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Peter's Orthopedic Comeback Story

Peter Harris has always loved to hike and bike. Before retirement he enjoyed riding to the ferry from his home on Bainbridge Island and then uphill from the dock in Seattle to City Hall where he worked for 30 years.

Peter had known for a while that his right knee would need replacement sometime. He made the decision two years ago after he accompanied his wife, Grace, to Sacramento. While she went to a gem show, Peter took a 30-mile bike trip along the Sacramento River. The next morning he woke up with knee pain that couldn't be ignored.

When the couple arrived back at Seattle-Tacoma airport, Peter said his knee hurt so much they had to forego the quarter-mile walk to the light rail station and the walk from the light rail stop to the ferry terminal. Instead, they took a cab. The next morning he realized that knee pain was changing his life.


“I knew the day that I passed someone going downhill that I was doing well.”


Peter had read up on knee replacement surgery and talked with friends who had had knee replacements. He also discussed the procedure with his Virginia Mason primary care physician and the Virginia Mason surgeon who had done his last knee arthroscopy. The latter suggested several knee replacement surgeons in the Seattle area, including those at Virginia Mason. The former pointed out that the surgeon is only part of the picture.

"He said that while the surgeon was important," remembers Peter, "there are many others involved in a joint replacement operation and that Virginia Mason was proud of its team approach."

After considering the other choices, Peter decided to have his knee replaced at Virginia Mason. "The new facility is wonderful and I was generally well taken care of throughout the whole experience."

Peter was in the hospital for three days, a day longer than usual for knee replacement patients because the nerve block for the knee unfortunately prevented the quadriceps from flexing. After the block was removed, that issue was resolved and Peter was able to gain the needed mobility to be released. He spent the next seven weeks at home before going back to work. During that time, he both rested his knee and went to physical therapy to improve his range of motion and to strengthen the leg to address atrophy and provide support for the new joint.

When he returned to work, Peter kept a slow pace going up the hill from the ferry dock and didn't have a problem. It was the downhill trek, however, that proved difficult. "Going downhill really puts pressure on the quads," notes Peter. "I took it slow at first then gradually went a little faster. I knew the day that I passed someone going downhill that I was doing well."

Peter was able to resume hiking last summer and last August took a backpack trip into the North Cascades. His right knee with the replacement joint gave him no trouble on the trek down. It was the left one that hurt this time so Peter went to Virginia Mason Sports Medicine for an evaluation. The conclusion was that he didn't yet need a joint replacement in the left knee. He was given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that he takes before and during hiking trips.

Because of his positive experience at Virginia Mason, Peter became a volunteer in the "Peer Partners" program and spends several hours a week visiting patients recovering from joint replacement surgery. "I think the work that's being done with Peer Partners is an example of Virginia Mason trying to learn from patients and improve services. Some people just need to talk and others are interested in the suggestions that former patients can make."

If you would like more information about Virginia Mason’s joint replacement programs, call us at
(206) 341-3000.