Wheel alignment

Thursday 4 April 2024

Two steps forward, one back

It's been anything but a routine existence in the James household since my knee replacement at the end of last August.  The surgery itself was pretty much painless and testament to the wonderful surgical team lead by surgeon Melissa Rossaak at Ormiston private hospital in Auckland. Rehab has been anything but painless. Getting started with a proper rehab programme was delayed due to a shortage of public health service physios in our region so I went privately after losing patience.  The rehab pain was due to the exercises to regain flexibility.  It's unavoidable that these will hurt when you're pushing hard.  Being grumpy and a little depressed was inevitable and massive kudos to Jennie for taking it in her stride and only telling me to pull my head in on far fewer occasions than I deserved.

After several months of flexibility exercises, it was time to graduate to cycling again.  Stage one was mounting my ancient road bike in a simple resistance frame and doing lots of static pedalling in a lean-to shed attached to the house.  The biggest hurdle was getting my rebuilt knee over top dead centre because of the degree of bend required but we got there with much sweat and bad language.

Pedalling fast and going nowhere

Muscle strength was markedly improving and knee stability was outstanding compared with the previous few years. In the new year, it was time to try out the e-mountain bike, albeit sticking to sealed roads for a while to gain confidence.  Sitting on the e-bike in the shed for the first time revealed some ergonomic problems as the configuration was markedly different to my old road bike. Some adjustments saw a very careful first ride without too many anxious moments. Yippee!  

Three or four more shortish rides and things were going well, so I booked an appointment with Bryan, my village GP for a progress chat.  Bryan is a great guy and like most GP's in a rural environment with proper hospitals few and far between, he has an amazing array of skills but he's really down to earth with no pretentions.  This is where the "one step backwards" in the title comes in.  After expressing pleasure at the progress made, he points at the side of my knee and says, "What's that?"  "It's a mole", I say - had it for at least 2 decades.  Bryan was uneasy about it, made an appointment for the next day so that he could remove it and arrange a biopsy.  Duly removed the next day in about 10 minutes and sent away.  Result came back that it was a low grade melanoma.  Heck of a shock, even though it was low grade.  Bryan didn't see any point in organising a specialist hospital consultation due to potential delays through the national health service so offered to do the larger excision the following day to make sure that it was all removed.  Absolutely brilliant as it stopped me brooding about it and letting the mind run wild.

The surgery session itself was a surprisingly social affair.  I guess that's what happens in a village of 1600-odd people where everyone knows each other.  Whilst Bryan performed the surgery, a nurse practitioner was there for routine surgical support duties and a final year med student was there to observe and suture the incision under Bryan's guidance.  While this was going on, we were all chatting about wine, classic cars and fishing; accompanied by much laughter.  What an incredible atmosphere to take one's mind off proceedings and an hour later, it was all done.  My knee surgeon isn't going to be happy though.  Her once arrow-straight incision is now crooked where the skin had to be stretched to close the latest battle scar.  Just call me Frankenstein's Monster!

Decent battle scar

The subsequent biopsy result was completely clear - a massive relief.  I owe Bryan big time for spotting it in the first place as I wouldn't have noticed anything. Also for all his additional experience and skills when they were needed.  Whilst not a big deal in the scale of things, with the skin in the area of the incision being quite tight, I wasn't immediately  able to cycle or do anything else strenuous and risk popping the sutures - another time-related setback.  I've only been on the e-bike again for a relatively short time but everything is going well.  Hopefully, I'll be back on the dirt trails before long.  NZ and Australia have some of the highest UV levels on the planet and whilst I've always taken precautions, I'll be extra vigilant from now on, including regular mole mapping.

Out for a nice 25 km training ride - Te Kouma launch ramps

These delays have stopped progress on other jobs too.  The garden is in dire need of a tidy-up for starters.  We used a mowing contractor during rehab but the rest hasn't had much attention since last August.  Autumn pruning, thinning out our bromeliad collection and other gardening chores are all work in progress.  We had a massive crop of Luisa plums but we were able to  pick the lot and bag them for the freezer.

Impressive Luisa plum crop

Garden in dire need of tidying

Driving the MG has generally been limited to local trips but it's been a good time for routine maintenance - changing hoses that have gone hard etc.  However, we have a day trip with the classic car club from the next town coming up shortly and next month, a 2 day weekend trip with the MG Owners Club.  All great people with no egos or marque snobbery.

New hoses ready for fitting

Unfortunately, there's one more cloud on the horizon.  I had a call from my surgeon asking when I wanted the other knee replaced, with a strong recommendation that it should be done by the end of the year.  It's something I've deliberately avoided thinking about but the replacement has been so good that having another like it will be amazing.  I guess having it done next spring should be the goal and rehab should be faster this time.  However, something to look forward to beforehand is our 52nd wedding anniversary trip to Australia to an area we haven't visited previously.  Starting in Adelaide, South Australia; we're going through the Outback in a 4WD truck north to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) via some of the famous landmarks.  That should help take my mind off things.  Perhaps we can get back to normal in 2025 - I'll be 77 by then but still trying to live life to the fullest.

Outback 4WD adventure


  1. Still a lot going on Geoff!
    Shame about the extra surgery but that's what we get living down under. I had my first ever skin check in January and was prepared for the worst so was very surprised when he just said "see you next year".
    Your Adelaide trip will be awesome. It's a great town. I assume the trip will go through the Flinders ranges as well? I hope so because they are amazing.
    Cheers. Dave

  2. Hi Dave,
    No point in sitting around waiting for God 😊. Yep, QLD is a hot spot too. I guess competitive sailing for many years didn't help either. We'll have a few days in Adelaide first and really looking forward to the Flinders Range. There are some sightseeing flights available so we'll be taking advantage of them. After the trip, we'll fly to Melbourne to see our daughter so it will be pretty full on.

    1. There has been a lot of rain this year so if you get near Lake Eyre definitely take a look. It is unfathomably huge and to see it full of water in such a dry continent is a very special thing.

    2. Hi Dave, we`re all booked now. Will email and let you know what we've got planned.

  3. Congratulations on becoming Bionic Geoff. You have a great attitude to life, and are obviously making the best of things. Keep it up you old hooligan!

    1. Thank you for the kind comments (I think 😜). I just need to steer clear of electromagnets! Life's too short to sit around doing nothing and I hate being idle. Jennie would soon put a stop to that anyway. All the very best!

  4. Geoff, you are lucky to have a GP around that is so on top of his stuff. Great one, catching this before it might have gotten worse... Don't push yourself too hard though, take it slow, enjoy. All the best from the other side of the world. SonjaM

    1. Hi Sonja,
      Yes, Bryan is a very special person. He's a very accomplished sailor too - no end to his talents! Thank you for your words of wisdom, they're much appreciated. Whether I'm able to take my time is another matter entirely 😄


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