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One Year Later, Custom Knee Replacement is Life-Changing

Editor’s Note: We detailed Bellingham resident Robin Robertson’s custom knee replacement surgery last January as an example of how medical advancements are changing lives of locals. Now, we’re checking in with Robertson, owner of the Bellingham Training and Tennis Club, to see how she’s doing. Here is her story:

Knee replacement surgery is no joke. I’m a firm believer that surgery should be a last resort – after doing everything else possible first. I was afraid to my core to have my knee replaced – the fear is that I could be worse off than I already was. Thankfully, I am now better than I could have imagined.

I was born with a rare condition in both my knees. I had my first surgery to remove all of the meniscus in half of my left knee when I was just 13 years old (by the way, they don’t use that technique any more). Then I had another six surgeries to fix the problems caused by that first surgery, and to correct for the massive damage from early onset arthritis. My leg was messed up from these surgeries and so a custom knee (designed by Massachusetts-based Conformis) was my only solution. That made my eighth knee surgery, total knee replacement, the right choice at the right time.

I did not dare to believe that I could live a life with zero knee pain. But here I am, one year after total knee replacement surgery and feeling better than I have ever felt in my left knee. I love that I can walk and hike without knee pain. A whole new world is open!

I attribute this success to three very important “HAB” elements:

1. PRE-HAB. DO THE PREP WORK BEFORE YOUR SURGERY.

Yes, you are hurting – but there are still many exercises you can do to get in the best possible shape for your surgery. Count back six weeks from your surgery date, and prepare your body like your surgery is an athletic event. Work on strength, joint mobility, flexibility, and balance.

2. RE-HAB. DO THE RECOVERY WORK AFTER YOUR SURGERY.

A knee replacement is a traumatic event. Pushing too hard too soon will set you back. Not working hard enough won’t bring you progress. It is a delicate balance and important to work with a physical therapist you trust. Recovery takes time. For me, it was about 12 or 13 weeks before I felt like “me” again with full energy, ready to go.

3. MAKE IT A HABIT. KEEP DOING THE LIFE WORK.

Don’t quit. Taking care of your new joint and your body is a lifelong responsibility. You have to keep doing the work to keep getting the results. You can get stronger. You can do more. If you aren’t sure how to go about this, get advice and guidance from a personal trainer so that you can feel like you are doing the right thing, with the right form, and feeling stronger every day.

10 THINGS I CAN DO NOW THAT I COULDN’T DO BEFORE, AND WITHOUT PAIN

■ Go up and down stairs
■ Walk without a limp
■ Bend my knee further
■ Hike carrying a backpack
■ Stand in place for long periods
■ Mountain bike
■ Carry two big bags of groceries
■ Wear high heels
■ Deadlift 125 pounds
■ Dance!

To read more stories like this, check out our Wellbeing section here.

"Thankfully, I am now better than I could have imagined."