By Joseph K.
| before I regained my
strength and stamina.
When June arrived and I went for my six-month follow-up exam,
the X-rays confirmed that everything was as it should be.|
Ouch! That’s my first
certain it was when they moved me onto the hospital bed. The searing pain on the
right side of my hip let me know that the surgeons had been busy
while I was asleep. It
then took a few more hours of mental drifting before I was conscious
enough to learn that the device had been successfully
implanted. The device to which I refer is the CONSERVE ® Plus
Total Resurfacing Hip System manufactured by Wright Medical
Technology, Inc. (http://www.wmt.com/).
volleyball injury followed by 15 years of daily jogging wore away
the cartilage in right hip and put me in need this surgery. So on December 3, 2002, at
the ripe old age of 49, I received my first—and hopefully
Confined to a walker and crutches during my two months of
homebound convalescence, I had plenty of time to reflect on my
decision to undergo the surgery and to wonder about my future. Of course, windsurfing
played a major role in both.
the exam, I had feared the worse because I had been experiencing
some tenderness and still didn’t have full range of motion in the
joint. I then resigned
myself to the fact that it would take an entire year to completely
recovery. At that point
I decided to give up on the idea of windsurfing until the following
summer. My pre-surgery
hip pain had prevented my windsurfing in the prior two years, but at
least now there was hope I could do it next summer. As it
happened, I had arranged to vacation in Nags Head on the Outer Banks
of North Carolina right after my six-month exam.|
|It is an alternative to a
total hip replacement.
(You know, the thing that makes your grandfather walk
funny.) Hip resurfacing
is being done on younger, more active patients as part of an FDA
sponsored study. Since
I met the “youth” requirement (anyone under sixty is considered
young) and was also a windsurfer, I was accepted into the
"Since I met the 'youth' requirement
. . . and was also a windsurfer . . . I was accepted into the
|For years I had gone to
North Carolina with friends who spent their time on the beach while
I windsurfed in Roanoke Sound. The windsurfing in Nags Head was
always some of the best I’d experience all summer. Unfortunately, I’d be
spending this year on the beach with my friends and their
children. Somehow it wouldn’t
be the same.|
|The total hip
replacements most people receive have some unfortunate drawbacks,
such as the tendency to dislocate at the most inopportune
moments—like halfway through a radical duck jibe. People with total hip
replacements are advised to avoid “severe bending and
bending and twisting?
What is windsurfing but severe bending and twisting?
||I was one of the
first windsurfers in my area in 1980. There were no dealers in
western Pennsylvania at that time, so my first board was purchased
from a guy selling them out of his garage in Ohio. It was the only board on the
market at the time: Hoyle Schweitzer’s and Jimmy Drake’s original
Windsurfer™ complete with teak wood booms and the old “blue noodle”
The day before I left for the
Outer Banks, I was stirred into action. Be it courage or stupidity,
I marched into my garage, dug out my Unisport ™ racks, and secured
them to the roof of my car along with my fiberglass board. I then gathered up all my
old sails and antiquated equipment and threw everything into the
car. Even if I couldn’t
windsurf, I could ride around with the board on the car and once
again feel like a part of the windsurfing community.
Hip resurfacing is supposed to eliminate
that problem because it provides a larger, more stable prosthetic
joint similar to a real hip joint.
|Over the years I
purchased other boards, and I eventually settled on a custom
fiberglass design as my standard board. Most of my other equipment,
however, remains a collection of cannibalized pieces dating back to
my first Windsurfer™.
When your hip starts to deteriorate, it doesn’t make a lot of
sense to purchase new high tech sails and equipment.
My recovery from the surgery was much
slower and more difficult than I had anticipated, and months passed
|As you might guess, I didn’t just
ride around with the board.
Within a day, I made a beeline for the beach at Jockey’s
Ridge State Park where I stood gauging the wind and contemplating my
life as a windsurfer.
It was very reminiscent of my first day of windsurfing over
two decades ago, and it produced some of the same emotional
Normally, there would have been a lot of
families on the beach, but it was raining slightly, so no one else
was there. That gave me
I needed to accomplish this monumental task. It also provided a hint of
danger since there would be no one around to help if this whole
thing turned into a tragic mistake. Besides the rain, it was a
cool day, so I wore a pair of neoprene shorts and a sleeveless
neoprene top. I would
have worn the neoprene shorts regardless of the weather because the
tight fit helped support my hip. I had purchased the shorts a
few years earlier and always wore them when windsurfing. I called them my “Ace
bandage for hips.”
|There was a steady
fifteen-knot wind blowing that day. I chose the smallest sail I
had—a five-meter slalom sail—because I didn’t want to risk injury to
my new hip by being overpowered if the wind kicked up. When engaging in risky
business, it’s often a good idea to error on the side of
caution—except when caution tells you that you shouldn’t be out
there in the first place.
Up until that moment, I had been telling myself that it had
been six months, and my implant should already be well
||I had lost the
ability to beach start or water start years earlier because of pain
and loss of rotation in the joint. Whether I was in 20 feet or
two inches of water, I had to up-haul the sail. Now, three years later, I
was curious to see if I could again beach and water start. But before I tried either
one, I needed to see what it would be like to up-haul the
Even though the water depths in Roanoke Sound
average from knee to waist height across most of the sound, there
are pockets of deeper water.
|I had last
windsurfed on Roanoke Sound three years earlier, and simply carrying
the sail and board to the water had been enough to inflame my
hip. This time I
performed the feat without a problem. The first real hurdle I
faced was not one I had anticipated.
