Can you Start a Journey After you Reach the Summit?

My name is Ben Lynch and #thisismyknee

Following a childhood dream, on August 7, 2016, I reached Uhuru Peak, the top of Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet above sea level. I trained for over a year and could not wait to experience the view. And it was amazing, looking down on the clouds, I felt an emotion that was indescribable. Then the realization of the journey ahead became apparent, the descent. Throughout the complete descent I felt serious and near debilitating pain in my left knee. I refer to my climb as a defining moment in my life because it was the first time I was able to admit I needed serious help. I was at the summit of one of the world’s tallest and toughest mountains – but my journey was just beginning. In September 2016, I summited Ben Nevis in Scotland and in December 2016 I summited Carrauntoohil in Ireland. I thought I was finished climbing for good because I could no longer stand the pain.

The pain in my knee started in 1991 as a young man in Dublin, Ireland. I was involved in a motorbike accident and tore the ACL in my left knee. It had taken three operations to repair the damage, but for years after I lived with dull and constant pain in my knee. Despite the pain, I did not give up my love of the outdoors. But then things went from bad to worse. Many months before my hike up Kilimanjaro, I fell and ruptured my ACL for a second time. I had trained for my climb for so long and was afraid it was all for nothing. But I was determined not to give up on my dream too easily. I decided to move ahead with my climb. Equipped with supply of nerve blocking medications to ease the pain, I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, what an amazing experience it was! But I hit a personal summit at the same time – recognizing that the pain was too much. It was affecting every part of my life. I felt like I was losing my sense of who I was and what I could accomplish. At 47, from the top of the world, I decided it was time to consider a knee replacement.

Dr. David Cogley with The Hermitage Clinic in Dublin, performed several procedures on my knee prior to the Kilimanjaro trip. Soon after my return and having fought the pain for too long I reached out to him hoping for a solution that would still allow me to stay active. I couldn’t imagine a life without hiking and was already dreaming about a hike to Mount Everest’s Base Camp. Dr. Cogley suggested a Conformis custom-made knee replacement. He explained that they would take scans of my knee and then use a 3D map to produce an implant just for me that would conform to the size and shape of my natural knee. My knee was already deformed from my past injuries and I believed this was the only way to find my good fit. Feeling like this was by far the best option for me, I put aside my fears and had the surgery in May 2017.

The hospital nurses had me up and walking within hours after my surgery, but I must admit I wasn’t mentally prepared for the recovery process. I was hoping to wake up completely pain free and was surprised to find myself in need of help. I approached it like any other challenge – one step at a time. After two weeks of physical therapy, my recovery took a turn for the better. Within four weeks I was able to take short hiking trips. Within three months, I was hiking like my old self again. Every day showed signs of improvement and I have just completed the Mangerton Mountains in Kerry, hiking through mud and snow at temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius, pain free eight months post op.

Now, in 2018 and I am training for that next big adventure— Everest. I want to make it to the Base Camp, which is nearly 16,000 feet above sea level! I’m hopeful that training for this hike will be easier than when I trained through the pain for Mount Kilimanjaro. Hiking at that altitude requires focus, and in the past my focus was often broken by the nagging pain in my knee. My Conformis knee means that I can tackle this adventure with a clear head.

My journey has taken me to new heights. It often has not been easy, but it has been worth every struggle to get to where I am today. I used to think getting a knee replacement would mean the end of my journey. Now I know that this Is just the beginning and I can reach even higher heights in the years ahead. I look forward to more successful hikes thanks to Dr. David Cogley and Conformis.

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