I was too excited about being back in the ocean.

So, I swam to the buoy. I hung out there for awhile talking. Then I swam south a bit. I managed to run into Ria during that part. Ha! I cannot swim straight. If it weren't for the line at the bottom of the lane, I'd probably be all over the pool! I eventually swam back to the buoy before heading in. After I got out, I thought about going back in for another swim. Then I decided to leave well enough alone. My goal was to swim to the buoy. That's what I did. There was no need to act like I'm a cyborg. I am partially bionic and even that is not without pain at this point. I made myself head to the car. I was happily surprised that my knee felt fine while braving the shorepound. I really thought it would hurt like hell.

It's time to paddle out with the mat!

10 July 2009

The Recovery Rollercoaster

You grow weary of the constant pain, the south swells you can't surf, the limited flexion, the scar that talks to you every minute of the day.

Today is not a good day. Mind you, it's not necessarily a bad one either. I swam this morning. I did a little spinning on the bike (which is still on the stationary trainer). I did all of the things required of me and a wife and mom. But damn if I'm not tired of being on virtual lockdown with this knee. You know, the one that doesn't bend worth shit.

The fact that I can't surf is finally getting to me. The fact that I can't jump on my bike and ride to the beach brings me down every time I sit in the Woman Cave pedaling as if I'm on the Bridge to Nowhere.

The problem I'm having is that there are finally days when I feel good, days when the pain is minimal and therefore my attitude is great. Then there are the days like today, days when the pain is a constant, yet unwanted companion. The good days make it harder to muddle through the bad days.

But muddle through I will.

08 July 2009

Will It Help?

That's the question I keep asking myself when I endure the torture of physical therapy and the active release massage. I come away from both with a pronounced limp and a bad attitude. I'm currently at 110 for flexion. That means I can bend my knee 110 degrees. For some, that's good enough. I'm not "some". I want more. There are knee replacement patients who, upon realizing that their knees won't bend past a certain unsatisfactory point, go back under anesthesia to get a manipulation. It sounds like a nice, civilized procedure, does it not? You want to know what they do during a manipulation? They wrench the knee in god knows what directions in order to break the scar tissue that is preventing the joint from obtaining a satisfactory bend. I'm not a candidate for manipulation. My knee bends enough for normal activities (sitting, stair climbing and descending, walking). I don't want a manipulation anyway. I want 10 more degrees of flexion. I was at 120 at the time of surgery. 120. I never thought I'd be thankful for that little bit of bend. It bugged me for the last 29 years. Well, I'll admit I'd be more than happy with that much flexion.

What if I get stuck at 110? I'll make the best of it. My pop-up will probably slow down quite a bit. However, 110 is fine for riding the mat. Now that I think about it, I'll be thrilled to wear fins and not be in agony. Here I was thinking the new knee would change my surfing. I never considered what it would do to my mat riding. I will be out in the water with a knee that is strong, a knee that is part of a leg that will be stronger than it's been in decades. This, now that I think of it, changes everything!

As I sit here, my knee is throbbing. My massage therapist doesn't take "stop" for an answer. Today, I politely asked him to stop what he was doing. His response: selective hearing. He totally ignored me. Good. That's what I want him to do. I wasn't dying. I was just in pain. I guess he knew I could take it. Yeah, I took it. Then I limped out to my car. I've limped for the rest of the day. Will it help? I think it might. If nothing else, it couldn't hurt.

06 July 2009

Knee Replacement: Between Two and Three Months Later

El Hefe and others were right. The changes begin to occur at a rapid pace around the two month mark. I'm still unable to surf or ride the mat . . . but I'm close. August continues to be a good bet for my return to the lineups of overcrowded L.A. County.

Things I can do now:
-Swim without pain
-Climb stairs (albeit a bit slowly)
-Lift my child
-Walk the dog a bit. (Still can't give him a 60 minute walk.)
-A light frog kick (i.e., the breaststroke)
-Get out of the bed without groaning
-Cook a meal without having to sit down every five minutes.

