I used to be a high jumper.
By "used to" I mean when I was in high school, and I graduated 49 years ago.
I needed a calculator to figure that out. I never was much good in math
But I was pretty good at high jumping. I could clear a bar that was over my head using what we used to call a "Western Roll" or a "Belly Roll."
I would run at the bar, plant my left foot, spring into the air off my left knee, become parallel to the bar, roll over it and land on my back in a padded pit.
I'm telling you this now because this morning I'm going to IU Health Hospital in Lafayette for total replacement surgery of that left knee that used to push me off the ground when I was 18 years old and make me feel like I could fly.
The right knee will be done later this summer as I do my part to show the world that Baby Boomers are coming of age.
And this time it's old age.
More than 600,000 knees and about 400,000 hips are replaced in the U.S. each year. Pretty soon we'll all be bionic. My generation was once at the Dawning of Aquarius. Now we're at the Donning of Titanium.
While I live in Indiana, which is a worldwide center for human spare parts, the knees my doctor will insert are made in New Jersey. I'm getting Jersey knees.
Now I'll have what I've always wanted.
Knees with attitude.
I hope my Hoosier legs will get along with my New Jersey knees but I'm sure it's going to be difficult next fall during the NFL season.
My legs will be stretched to the limit pulling for the Bears and Colts and my knees will be all bent out of shape for the Jets, Giants and Eagles.
This all started almost exactly two years ago when my knees began hurting. They hurt when I walked, when I sat for too long and when a rainstorm was coming. I went to a surgeon who said I had arthritis in both knees but it wasn't advanced enough yet for surgery. He gave me shots in both knees and prescribed exercise.
None of that helped much. The pain came and went and I dealt with it the way most men do. I griped and complained.
Wife: "We need do some digging in the yard and plant some new bushes."
Me: "Oh, my knees. They're killing me. How can I dig, I can't even walk."
Wife: "You can golf, why can't you dig?"
Me: "Ouch, ouch, ohhh … my knees!"
When your wife outsmarts you and you don’t have a good comeback, always feign pain. It's kind of like a football player faking an injury when he misses an easy pass.
Last fall, almost exactly on Halloween when the weather turned cold here, my knees got worse. Much worse.
I limped around, got out of doing any work around the house and thought I might feel better in warmer weather when we went to Florida for the winter.
We went. My knees got worse. When we got home I went to a doctor.
They took photos of my knees and a nurse led me to an examination room.
Nurse: "Stand on the scale please."
Me: "I'm here for my knees. Why do you have to weigh me?"
Nurse: "Everyone gets weighed."
I took off my shoes. I took the cellphone out of my pocket, set my car keys on a chair and started taking off my shirt before she told me to knock it off and get on the scale.
Nurse: "I'm done. Here are your x-rays on the computer screen. The doctor will be here in a minute."
I looked at the computer screen. Even I could see that there was nothing between the bones in my knees. I was what they call "bone on bone" and that was no great surprise since sometimes I could feel and hear those bones grinding together.
Doctor: "You have advanced arthritis. It has destroyed the cartilage in your knees."
Me: "What do you recommend?"
Doctor: "I don't recommend. I just tell you what your options are."
Basically my options were to try treatments that had not worked in the past, continue limping in pain, avoiding work around the house and driving my wife crazy, or have surgery. It was an easy decision.
There would be consequences. The doctor told me after I had knee replacement surgery I would not be able to run marathons, which was okay because I had never run them in past either – although I was a dedicated jogger for many years. He said I should avoid snow and water skiing, which I have done, and I would have to make a few other lifestyle changes.
Me: "What else won't I be able to do? Tell me. I can take it."
Doctor: "You won't be able to do any housework and forget about all that work that needs to be done in the yard."
Believe what you want. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
The surgery date was set and I began telling people. The first thing I discovered is that with knee surgery you get no sympathy.
Friend: "You're getting knee replacement! Super. Congratulations. This is going to be great."
Me: "Wait a minute. I've watched this surgery on YouTube. They're going to split my leg open like a watermelon on the Fourth of July, saw my leg bones, drill into them, put in some plastic and metal and then staple me together like a 50-page report. And you're saying this is good? This is going to hurt, there will be long rehab. Can't I get a little sympathy?"
Friend: "You're right. I do feel sympathy. I feel sympathy for your poor wife who is going to have to put up with you through this whole thing. What can we do for her?"
A brother-in-law called and said, "I know people who have had this done. Get ready for lots of pain."
That was encouraging.
It didn't take me long to understand that no one was going to be singing "Soft Kitty" from The Big Bang to help me through this.
As I watched this surgery on YouTube it looked a lot like what we used to see on "Tool Time" or maybe "This Old House" on TV. Maybe they should call this surgery "This Old Knee."
The surgeon uses hammers, power saws and power drills pretty much like I have in my workshop in the basement. I hope he remembers to charge them up before surgery because every time I go to use mine they're dead.
There are some things I wonder about all of this.
I wonder if adding new knees will make me taller?
I wonder if new knees will increase my weight?
Dr. Low Carbs: "You've gained 10 pounds. Have you been following the diet and exercise I prescribed?"
Me: "It's not my fault. It's the new knees. They weigh a ton."
I am in awe of what surgeons can do along with the other doctors, nurses and technicians who are involved in this. It's amazing and I have enormous respect for them. They're going to return quality to my life. When I was a boy people who had this problem with their knees ended up in a wheelchair.
Thanks to them, I'm going to be back on the golf course when this is all over and Dr. New Knees assures me my game will be every bit as bad as it was before this surgery.
In this high technology, rapidly changing world it's good to know that some things will always remain the same.