A Healthy Father

Author: Jose G. Barr

Too Young For Knee Replacement

I was 42 when I had a full knee replacement. The journey to replacement was one that was full of different surgeries and treatments. My doctors way back had told me that I would eventually need to have it done. That journey from my first arthroscopic procedure to the replacement was about 10 years.

I often look back and wonder what would have happened had I made different choices.  What if I had just lived with a bit of stiffness and pain rather than having it corrected?  Could I have avoided the replacement surgery? It's a pointless exercise in what if because the choices that I have made have all lead me to where I am today. By the spring of 2010 my knee was so bad that I started to use a cane just to be able to get around.  The orthopedic surgeon first tried cortisone shots into the knee.  Amazingly enough this worked. I was pain free and able to walk...for 3 weeks. Soon after that the pain returned and I was back at the surgeons office.  He wasn't happy, he said that the shots should have lasted 3 to 4 months, not weeks.

In late September of 2010 he recommended that we move ahead with the knee replacement. While I was still far to young for this, it was the only procedure that could significantly improve my quality of life. Its hard to explain how painful it got to anyone who has not suffered a similar condition. I could sit or stand for too long without my knee getting painfully stiff. Standing up from a seated position required significant effort.   It would take the Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP) about 3 months to return the approval for surgery.

I had my knee replacement surgery in January of 2011.  I spent the next 6 months in rehabilitation, trying to get my knee to maximum flexion and extension.  Sadly, my range of motion after all that was very limited, so much so that I couldn't ride a bike because of the lack of flexion (still find it difficult). The doctor had said that if I was lucky I wouldn't need a revision surgery until 2021 or after, boy was he wrong.

Life went back to normal, with some adjustments for my new limitations. Fast forward to 2013 and life in California. As the days went by I started to notice that my knee would get stiff when I sat for too long, just as it had in 2010 when my problems escalated.  I was getting concerned so I went to see an orthopedic surgeon here in the inland empire.  I talked to a friend of mine who was an orthopedic surgeon and he recommended Dr. Thomas Donaldson, saying that other doctors who need to have their knees replaced would go to him.  He examined my knee, took x-rays and ordered an MRI done.  Long story short, my knee replacement was beginning to fail, after just about 2 1/2 years.

OWCP being a government agency, the approval to have a revision on my knee took quite a bit of time.  This afternoon I received a call from the doctors office, they had finally approved the surgery. I will be having my 2nd knee replacement surgery in less than 5 years.

Am I worried about this surgery? Absolutely I am, any surgery has risks. Each time I have gone under the knife I have been risking any number of complications. I worry about my wife and son, this is as stressful for them as it is for me, and wonder about how this will go. But, I have faith in my doctor and in my God to keep me safe.

In the end I know that I will be OK. I have done this before and survived each time.  This will be no different, Learning to walk with another new knee will be a challenge, but one that can be overcome.  I will come out of this stronger, and hopefully faster, I want to be able to run again early in 2016.

My beautiful wife thinks I am nuts because I have asked the doctor to clean up the parts that are in there now and return them to me.  I want to mount that knee replacement on a plaque with "Knee 2.0" inscribed below it and hang it on my office wall. Don't laugh, the Government paid a lot of money for it and I am not going to just give it away.

If you will be having knee replacement surgery soon, or your doctor is contemplating it feel free to reach out to me here and we can chat.

Gym Etiquette or Why Do People Do That?

What is proper gym etiquette? How does one act while working out at the gym? What is appropriate and what is not? Well, let me tell you about some of the odd behavior that I have encountered at the gym and why I think that a class in gym etiquette should be the first thing all gyms have new members take.

The gym I go to is in a pretty sketchy part of town. Getting there is half the fun of working out.  Once I am in the gym I am relatively safe from the outside world and its many odd characters, not to say that there aren't some of them in the gym with me.  On any given day I run in and get ready to work out. 

