14th November 2019
Back to Work After Total Knee Replacements
Working on a freelance basis I could choose when I went back to work. Before I had surgery I had signed a contract to lead a walking holiday in the Italian Dolomites. I was fit and ready to go back to work in time to fulfil that contract ten weeks after having a simultaneous total replacement of both knees.
There were some challenges I had not been able to replicate during my rehabilitation and the first was dealing with luggage. I had two suitcases. One large enough to take my Nordic Walking poles and a small suitcase, my hand luggage, that contained the essentials of my job, a laptop and a camera. I had only gone a short distance down the hill towards the train station when I realised this was not going to be easy. Once I had developed a technique of pushing the large case in front of me and pulling the small case behind me I was able to cope. I was soon safely on board the train to Gatwick.
Airport Security and my Artificial Knees
Before travelling I had been advised to acquire a certificate from my doctor stating that I had two artificial knees. This proved to be a waste of time. My precious piece of paper was waved aside without a second glance and has never seen the light of day since. Common sense should have told me anyone could replicate a certificate. Inevitably I set off the alarm when I went through security and I was pounced on my a member of staff eager to prove I had something prohibited on my person. Shoes, watch, jewellery everything that could be decently removed had to be taken off. My claim that I had two metal knees was ignored – apparently I was too lively for her liking. I was patted down several times, had to balance on one foot while resting the other on a large block and then finally she ran her little machine all over me and when it got to my knees it screeched like a banshee thereby proving my point. Since that first occasion I have experienced airport security worldwide and they are all different. English airports are the most security conscious and I always remove my shoes before going through the arch; Italian airports are more laid back and don’t make you take your shoes off unless it becomes absolutely necessary; the Swiss write notes on your boarding pass. Every airport is different but wherever you are preparation, patience and politeness will get you through as quickly as possible. They are just doing a very necessary job.
A Gym in my Suitcase
Rehabilitation did not end when I went back to work. There was still room for improvement and with the ski season a few months ahead being fit to ski was my next goal. So, I had a gym in my suitcase, well, a set of resistance bands in my case that I could use to exercise in my bedroom. Resistance bands come in different strengths and I was using them to build up the muscular strength in my legs. On this occasion I had a room in the attic so had to find another space. One evening I was bobbing up and down on one leg while tethered to a folded single bed stored on the landing when a bemused chambermaid walked past me. I wished her good evening and carried on as though my behaviour was completely normal. Where there is a will there is a way.
My First Post-Surgery Walking Weeks in the Italian Dolomites
It was wonderful to be back in my favourite resort Madonna di Campiglio in the Italian Dolomites. I was looking forward to our programme of walks. My confidence was buoyed by the fact I knew the walks well and did not anticipate any problems. I also knew the guide who would be leading us and decided not to tell him about my knee replacements. However, the first walk did not go as planned. Due to some work being done on one of the paths we had to reverse the direction. Instead of walking up the path beside a waterfall we had to walk down it. Some members of the group found it more difficult than I did and our Alpine guide had to help them down the steep sections. Every time he looked up and saw I was the next in line and, as the back marker, the last he just grinned and galloped off to get ahead of the others again. I was elated that he did not think I needed any help. We had worked together the previous summer and the only change he had noticed was the use of my trusty Nordic Walking poles. That first walk was tougher than any I had done before in this resort and my new knees had coped admirably. As they did over for seven more full day walks spread over two weeks.
My knees were very stiff in the mornings so I always walked down the stairs to loosen up. Then it took me a few revolutions of the breakfast buffet to really get them going again. The only person who witnessed these early morning gymnastics was the breakfast waiter as he waited patiently for me to order either tea or coffee. Several members of the staff had been there for years and were intrigued by my sudden passion for the gymnasium, a place I generally only visited when I took new guests on a tour of the hotel. I was still using the exercise bike on a regular basis and the small gym in the Hotel Lorenzetti had two.
Walking the World Since Total Knee Replacements
I was soon confident enough to tackle long, challenging walks on my own. I was particularly pleased when I completed the difficult Cinque Laghi (Five Lakes) Walk in Madonna di Campiglio. If you get into trouble on this trail the only way out is by helicopter. It took me exactly six hours as predicted on the signposts along the way.
Confident that I could successfully tackle any terrain I have led many more all over the world and enjoyed every one of them. I have conquered the peaks above the Bavarian town of Garmisch Partenkirchen. We took the cable car part of the way to the top and then finished the ascent on foot before descending on foot. My new knees were happy both ascending and descending and it was a wonderful experience.
The island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands presented different challenges including a long walk through sand dunes followed by a steep descent to a beautiful, deserted beach. Having practised walking on the dunes on Studland in Dorset I found the dunes on the island easier than most of the members of my walking group on this trip.
Our walks on the Makarska Riviera in Croatia where centred on the Bakova Mountain. This area is criss-crossed by narrow, steep paths that wind their way through large patches of shingle and scree -. Looking down on the town of Makarska below us was an amazing experience.
Since my total replacement of both knees I have made many more trips to Madonna di Campiglio. I love the stunning scenery, drinking the fresh, cold water from the mountain streams and showing my walking groups my favourite places. But, wherever I am, whatever I am doing I always take a few minutes to stop, enjoy my surroundings and be thankful that my new knees have enabled me to continue a life I love. And not just to continue this life but to enjoy to the full. I am so grateful to those who made it possible, my surgeon, Professor John Skinner and my physiotherapist, Herbert Trabanino.
My next challenge was to be my first long hall sight-seeing trip to Burma, now known as Myanmar.