Sprinting Up the Staircase at 83

Talked with Sarah on the phone tonight. She had her knee replaced two months ago. The first doctor had said, ‘When does it hurt?” “When I’m flying from Arizona to New Zealand,” she replied. “Then don’t fly to New Zealand,” said the doctor.

She had to go to three more doctors before finding one willing to do the surgery. But now the knee is getting stiff and problematic, Sarah says. She can only bend it 125 degrees, she says, which is bothersome.

“What does it prevent you from doing?” I ask, unable to picture exactly how 125 degrees of flexion differs from 135 degrees, which she had attained shortly after surgery.

“When I’m in the pool, I can’t bend it enough to put my fin on,” she says.

Sarah’s a swimmer. She’s my best friend, and also my mother. She’s 83 years old. I laugh.

“Mom, does this flexion problem prevent you from doing anything anyone ELSE would consider a necessary daily activity?” I ask. “Oh no,” she says. “I can climb up and down stairs, and hop up and down from chairs and toilet seats. It’s just the fin thing. But it’s so annoying!”

You might wonder why a swimmer NEEDS to wear fins.

Answer: To keep up with the 40-year-olds in her lane. You might also wonder whether Sarah will read this. She stars in many of my articles and books (with a character like this, SOMEONE in the family HAD to become a writer.)

But Sarah may never get around to reading this. It’s not that she lacks computer literacy. It’s just that, when not swimming or traveling or showing off her newfound ability to sprint up and down staircases (“Watch this! Watch this!”), she’s busy uploading photos to her website. True story. Go Mom!

Mariah Burton Nelson
American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation MNelson@aahperd.org

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3 Responses to “Sprinting Up the Staircase at 83”

  1. Rebecca Morgan Says:

    Great story. Your mom is an inspiration.

    It’s sad that most of us don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Like Sarah, I have had knee problems. Now I appreciate how I could squat and bend, but now it causes pain or I flat out can’t do it. And I injured my knees exercising! Even with PT, they aren’t quite right, but I try to not let that stop me. Swimming would probably be good for them, but I think I was a cat in a past life; I just am not drawn to jump in the pool. So biking, walking and Jazzercise witll have to do.

    Thanks for sharing inspiring stories like this.

  2. Mariah Burton Nelson Says:

    Hey Rebecca, your first comment says it all.

    To use modern parlance, we SO take for granted our bodies!

    I was a dolphin in a past life, so on non-swimming days feel a need to immerse myself in the tub. But luckily “cats” like you do have other options. Good for you for biking, walking and Jazzercising.

    As for the knees, quad strength plays a huge role. I think you’ll find that the more stronger your thighs get, the happier your knees get. Injuries are part of this game, but overall, athletic bodies are healthier than nonathletic bodies.

    Keep on moving. And keep writing back! In fact, I’d welcome ongoing reports on your commitment to care for your body/self!

  3. Leg Lifts in the Hospital (Mom, Continued) « Bodies in Motion Says:

    […] Bodies in Motion How to get in the habit of health, physical activity, recreation, and fitness « Sprinting Up the Staircase at 83 […]


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