Of course, these are mundane things that I could do prior to surgery. They are things that most people do without a second thought. After receiving a new joint, every regained movement of the joint is significant.

What about the pain? Yeah, that. (Pregnant pause) Let's just say, I went ahead and got my medical marijuana recommendation. This will now allow me to obtain my pain medication of choice without having to make a phone call, sneak around, etc. At this point, I'm letting the pain be my guide. More specifically, the pain I feel when I step out of the car is what I'm using to determine when I'll be back in the water. Early last week, I'd emerge from the car having to hold onto the door and gritting my teeth. The reason for that was (1) the leg was still too weak to easily support my body weight and (2) it hurt. For the last few days, getting out of the car has been much easier. There's more strength in the leg and less pain in the joint. When I can jump out of the car like I used to (planting my foot, pivoting and then walking away in a few quick movements), I think I'll be ready for my mat and surfboards again.

The pain is what it is. Many knee replacement patients are still on prescription meds at two months out. Many are still on the stuff at six months out. I have no time for that. Pain is pain. You can't play hard if you're afraid of pain (whether you've had a joint replaced or not). I want another 15 years to play as hard as I please. So I suck up this pain, which is at its worst when I'm trying to sleep, and look ahead to bionic future.

I know quite a few people find this blog after doing a search regarding knee replacement. Now I'm speaking to all of you: there's no reason to live with bone-on-bone pain when there is a way to make it go away. I know this surgery is frightening. It seems like some kind of twisted method of torture, doesn't it? Well, it's not. The surgery, the thing that scares people the most, is the easy part. You get your ass kicked during recovery. That's where you find out how much of a bad ass you are. And, in my opinion, anyone who has a joint replaced is a bad ass, whether you take the pain meds or not. Once you get past the first couple of months, the world looks completely different. I'm no longer filled with doubt or fear. I'm finally at the place where I can breathe a sigh of relief. My osteoarthritis pain was worse than what I'm experiencing at this point in my recovery. So, you see, it's good to keep it all in perspective. Yes, there is lingering pain. However, it will eventually go away. Bone-on-bone pain does not go away.

The sun is out. The water looks warm. My mat and my boards miss me. I'm now thinking it's time to move the boards back into the Woman Cave. I'm counting down the days until I can be back on a wave. Do you know what that means?

Dance party at Surfsister's house!!

03 July 2009

It's an Independence Day Eve Miracle!

I still can't safely ride my bike on the street. The knee does allow me to turn the pedals, but doing so is not without some pain. I'm not yet street safe. There is no way I could stop quickly, turn abruptly, jump over a hole or even ride hands-free with the knee in its current state.

While I was riding the bike on the stationary trainer, I stood up on the pedals (without pedaling) to stretch my legs. What the hell? I told Soul Brother #1 to grab his camera and meet me outside.

I've been doing trackstands for the last 20 years. I was never the fastest racer in this region. I was, believe it or not, one of the few who could do a trackstand. That got me mad respect from everyone else. There's nothing like pulling up to a red light and staying clipped into the pedals until the light turns green. It's nothing if not empowering.

For the last year or so, trackstands were agonizing. I'd stand up to steady the bike. My weight would be shifted to my left leg. Then the femur and tibia would literally crunch together. I swear that bone-on-bone thing is one of the worst sounds in the world, especially when it's coming from your own body. The pain had gotten to the point where trackstands were becoming difficult (as were cheater fives since my weight would be shifted, again, to my left leg). While part of me believed these sounds and the accompanying pain were typical for a knee that had suffered a massive injury in the past, another part of me knew something was terribly wrong with the joint.

Well, now something is terribly right. When I did the trackstands this afternoon, there was neither pain nor a crunching noise. There was just the sound of my glee as my inner cyclist celebrated my first pain-free trackstands in years.