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  • Writer's pictureDawn Sanchez

As The Knee Bends

My journey through knee replacement as it happens

I got arthritis from a German Shepherd puppy on a beach in Maine.

Okay, so some explanation is required here. I was ambling happily through life. Never much of a speed walker even in my youth, by my early 50’s I’d noticed that as I was making my way around the neighborhood, along the beach, or down the Las Vegas Strip, my legs hurt, or my hip, or my ankle. Something was always a little off.

About a month before the German Shepherd incident, I was walking in my neighborhood and my younger daughter was on her way over to my house. She stopped to give me a ride.

“I’m glad you saw me coming,” I remarked.

Her reply: “I could identify your walk from a mile away.”

Hmmm, I thought. What does that mean?

It was within that hour that my older daughter stopped by to to give me something. I was walking across the porch as she was pulling away. She stopped and lowered her car window. “Why are you limping?”

“I’m not.” Well, I guess I was. I asked my husband if there was anything unusual about my walk.

“Nothing unusual. You always waddle like a penguin.”

This did not deter me from taking my regular walks. But I was mindful of keep my upper body centered over my lower body.

Autumn turned to winter and in early December, in act of friendship and irony, hale and hearty, I boarded a flight to Maine to help out my friend Kathy who had just had knee replacement surgery. One of my jobs was to take the dog to the beach for a run. On Day 2 of my one week nursing duty, I took the dog to the beach and off she ran. There was another woman, younger than me, with a small boy and an 11-month-old German Shepherd who was also running off-leash. Said pup ran to greet me, and jumped. His paw landed dead center in my right knee and I went down.

I limped back to the car, my friend’s dog trailing dutifully, and dragged myself up the stairs to the raised ranch that was my home away from home. While Kathy laid in bed, I grabbed an ice pack and propped my wounded leg on the coffee table. There I stayed as much as possible. By evening I decided I needed to call an Uber to take me to the emergency room. I returned a few hours later with a pair of crutched and a diagnosis of bone-on- bone arthritis. How unglamorous is that!

Let me say, for the record, that I fulfilled my Florence Nightingale duties to the best of my very limited ability and a week later arrived back at Newark Airport requesting wheelchair assistance. It took months until I felt “almost normal”, but normal never came.

Here I am almost two years, three cortisone shots, and a series of gel shots later, with another cortisone shot scheduled in three weeks. When I first met my doctor he informed me that I’m “staring down the barrel of a double knee replacement.” When I see him next, I will be scheduling the first surgery.

In my current state of affairs, I rarely feel spry enough to do my 19 minute early morning walk, so I struggle down the street and back. I have a timer set on my phone so I never sit still too long and get stiff. If my legs are extended, I bend them; if they’re bent I extend them. I do micro-exercises throughout the day to keep myself as mobile as possible. As a person who has never understood how “elective” and “surgery” ever belongs in a phrase together, the fact that I’m heading in this direction means my knees are in a dire situation.

Stayed tuned for the next installment of “As The Knee Bends.”

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