Enjoying The Outdoors With New Knees

After a decade of not being able to hike, Anita Elder is filling up her summer with scheduled hikes after two knee replacements.
Anita Elder Anita Elder
Seattle Photography Committee Chair
May 05, 2017

For the past ten years, I haven't been able to hike. My knees were severely arthritic and the pain was so great that it got to where I couldn't even stand for more than 15 minutes without crying. I tried to not let it stop me. I was in my late 50s, felt 20 years older, obese from not being able to exercise, losing muscle tone, depressed, and not wanting to leave the house. It was time for a change.

After seeing other people's photos from Mountaineers hikes, I longed to be like them and often felt sorry for myself, because I didn't think I could ever feel pain-free enough to even try. I lived vicariously through Suzanne Gerber (our dear Mountaineers magazine editor) and her Facebook posts, dreaming about being with her on hikes and adventures. I still led photography trips that involved driving to a location, getting out and taking photos, then driving to another location.

pre-surgery knees

X-Rays on knees before surgery - bone on bone and off-set

As a disabled vet, I get my medical from the VA. Before they would agree to knee replacement surgery, I had to jump through several hoops. I had to be at least 55 years old, get my diabetes under control, and lose enough weight to meet their BMI requirement. The weight issue was the hardest since I couldn't exercise to help (even water aerobics was painful).

Last year, with lots of determination, I met all the requirements and had my first knee replacement in September 2017. With one good knee and one bad, I found I could walk about a mile before the bad knee caused me pain. At the end of January 2017, I had the other knee replaced.

After only two months, I felt so good I was chomping at the bit to get outside and start hiking! I was so excited that I rode my bike four miles and loved every minute of it. But, it was too much, too soon, and I paid for it a couple of days later when my knee ligaments were screaming at me.

My life has changed a lot since last summer. Three months after the second knee replacement and seven months after the first, I've completed two 3.5 mile hikes! I have found that my pace is faster than I expected and my balance is 100 times better than before. I've lost 56 pounds since last year and plan on losing more (which should be easier now that I can exercise). I feel 10 years younger!

I'm really looking forward to hikes this spring and summer (I have around 15 scheduled through the end of August) and exploring our great state. Most of my hikes are photography hikes, but I'm enjoying going on hikes with the Naturalists, too. Next year, I hope to get involved on longer hikes and backpacking with the Mountaineers. I'm so thankful for the Mountaineers to give me ways to experience the outdoors!

Editor's note: We are so proud of Anita and are honored to share her story. Anita is Currently Raising Money to Support Mountaineers Youth Programs Through Our Park YOur Adventure Challenge. SUPPORT HER NEW KNEE CHALLENGE HEre or To join Her On one of her MANY hikes with us, search for her activities here OR Help her Raise Money for our youth programs 

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Jeff Bowman
Jeff Bowman says:
Thu, Apr 27, 2017 5:41 PM

Way to go Anita! Keep cranking out the miles and the great photos!

Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Fri, May 5, 2017 9:11 AM

Thanks, Jeff!

Danielle Graham
Danielle Graham says:
Sat, Apr 29, 2017 7:58 AM

Way to go, Anita! Looking forward to meeting you on a Naturalist trip.

Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Fri, May 5, 2017 9:10 AM

Thank you! I'm co-leading one to Union Bay next weekend.

Doug Canfield
Doug Canfield says:
Mon, May 1, 2017 8:17 AM

Congratulations! Your resolve -- and subsequent successes -- are inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Fri, May 5, 2017 9:12 AM

Thanks, Doug. I hope it will inspire others who are facing knee replacement surgery so they can get outdoors and do more.

Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Fri, May 5, 2017 9:10 AM

I'm up to 5-mile hikes now...loving it so much! I feel like a kid, eager to explore my surroundings!

Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Sun, May 7, 2017 3:00 PM

I and my knees say, 'Hurrah." You've brought the same determination, creativity and chutzpah to your joints that you bring to photo leadership. To the hills!!