Once I'm on the main gym floor I head on over to the treadmills to get my cardio workout. this is where I encounter the first of the many "what the..." moments. Why is it that people think it is a good idea to ramp up the treadmill angle to the max and then go really slow while holding on for dear life to the top of the treadmill, all while walking on the treadmill at a perfect 90 degree angle to the belt? Is that supposed to be an upper body workout? Because that is exactly what they are doing. I've watched as peoples arms start trembling with fatigue after just 2 minutes of this.  

Then there are those gym goers that decide to re-purpose a machine because, well, not sure why they do it, but they do.  The other morning I watch a woman get on the pull-up machine. This particular machine is designed to assist you in doing pull-ups. You set the weight (to lighten the amount you will be pulling up) and kneel on the pad in front of you while grasping the bars above you to do the pull-ups.  This woman, rather than do pull-ups, was using the machine like a leg press. Ok, wait what is she doing? She is pushing down on the pad with her foot while holding the bars above... Okie dokie. Worst part of it was that she finished and walked away without wiping the pad down, leaving it covered in shoe scum for the next user to enjoy. Thanks for cleaning up after yourself.  

On the other side of the gym is the express workout area. This area is designed to give you a whole body workout in 30 minutes. You do weights and cardio in that time.  Well wouldn't you know it, there are those folks that believe that its just another room full of equipment. I went in there one morning because I needed to get in a quick workout and started at station 1. Over at station 5 was an older guy doing arm curls. So I get started, 60 seconds at station one, then 30 seconds to change over to the next station. Imagine my surprise when I get to station 5 and I have to ask the guy if I can work through.... Hey buddy, you should be 5 stations ahead of me, not on the same machine the whole time.  Why do people do this? The exact same machine is available on the main floor (4 of them as a matter of fact).

Finally there are my favorite folks of all time at the gym, the proverbial gym rats or lunks (remember Hanz and Franz?). They can be identified by their attire, usually shoe string tank tops with tiny shorts and wearing construction boots, or by the sounds they are making, lots of grunts and yelling and their "I'm better than everyone" attitude.  They are either showing off for others at the gym, or there is something I am missing and it actually enhances their workouts. Not sure, maybe I should try it one day... Nope, not really. The gym I go to frowns on that type of behavior and attire, God bless them and their policies. 

There are a lot of folks who have worked hard to get into shape and yet are still humble, willing to help others when asked (not offering unsolicited advice). Kudos to them and their achievements, we need more folks like that at the gym.

Ok, so here is my take on gym etiquette:
1. use the equipment the way it was designed to be used. Don't re-purpose, if you don't know how to use it just ask one of the staff instructors. They are there to help and give you an introduction on proper use. 
2. Wear the proper attire for the gym. Don't wear something that barely covers you. Not sure of your significant other enjoys sharing your sweat, but most of us would rather not share. Cover up and keep the sweat to yourself.  As for footwear, construction boots just look dumb. Get yourself a pair of sneakers and join the rest of us. Oh, and I have to add this, I just do. I am a big guy, but I know what I can wear and what I can't. Ladies and gentlemen, please, please, please don't wear skin tight clothing. Just because you can pour yourself into the spandex, doesn't mean you should. I appreciate the fact that you are at the gym and trying to improve your health, but I would rather not see the jelly roles quiver with each step you take. Cover up, please.

3. Clean your equipment after you use it. Most gyms provide sanitizer in spray bottles with paper towels so that you can do it quickly and easily.  Oh and for goodness sake, please don't spit or send a snot rockets flying past the barbells.  Think I'm joking? Nope watched a guy do both the same day, and walk away without cleaning it up. I would hate to see his home if thats how he acts in public.

4. When you are using the free weights, re-rack the weights when you are done. While you may be able to handle the 45 lb weights, the next person may not. So please re-rack when you are done.

Remember folks, be courteous to others in the gym. That guy or gal next to you may be new to the gym, don't scare them away after only one visit.  


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