Pickleball Points: New knees, please

Date Published: 
January 5, 2018

Folks, after a decade of pain, my right knee is pain-free! I am doing well — too well — so please stop sending the cookies and other goodies, as I am hoping to return to, not roll onto, the pickleball court this new year.

Several months ago, I elected to have the first of two painful knees replaced. I then wrote that “without the knees, you can’t bring home the cheese, and the surgery they tell me is now a breeze. But more on that before the first freeze.” So it seems I owe you an update. My surgery was delayed at the last minute because of infection that had to be isolated and identified:

… They discovered resident bacteria in my bod, somewhere above my quad.

… The doctor, Dr. Rooter, said he would find it with his uncomfortable 6-foot pea-shooter.

Finally the day arrived, and I had the right-knee replacement. After two hours, I had a brand new shiny replacement for that old gnarly twisted knee. Twenty-four hours after surgery, I had already walked on my new knee several times, and then been released to my home, where my spouse of 52 years exhausted herself nursing me back to health.

The side effects of the drugs, in my case, were much more to deal with than the actual knee surgery, depositing me in the emergency room with, among other things, pneumonia. My memory is not linear, but a series of events where I was prompted to jot down rhyming notes, like the pea-shooter, in my diary during the process:

... It is the swelling that can cause your major issue, turning into binding scar tissue. With joint replacement you need to ice — Once, twice, thrice.

... The recovery is less than a breeze; in fact, the meds can cause rough seas, although you definitely need them to make pain ease.

... Sleep is when the body does all the repairs, and the more sleep, then sooner the stairs.

... Constipation can become your overriding block, and poor results could ultimately lead you into shock.

... In the ER, a touch of pneumonia showed up on my X-ray, which explained why I was so gray, and here I thought it was because of no exercise or play.

The one major observation I kept noting during this process were the number of outstanding nurses and technicians supporting these doctors. I suppose, if everything goes perfect, the quality of the surrounding nurses and technicians isn’t a factor. But in the event of a surgery-related hiccup, like in my case, it is comforting to know that you are surrounded by competent and talented support staff.

... The docs get all the adulation and the green, but it is their outstanding nurses and technicians that make it happen — mostly unseen.

Physical therapy is the final key to success for surgery. I am now two months in recovery and have been working with the impressive Bob Cairo at Tidewater Physical Therapy to get back on court as soon as possible. His instructions and routines are designed to reduce scar tissue that could impede knee flexibility.

... I have followed Bob Cairo’s therapy instructions to the T, although I was afraid I might cry when he tugged back and forth on my new knee.

... I am now already taller, and learning to walk like any other dude, which is having a positive effect on my attitude.

So here are some of my humble tips for readers anticipating knee-replacement surgery:

(1) Few individuals should consider having both knees replaced simultaneously. I understand the reasons why folks would want both done at the same time, but if they run into the slightest hiccup in the recovery process, like me, they might be up the proverbial creek.

(2) Don’t wait too long. I delayed my knee surgery for a decade and now am having a painful time retraining my muscles to pull in the correct direction.

(3) Pay attention to everything the doctor and his assistants tell you about potential complications. The actual knee surgery is a breeze, but the side effects can put you in a squeeze!

But, when the pain is gone, you will realize, like me, it is all worthwhile.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.