I wasn't letting knee pain keep me off the slopes

Oct 12, 2017 8:28:42 AM

My name is Jay Pilcer and #ThisIsMyKnee

Since my very first time on the slopes, skiing has made me feel like I am on the top of the world. I live for the adrenaline rush whether I am cruising down perfect corduroy or skiing the bumps on one of Stowe’s famous Front Four! I am lucky enough to live in Vermont, where skiing is practically a way of life. It is also a great way to spend time with my family and friends.

I took my passion for skiing to the next level by becoming a part-time ski instructor, which allowed me to teach others to experience the same thrill I enjoyed. In addition, I live a very active lifestyle with my other activities including surfing, CrossFit, mountain and road biking and golf. I walk 18 holes of golf at least 3 times a week carrying my bag. These days, I often can’t believe that I am 59 years old. I feel like I have more energy than ever and I like to always be on the go doing the sports that I love.

That was not always the case. When I was in my early 50s, constant knee pain threatened to keep me off the slopes permanently. It was the winter of 2014 and, ironically enough, we had just finished one of my best ski seasons ever in northern New England. And that’s when the persistent pain developing in my knee became severe. It was impossible to be as active as I wanted to be, and I even had difficulty doing many of my routine daily activities. I was facing a future with no more adrenaline rushes and perhaps not much activity at all. I knew I had to do something about the pain.

When I thought I might need a knee replacement, I remembered hearing about an option that was customized based on the patient’s own anatomy. I had a few friends who had these Conformis implants, and they told me their recoveries went great and that they were back on their feet shortly after surgery. You could hardly tell they had a knee replacement at all. My friends knew how badly I wanted to get back to my active life, and they told me that customized was the way to go. I did some research, and it led me to Dr. Brian Huber at Copley Hospital in Vermont– he is the man! He answered all my questions and explained all the details about the Conformis option. I liked what I heard, including research showing that it can have a faster recovery and better range of motion with a more natural feel. I agreed with Dr. Huber that it was the right move. It was one of the best decisions I ever made!

My procedure went great. The pain medications made the first day of recovery pretty easy. Day two was a bit more difficult since the pain medication had worn off. But by day three I could tell I was on the road to recovery. I had three weeks of inpatient physical therapy and two months of physical therapy outside the home. I followed the directions of my therapist to a T, and I know that really made a difference. I also believe that having a new knee that was designed to perfectly fit my anatomy was the most important factor in my smooth recovery. I was walking without crutches by day five and on an exercise bike by week two. I actually skied for the first time only 11 weeks after my procedure. It felt great to be active again, though I have to admit that for the first few months I took it easy — no black diamonds! However, at the end of my first ski season back (7 months post op) I was skiing with no pain or discomfort.

Now, three years later, I think I can ski better than most 21-year-olds. My customized knee feels like the best part of my body. I am beyond thankful to be doing the things I love again. I don’t feel like I have to hold back in any way when I am being active, and it feels so natural that I often forget that I had the procedure at all! My plan is to stay busy and active, which means I might need another knee replacement in 20-30 years. I’m not too worried about it, I’ve got Conformis and Dr. Huber to keep me going!

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