A little personal story that I would like to share.
Back in 2012 I started having some right knee problems. My right knee had had issues since I was 15 y.o. as I had a skiing accident and I blew my ACL, nevertheless it never got reconstructed.
It all started as pain and slowly I started losing strength on my knee. I was in the middle of shooting a long series so you can imagine the struggle I was going through.
The situation kept getting worse and worse. I had made plans so see and specialist but in the Canadian health care system you have to wait for your turn so I was doing due diligence.
I began to fear for my job. We still had a few episodes to shoot on my show and my situation was getting worse and worse.
Half of my energy was directed towards not letting it show on set. The last thing you want is you Steadi guy to be limping around.
I crawled towards the end of the show and finished it. By then, I was a disaster, things like going downstairs or getting out of the car were a huge struggle for me, not alone flying the rig, go figure.
I finally meet the orthopedist and the prognosis was a lot worse that my nightmares, I had severe osteoarthritis on my right knee and the only solution was to go for a full knee replacement. Having had blown my ACL at 15 and living through really crappy healthcare (another story for another time) lead to extreme wear and tear of the cartilage on my right knee.
I had a long chat with the specialist and he said that I could go for the knee replacement right away back in 2012 but he would recommend (due to my age at the time) that I would wait as long as I could. That the replacement was not a permanent solution and that I could get better with physiotherapy while postponing the knee replacement.
My whole world just collapsed, at the end of the day making a living as a camera/Steadicam operator and to make things worse I’m a very passionate downhill skier. My livelihood and my hobby were all of a sudden going down the drain.
Needless to say I went into a downwards spiral and I had no idea about where to move to. I was panicking.
I started doing physio and spending very long hours at the gym trying to get out of that mess. It was indeed a very slow process.
The biggest question on my head was weather I was going to be able to continue doing Steadi on the short term and more importantly weather I was going to be able to do it after having a full knee replacement done.
I had nobody to ask to. I asked my doctor, I tried to explain in detail what we do and what it implies and he said than he thought it would be OK. I asked my physiotherapist, I tried to explain in detail what we do and what it implies and he said than he thought it would be OK. But at the end of the day what we do it very hard to explain to a “regular” folk, so I asked myself, “who knows the most Steadicam operators on this planet?” Garrett!
I reached out to Garrett hoping he would know a Steadi op that had had a full knee replacement so I could contact him and get some light on this dark hour. I remember his answer very well “ I don’t and if I do probably he/she is hiding it is because of the same reason you are “. Wow! He blew my mind but he was so right, last thing we want is people thinking we can’t do our job. Especially when it is so physically demanding.
Time passed and I was fully committed to get ahead and go back to set and to the slopes. It was not easy, it was exactly the opposite of it, it was hard, slow and really annoying but I got there.
About 6 months after that I was back on my feet flying the right and skiing. I managed not only to get my strength back but to be pain free. I never took anything more than over the counter Advil for pain.
Life went on for 6 years, I was pain free and I kept working and skiing. I had to meet with my surgeon once a year just to make sure everything was still OK. You have to remember that I still needed to get my knee replaced, I was just buying time before the big surgery.
Then 2018 came, I had my yearly visit with the doctor and he asked me “how are you doing, can you go for another year without the surgery?”, I just said yes, everything was great. But this time instead of him saying “that’s great, see you in a year” he mentioned that I should not wait for the replacement for too much longer. My cartilage was completely worn out on the right side of the knee and I was bone on bone. Even when I was functional and pain free waiting for too much longer would compromise the replacement efficiency so we went ahead and scheduled the surgery for January 2019.
Needless to say I was petrified, I did not what to expect. In 6 years nobody could tell me weather the implant was going to be good enough so I could get back to work as a Steadi op but I had to go ahead with it.
I Went into the operating room, things went well and the surgery was a success, now it was time for a very long and very, very, VERY painful recovery, at the end of the day they cut the two biggest bones of your body to place the implant so you can imagine the level of pain.
I did my physio and slowly I went back to work, not doing Steadi but operating on a very nice show that I have being doing for a few seasons.
Eventually, about 5 months after the surgery I took my first Steadi day, things went actually pretty well. That cloud that was roaming over me for several years was finally dissipating,
I could fly the rig with a full Knee replacement!!!
Things were not as smooth after that but I don’t want to bore you with details, suming up my implant got infected and I had to have a second surgery and thankfully we won the battle against the bacteria.
They say is only a 0.04% chance of these implants to get infected, well… I should have had bought a lottery ticket.
I contacted Garrett again to report about the progress of this story and he suggested that I would share my story on the forum so here I am. Sharing it so other operators with similar struggles could reach out.
No longer I fear people thinking I can’t do My job.
I just did a 2 pages and change oner on my current show (Amazon’s American Gods), 15 takes and not for a second I had to think about my knee, I think that qualifies as trial under fire.
Now my story is out in the open, if any of you need somebody to approach about this sort of heath issues I would be more than happy to help