16 May 2018
Things went downhill fast after 78-year-old Ernest Di Rollo had a knee replacement operation – and that is exactly what he had been hoping for!
Because, just six months after surgery energetic Ernest was skiing down the slopes and enjoying a 42-day holiday in the French Alps.
The grandad, who lives in Timperley, has been a keen skier for over fifty years and so was determined that major knee surgery was not going to spoil his fun.
He began getting knee problems about six years ago and despite regular exercise, visits to the gym and physiotherapy, it forced him to stop playing hockey when he was just 75.
But he had already talked to other skiers of around his age on his previous trip to the Alps and discovered that lots of his European companions were still skiing, after similar knee and hip replacement operations.
“My French friends thought nothing of it,” he explained. “In fact some accused me of being too cautious when I said a knee op might put an end to my skiing.”
Ernest met with Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Professor Sanjiv Jari at Spire Manchester Hospital and was delighted to know that not only were there several treatment options open to him but, with the right sort of recovery programme, there was no reason why he should not continue skiing.
“The final treatment option for arthritis that is causing pain and limiting your quality of life is a total knee replacement,” explained Prof Jari. “In earlier stages of arthritis there are other treatment options, including stem cell injections to regrow the body’s own cartilage, but in Mr Di Rollo’s case he had severe arthritis and a knee replacement was the most suitable choice.”
“We were able to use the latest technology to ensure he had the best-fitting replacement possible. A scan of the joint was taken from which a virtual three-dimensional model was created. This allows us to get a replacement that is a perfect fit for each individual patient.”
“It is thought that ‘personalised replacements’ like this will last longer than the traditional ones, although it is too early for us to have solid evidence for that. However, other benefits include less post-operative bleeding and swelling of the joint, which in turn means less pain and a quicker return of knee movement.”
“These benefits are not guaranteed as they depend on a number of factors including the accelerated recovery and post-operative pain relief regime I utilise for all my patients but Mr Di Rollo was very diligent with his rehab and, within a few months, we agreed he could go and start some skiing on an indoor slope. The rest is history!”
”He really showed that as long as the patent is of reasonable health, there is no age limit for knee replacement surgery – it should restore quality of life and age is not the deciding factor.”
As for Ernest, he said: “I knew that the success of a knee replacement would depend on my own fitness and how strong my muscles were, so I started a ‘pre-op’ training programme to make sure I was in the best possible shape.
“After surgery, the hospital physiotherapists were excellent and I kept up my own ‘fitness regime’ and the recovery went so well that it wasn’t too long before I was looking at ski holiday brochures.”
Ernest met up with a large group of friends in Meribel in the French Alps And with the youngest member of the party aged 40 he was the oldest ‘by a long way’ at 78.
He said: “The holiday went very well. Although I was in the resort for 42 days, adverse weather meant I could only ski for 30 of those. I had no problems with my knee or walking up snow covered slopes, with 45 degree inclines which can be very tiring.
“I was able to tackle the more difficult slopes but chose only to ski the ones that had been newly prepared and - of course - I always skied with friends, never by myself.”
With summer approaching Ernest is now preparing for plenty of ‘fair weather’ activities – but has also plans for another skiing trip in the New Year.
“I think I have proved you are never too old for joint replacement surgery – it is all about keeping yourself in a good condition so that when you get your knee, you can make the most of it,” he said.