"In hip resurfacing circles . . . we
talk of implant 'failure.'"
|If I ended up in one of those pockets, I
needed to know I could up-haul the sail in the event I couldn’t
water start. But before
I could even think about up-hauling the sail, I first had to get up
on the board. That
presented me with the biggest challenge of the day.|
protection is required because of the oysters in the sound, but I
could not bend over or raise my leg high enough to put the surf shoe
on the foot of my operative leg. Up until that moment, I had
been feeling very positive, but the shoe quandary took some of the
wind out of my sails.
But as I began pulling the sail and
board into the water, I began wondering if six months was long
enough for the bone to grow around the implant to secure it.
position with a total hip replacement can be dangerous. With hip resurfacing, it is
just difficult—and trying to rise from a crouched position is even
more difficult. In
about three feet of water, I pretended that I was in deep water, and
I attempted to crawl onto the board and stand up. |
|How was I going to perform delicate
windsurfing moves—not to mention climbing up on the board—when I
couldn’t even put on my shoe?
I improvised and solved the problem through a series of
Unfortunately, the whole shoe business left me with doubts
about my windsurfing endeavor.
unsuccessful attempts resulting in dramatic falls, I managed to do
it. My technique wasn’t
pretty, but it proved effective. My board has 130 liters of
displacement, and I’m about 155 pounds, so up-hauling is possible
but a little unstable.
It’s even more unstable when you try to do it with one good
leg. But once I was
able to stand erect on the board, up-hauling was a
|Not only was
up-hauling a breeze, but beach starting proved just as easy. Before I knew it, I was
streaking across the water like I had never missed a day
windsurfing. It was
fabulous! Five months
earlier I wondered if I’d ever walk again, and there I was slicing
my way out into Roanoke Sound.
Since I wasn’t sure how successful I’d be at tacking or
jibing, I decided to turn around before I ventured too far away from
seemed too risky, I was careful not to hook the foot of my operative
leg into the foot strap.
I had visions of my body being twisted and slammed down onto
the water, wrenching and dislocating the hip because my foot was
stuck in the foot strap.
The implanted hip had shown that it could withstand
windsurfing, but I’m not sure it could withstand a body plant if I
was unable to quickly disengage from the foot strap and
||The whole thing
lasted only a second, and it culminated in my falling forward into
the sail as I crashed down onto the water. Once in the water, I quickly
unhooked the harness and tried to determine what had happened.
No pain. That was good sign. No bones or metal objects
protruding through my skin.
An even better sign.
I could still move my leg. A great sign. So what happened?
|I was on a starboard tack with my
operative leg forward, so I applied pressure to that leg in order to
bury the rail.
Everything clicked, and the board carved out a nice tight
jibe. Yeah! The hip responded
Sailing back to shore, I tried a quick tack, and it went just
as smoothly. I was
||In hip resurfacing circles—as
well as with other joint replacements—we talk of implant
“failure.” A failure
could be a loosing of the implant as it dislodges from the bone, or
it could be a fracturing or splintering of the bone caused by the
implant stem breaking through.
"I had been on the water about an
hour when the failure occurred."
The next exhilarating
hour was spent enjoying the wind and my newfound freedom as I tried
to regain my past form.
The artificial hip caused a little clumsiness in some of my
movements, and on more than one occasion I was sent tumbling into
the water. Instead of
fighting the falls, I relented and rolled gracefully into the salty
water. On two occasions
I was dumped in slightly deeper water, and that gave me the chance
to attempt a couple water starts.
||Whatever the cause, it spells
trouble. It also
instills fear in the hearts of implant recipients because it means
undergoing revision surgery with all the dreadful pain and recovery
that accompany it. Many
live their lives carefully so as to not risk any kind of implant
failure. Then there are
those who go windsurfing six months after surgery.
Being part of the latter group, I
had been on the water about an hour when the failure occurred.
|I think it was
corrosion and years of use in a wet and often salty environment that
caused it. It’s true; I
had experienced a “failure,” but it was a failure of my windsurfing
equipment and not my prosthetic joint.
The bolt and metal plate of the universal joint of my mast
base had torn free under the strain. Not only that, when the mast
base ripped free, the jagged metal of the broken component cut a
nice long groove across the bright yellow fiberglass of my
doubts at the time, I managed to execute both of them; however, they
were clumsily performed and my technique left much to be
desired. It didn’t
matter though. It had
been more than three years since I executed a water start, and
regardless of how it looked, it felt wonderful as I rose from the
I’m not sure what
really caused it. It
could have been metal fatigue or just a bad component. I first became aware that
something was wrong through a sudden change in equilibrium followed
by a forward lurch.
This lurch was accompanied by a sharp metallic “snap” and a
dreadful scraping sound.
||As bad as
it looked, it somehow seemed fitting. Now we both had ten-inch
scars up our starboard sides attesting to our past misfortunes.
That pretty well ended
my windsurfing experience for the day. I had spare mast bases, but
I decided not to press my luck. It was almost as if God had
said, “That’s enough for today, son.”
|I achieved what I had come to do,
and I proved to myself that there was definitely life—and
windsurfing—after hip resurfacing. There would be other days
and plenty of windsurfing tomorrows.
|"It was almost as
if God had said, 'That’s enough for today, son.'"
|As I dragged the
board and broken rig back to the beach, I couldn’t help but
smile. I had come a
long way since 1980, and I had windsurfed in a lot of exotic
locations, but none of them could compare with that particular beach
on that particular day.
|Despite all the
pain and doubts I had experience before and after surgery, I was
back on the water doing what I loved. The weather was still
overcast and rainy, but the sun was shining all around me.
|To me it all seemed a miracle. Perhaps it was.
Besides windsurfing and sailing larger boats, Mr. Waltenbaugh
manages the web site www.BananaRepublican.us
where he provides additional information about hip resurfacing.
Copyright © 2003 Joseph K. Waltenbaugh