10 July 2018
..running every distance in school to quite a high standard (they even insisted on my doing the high hurdles, although my short legs meant I had to put in an extra stride somewhere around 70m!). Long distance, however, was my forte. I gave up rugby after university, and the pressures of work meant I undertook formal exercise less and less, until eventually I had more control of my time and was able to supplement occasional golf and an annual ski holiday with regular visits to a gym. There I always did quite a bit of running and finally ran my sole marathon (in a respectable time) in London at the age of 45.
Having retired at 50, I have spent the last 20 years splitting my time between homes in Bayswater, London and in a village outside Cannes in the South of France. Golf, tennis and skiing became more regular and, in France, I had a garden and olive grove to tend. My knee first started to collapse too often on the tennis court and eventually I had to stop altogether. I also found that, frustratingly, I could only turn one way on the ski slopes and running finally seemed to me to be doing more harm than good. That is what decided me that enough was enough. While researching my options, a number of friends (and even my dentist!) recommended Mr Andy Williams, Consultant Knee Surgeon at Fortius Clinic and I then asked my GP for a referral.
Andy diagnosed osteoarthritis in my right knee and referred me to a physio in Piccadilly to see whether we could address the problem without surgery. He put me on a vicious exercise programme! Unfortunately, after six months, although my leg muscles had grown much stronger, my knee was still incapable of sustaining serious exercise if that involved any twisting or pounding, and I returned to see Andy. At this point, surgery was the only option. Andy recommended a partial knee replacement to replace the outside of my knee, and a few weeks before I was due to have the operation I had a phone call from his secretary, telling me that Andy had recommended we use a new piece of technology, a robot in fact! This meant having a CT scan beforehand to help plot out how the prosthesis could be placed with perfect accuracy.
On Wednesday 3rd January, I underwent the knee replacement surgery at the Fortius Joint Replacement Centre at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, with both Andy and the robot! Immediately after recovery from the surgery, the physio had me practising walking on crutches along the ward, and three days later I was discharged and heading home. I’d been quite concerned about how to manage the stairs back home - we live on three floors in a mews - but the physio had me practising so much in hospital that this wasn’t a problem. By the Sunday following my operation I was walking with only one crutch!
Over the weeks following the surgery I started to progress to walking distances up to 1km regularly and, in addition to a few weeks of physio, started a programme in the gym. In fact, I felt the recovery was going so well that I bought myself an exercise bike, unfortunately giving myself a hernia in the process of lifting it from the car! This was a slight setback in my recovery as I underwent further surgery for a hernia repair.
I was back on the driving range in mid-April, a little over three months since the op, and defying instructions of both surgeons by a few weeks, I started walking the full 18 holes and playing properly at the beginning of May. Mid May I started back on the tennis court, with an instructor, so that I can pick up how to play again without having to chase the ball too much. Mr Williams always warned me that a new knee will never quite feel like my own and it doesn't; however, the pain in the knee is minimal unless I do something silly and I’m more or less gardening as usual. It gets a bit stiff if, for example, I sit in a plane for a couple of hours and the muscles in both my thighs have had too much of a rest to be as strong as they need to be but I am confident that it is going to work. I hope Mr Williams remembers that he promised me another 15 years of tennis and skiing!