Missing time on the tennis court is depressing. Playing tennis keeps us healthy, active, social, and happy!
Longevity in the sport is the ultimate goal, right? [Having a Ball: The Joy of Senior Women’s Tennis, USTA, Alex Rappoport] I want that, in the video, to be you and me playing doubles at the age of 86!
How can we get there? Well, first, what are our problems? Knees, back, and weight. Ok, weight might not be for you, but it’s a primary concern for me.
Did you know that I started playing tennis as an adult in October of 2015 after having Gastric Bypass Weight Loss Surgery in July? A major goal Roller Weight Loss encourages is a consistent activity; without activity, the weight won’t come off and it won’t stay off. They taught me that it is about lifestyle changes, not a miracle. So, as a 6-year survivor of obesity, tennis has saved me physically.
As I became more active through tennis, I had to have my knees checked out. I thought dropping the weight would take away all my knee pain. Since I had torn them both up playing basketball in high school and college, gone through 2 ACL repairs, including a staple and a screw, having 3 arthroscopic surgeries, I had no cartilage left at all – I was playing singles tennis, bone-on-bone. I was concerned with my ACLs and injuries, but I was assured that my knees were stable. The pain increased, the acetaminophen increased, and the curve of my right knee increased. Most of my opponents would ask me how I could even walk, much less play tennis. [You’ve heard that before, right?]
Several tennis friends started to mention Knee Replacement Surgery – yikes, surgery! Who wants to do that? They all said they would do it again in a heartbeat, and the only thing they would change would be to do it 10 years earlier! Then there were friends in education who said the same thing. I talked to them all: Who was your doctor? How long were you out for? Did you have both knees replaced? What about insurance? What was therapy like?
Early in the fall of 2019 I called Dr. Hanby at Ozark Orthopaedics. I didn’t get an appointment until November, which depressed me because when I make a decision I want to do it NOW, just like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, after Dr. Hanby checked out the x-rays and had me walk up and down the hallway, he said that if 1,000 Orthopaedic surgeons looked at those x-rays, all 1,000 would say I should have knee replacement surgery on both knees. No doubt. This actually made me feel good – I wasn’t just being a weenie! More importantly for me, there was a solution, a fix.
The educational materials on what to expect told me everything I needed to know: the timeline for surgery and recuperation, physical therapy (1 visit before, 14 after, I think), what I needed to buy, from where, what was optional, etc. The availability of everyone from the people answering the phones to the nurses to the lady in charge of insurance questions, were all wonderful. I’m a self-advocate and you should be as well. It’s your body, your life, your health. Make sure you know what is going on, read all the materials and take notes. Go into the appointment with your questions, even if you think they might be silly. It will allay all your fears!
Natalie, you will feel so good about yourself and your knees if you will just take the plunge! It is so worth it – all the hard work and time spent! My knees are now good for 20 more years! I will follow the doctor’s orders and keep my yearly appointments so he can keep an eye on them and make sure my knees are still healthy.
- Washington Regional Medical Center. I trust them completely and they house Dr. Hanby’s Total Joint Center which is a well-oiled machine, but very patient, friendly, personal, knowledgeable, and cool staff! I highly recommend them if you have a choice and I would not go anywhere else, personally. From Joint Camp (in February – for the June surgery we were in COVID and everything was cut back), to billing, to check-in, to iOvera shots, to recovery, to Physical Therapy, day staff, middle-of-the-night staff, to food service. Everything felt like it was all about me because someone was always there to help me or answer questions when I needed them, no matter what.
- Note about COVID surgery: Dr. Hanby and his staff were still very helpful with all the educational materials, answering questions, offering the iOvera on surgery day, communication of expectations, etc. It was a very different experience, as you might imagine, but I still felt taken care of!
- Pain. Everyone (every single person), who had knee replacement surgery said the same thing about the pain: it was excruciating, but they would still do it again because of how great they feel now. BUT…I was offered an option called the “iOvera shot” which helps with the pain by deadening the nerves all around the knee for 3 months. It was NOT covered by my insurance, but I chose to have it anyhow. It was worth it! Truly. For both knees I did this and had almost no pain!
- Drugs. You do have a prescription for some heavy codone stuff. I’ve heard everything from “I never took one,” to “I had to get refills for a year.” I was somewhere in between with one refill needed, but it was mostly to get me through the night without leg twitches and discomfort more than pain. During the day I was fine. Everyone is different, just be careful since it’s an opioid.
- Time and Help. For 7-10 days you will need someone with you 24-7, especially if you have stairs in your house. They actually help you practice up and down stairs at the hospital before you’re allowed to leave. I had my right knee done first, so I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks, I think. For my left knee, I could drive as soon as I was not taking the pain meds.
- Accoutrements and Space. Walker, toilet chair, comfy chair where you can raise or lower your legs. My daughter and husband set me up with a side table to keep things to entertain me such as books, writing journal, drugs, earbuds, tv controllers, water bottle, etc. Don’t get too comfortable, though! It is extremely important to get up at least every hour or so to take a stroll around with your walker (at first), your cane, or just go to the bathroom. Movement is 100% encouraged from 2 hours after surgery and should be continued. When you fall asleep, someone should wake you up after 2 hours to get up and move a bit. Truly, the old-people toilet seat was a life saver!
- Dedication. This surgery is a choice, a choice to move without pain and be more active for the decades to come! It’s up to you to work hard through Physical Therapy, do what they tell you to do, do what Dr. Hanby tells you to do, ask questions when you have them – advocate for yourself, and then keep up the exercise when PT ends. Work has been my biggest challenge, especially this year with COVID teaching – I sit at a computer more than ever which is good for no human being on the planet. The challenges are greater than they were after the Gastric Bypass Surgery because of that – but aren’t we all in that same boat? Yes, at least for the time being, so we have to dedicate ourselves even more and garner the support of our friends and family!
For me, I need to walk daily as a low-impact way of keeping active. Random tennis matches, if I don’t stay fit in between, will be painful and I will run the risk of injury. I also need to keep up with some strengthening exercises like arm-raises with mini-weights, girly push-ups (sorry, that’s all I’ve been able to manage since college), step-ups, “Duck Walk” and “Bird Dog” exercises for my lower back (thank you, Dr. Eric Walker), and leg pulls with the stretchy band thing. My sister is sending me swim suits so I can start swimming laps – which will help with core strength – but will not be a tenth the fun of playing tennis with friends!
So, 6 years after Gastric Bypass and 1 year after Total Knee Replacement surgery (7 months after the left one), what do I need to do? I need to remember that staying healthy is a lifelong journey that should be fun, challenging, and always include tennis!
NOTE: I originally wrote this in the fall of 2020, but a lot of sitting still occurs and keeping up my active lifestyle really took a hit! I’m working harder than ever to get into an exercise routine. An update on my weight is that I’ve gained quite a bit since January of 2020 – COVID negatively impacted my work routine + knee surgeries and I’ve changed my eating routines and dedication quite a bit. I’m working on a reset! I’m really tired of everyone, myself included, blaming everything on COVID – we’re stronger than this! ¡Sí, se puede! Yes, I can! Yes, we can! Yes, Natalie, you can! I will help you! To end on a positive note, I have not been back to see Dr. Walker at Millennium Chiropractic since a few months after the second knee replacement – August of 2020! Now that my knees are straight, I no longer have back issues! I also got new orthotics with Dr. Bright and my bunions and heels are better!