I was Pushing Past the Pain to Protect my Livelihood

My name is Howard Harriston and #thisismyknee

Staying fit requires concentration, discipline and passion – and it’s also how I earn my living. I’ve worked as a fitness instructor for more than 25 years and consider myself lucky to get paid for something I love doing. With a teaching schedule that includes kickboxing, spinning, aerobics and step, my wife often says I am at the gym more than my own home. But about two years ago my fitness career was interrupted by near debilitating pain in my left knee.

I felt something during one of my classes and I knew it was bad. It felt like something tore in my knee and sharp pain shot through the lower half of my leg. I remember gritting my teeth and powering through the class, all the time in excruciating pain. My doctor told me I tore my meniscus. For months, I endured painful cortisone shots and operations to clean out damaged cartilage, but nothing relieved the pain. I lived with it as best I could, continuing to work and then immediately rushing home to ice my knee. Quality time with my wife was already very limited, but this pain made it impossible for me to do anything social. Even a simple trip the movies meant sitting in a handicap seat so I could stretch out my damaged leg. With all my energy focused on trying to work and no social life I felt trapped. Both my quality of life and my livelihood were on the line! I nearly lost hope until my doctor helped me learn about an option that could keep me working and playing!

Dr. Korboi Evans at Greater Washington Orthopaedic Group said my knee was now bone-on-bone and the pain would only get worse. He told me about a unique customized knee replacement made by a company called Conformis. They would take scans of my knee and then create an implant that would be designed to match my anatomy. Right away I thought that seems like the right fit for me! It seemed like too much to hope for something that might truly relieve my pain, not just provide temporary relief. I thought about what this could mean for my work and my life. Could I teach a class again without my pain breaking my concentration? Would I be able to spend time with my wife doing the active things we used to enjoy? I felt myself smiling at the ways my life could improve, and I scheduled my operation.

I laughed nervously when a nurse told me it was time to get up out of bed and take a walk down the hall just two hours after surgery. I thought she was joking, but then watched her bring in the walker. Was she out of her mind? The general anesthesia had just worn off and she wanted me to walk down the hall? I smiled and shook my head in disbelief, but my medical team was so great I figured she knew exactly what she was doing. I decided to give it a try. To my complete surprise, I stood up and took a few quick steps with the walker. Within a few minutes, I had traded that walker in for a cane and was walking down the halls of the hospital.

Of course, there was some recovery necessary. I was sore for the first three weeks after surgery but didn’t need more than extra strength Tylenol to manage the discomfort. Within three months, I was back to teaching my full class schedule including kickboxing classes! I usually forget that I had knee surgery and am only reminded when my students ask how I am feeling. While I am very happy with my results, I think my wife might be even happier. She is actively planning outings for us to enjoy together. Seeing her smile is another way I know I made the right choice for my family, my career and myself. I tell everyone about my Conformis knee now and hope that sharing my experience might also help someone stay on the job and keep things happy at home!

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