It’s down hill for Morton Grove skier, 78, after knee replacement
Harvey Brin, 78, skied black diamond runs at Steamboat Springs seven months after double-knee-replacement surgery. | Contributed photo
NAME: Harvey Brin.
BEST KNOWN AS: Skiing enthusiast, double-knee-replacement recipient.
HOMETOWN: Morton Grove.
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:42AM
For Harvey Brin the worst part of having worn-out, painful knees was that it kept him off of the ski slopes.
The 78-year-old Morton Grove resident had tried to get past the pain, but skiing was something he could just no longer do.
“I’d been skiing in pain. I could ski for two yours pain-free, then the aching started,” Brin said. “In skiing the knee is everything.”
Brin tried “every injection you can thing of” and anything else that might help, but nothing did.
Finally in March of last year he took his two grandsons skiing in Colorado. “I could not make a (ski) run,” Brin recounted.
He saw a doctor in Colorado who told him his knees were pretty much shot, just worn out from a lifetime of use. The doctor recommended that Brin have his knees replaced one at a time.
But Brin, eager to get it done, didn’t want to have one knee replaced and then return to the hospital a few months later to have the second surgery.
He found another surgeon, Wayne Goldstein at the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute, who was willing to replace both knees at the same time.
He had it done May 17, 2011, at Skokie Northshore Hospital and was out of bed already the next day.
“I had heard horror stories. But the pain was minimal,” he said. “The horror stories you hear about the extreme pain (after surgery) are exaggerations.
“They get you on your feet the next day.”
One thing that helped, she said, were classes the hospital offered for patients planning to undergo knee replacements before the surgery.
“They really did a great job,” Brin said.
He spent a few days recovering at the hospital and then went to Alden NorthShore Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Skokie. He spent three weeks there, receiving physical therapy two times a day and occupational therapy once a day, six days a week.
Brin and his wife had checked out several rehab facilities before he had the surgery and liked what they saw at Alden. In addition to free popcorn and ice cream the facility offered the kind of intensive therapy that Brin thought would help him get back on the slopes as soon as possible. He also liked the friendliness of the staff.
Just seven months after the surgery he was back at Steamboat Springs, Colo., hitting the slopes — this time without the pain that had marred his last trip.
“In December I went to Steamboat and skied for six solid days” Brin said. “It was such a joy to ski without pain. I felt like an 18-year-old with so much energy.”
Brin credits the time at Alden, as well as his own determination to get well quickly for his rapid recovery.
He said he would get up at 6 a.m. for his first physical-therapy session before most other patients even woke up.
“I was a star pupil because I wanted to get on the slopes,” Brin said.
In fact, he said, one of the fist things he did after that first day of skiing was calling his physical therapist at Alden to tell him the news.
“I had to share my achievement with him and the rest of the Alden staff,” he said.
“Everyone (at Alden) was very caring. It just felt like part of a big family,” Brin said.
On a recent visit that was apparent, as one staff member rushed up to Brin to show him her engagement ring. She and her fiance had just been dating when Brin was a patient, and she wanted to share the good news.
With his new knees Brin makes few concessions to his age, though occasionally it catches up with him.
He’s made two more ski trips since the first one in December.
On one of those he took his 16-year-old grandson and for the most part was able to keep up.
“We skied six consecutive days. We skied straight from 10 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.),” Brin said. “On Day 6 I got up and I was wiped.”
He also plays golf three times a week and works out three times a week, one of those days with a personal trainer.
Though he can golf now without pain he admits it hasn’t changed everything.
“My golf game hasn’t gotten any better,” Brin said.