At the dawn of time, I played American football. Many a season. I loved every minute, and I would do it all again.

However, quite a few years later, I began feeling pain in my knees. “You probably have osteoarthritis,” my friends told me. “Ridiculous!” I replied. “How could I have arthritis? Old people have arthritis.”

Two things I had yet to understand: 1. Osteoarthritis can and does afflict young people, and 2. I wasn’t that young anyway.

The pain gradually worsened over time. One knee would hurt like crazy, then the other. Strangely, mercifully, I don’t remember both knees causing pain, at least in the extreme, at the same time. Equally curious was the active pain coming to a kind of abrupt end a couple of years ago.

When I tried to walk, however, my knees suddenly remembered their old grudge against me, and that pain was electrifying.

I reached out, on friends’ recommendations, to Amarillo Bone & Joint Clinic. A wonderful lady named Mindy told me that eventually I would need X-rays, and quite possibly knee replacement surgery. On both knees. Being the big chicken that I am, I asked if there was any way to avoid replacement surgery. She said she could give me injections that would postpone the inevitable, and before she could finish the sentence, I said, “Glad to hear it! Let’s do that!”

The subsequent X-rays proved what she had been telling me. No cartilage was left. “Bone on bone.” Sounded barbaric to me. 

Still procrastinating (which is a very bad habit on every level, and I do not recommend it for others), I hobbled into my first appointment, smiling like someone who thought he had dodged a big bullet. But when a needle goes into one of your joints, the stark realization comes to you that you have dodged nothing. 

My friend Mindy soothed me with her voice, patted my leg to distract me, and was as gentle as anyone could be, under the circumstances. Still, for two seconds I had vivid pictures in my head of the Spanish Inquisition. I was ready to confess everything when she said, “That’s it. You did really well!” The whole thing was over in seconds, but, you know, a coward dies many deaths. 

I decided to take all the advice and set up a consult appointment with a surgeon, Dr. Toby Risko, who I already liked because I thought his name sounded like a gunfighter on the Westerns. When I met him, he was even better. Friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and no guns. He scheduled my surgery for Dec. 18. 

This is where I again must sing the praises of my amazing superwoman wife, Danielle. She asked for the date over the Christmas holidays in order to be off work so she could help me rehab. She is, as they say, ALL that.

The surgery day was actually a little exciting. I was ready to make progress on my disability and become mobile again. As I came out of the fog, someone told me they’d had some trouble waking me up, and I tried to say, “I like to sleep late,” but it came out, something like, “Blearptoslurpiniatz.” 

Anesthetics can ruin a great joke.

Later that night, my brain decided I was going to actively participate in my own physical rehabilitation, and I got up to go to the bathroom without adult supervision. I crashed over my walker, my wife, and my bedpan. I landed on my tailbone. 

All of this, of course, was against doctor’s orders. My new best friend Dr. Risko returned to repair the stitches I had torn loose, and cleaned the wound. I am sure he is a gracious, patient person. I have tested those graces myself.

The fall ensured that I would spend the next week at Vibra Rehab Center, where I am thankful they did not strap me down to the bed. I went to physical therapy until I could walk and perform daily tasks. The nurses, trainers and nutritionists at Vibra were stellar. I fell in love with all of them. (“Fell” might not be a good word, but you get the idea.) My Danielle brought a guitar and little P.A. system, and I played some Christmas music for friends, family and those beautiful people who took care of us during the holiday. It was a huge blessing.

I’d heard horror stories for years about the pain of knee surgery. “You will hurt for a month,” or “You may not be able to sleep for a couple of weeks.” 

Thanks to Dr. Risko, robotics technology, and the constant upgrades in procedure, my pain level has never been above 2 (out of 10), and most of the time, negligible or zero. I know everyone is different, and my other knee—soon to be replaced—may be my problem child, but I can only hope and pray that if you are reading this and you need this kind of surgery, your results are as good as mine. I am so very grateful! 

Author

  • Andy Chase Cundiff

    Artist, singer-songwriter, music producer and humorist Andy Chase Cundiff spent many years traveling the U.S. and abroad, but calls Amarillo his home. A longtime resident, Andy’s house is on a red brick street in Oliver-Eakle that is lined with elm trees.