Less than five months after two partial knee replacements, Jeff King, a former patient of Nanticoke Health Services Joint Camp, spent a week pushing his body to extreme limits as he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
King, formerly of Hartley, Delaware and now residing in Saratoga Springs, Utah, completed the hike in September 2017. The journey took seven days and King reached the top elevation of 19,341 feet at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, Africa’s highest peak.
If it was not for the help of Dr. Lawrence Piccioni, orthopedic surgeon, and the team at Nanticoke Health Services, King might not have been able to make this climb—at least not without a lot of pain.
After an attempt at the climb last year (he was one day from the summit when a person he was with became ill), he was in a lot of pain. His knees were very sore and they got progressively worse. Walking short distances hurt, sitting for too long hurt, and he had trouble sleeping because of the constant pain in his knees.
During the winter season of 2016-2017, the pain prompted him to see a specialist in Utah. The specialist told him he was too young for knee replacement surgery and he recommended an expensive brace to help reduce the pain and pressure on his knees. King did some research and even spoke to someone who had the brace. This person told King the brace could cause more pain and bruising and told King it probably was not the right solution for someone who was as active as King. After that, he made an appointment with his former physician, Dr. Lawrence Piccioni, to get a second opinion.
In March 2017, King flew to Delaware and met with Dr. Piccioni. Dr. Piccioni said he was a perfect candidate for a partial knee replacement. In April, he had this surgery on his right knee. Just two weeks later he had a partial left knee replacement.
“I was so bow-legged from my joints dropping that I gained an inch in height after surgery,” recalls King. “I had family members say it was an amazing difference between my first and second surgery. My knee with the procedure was straight and the knee waiting for surgery was still crooked.”
“I didn’t realize how much pain I was in until after the first surgery. My knee felt so much better. I was walking two hours after surgery and felt great. I was doing laps around the unit. The knee that didn’t have surgery was hurting so much more than the one that just had surgery. Everybody at the hospital—the anesthesiologists, nurses, doctors, and therapists—were all awesome. When I went through Nanticoke’s Joint Camp, I saw models of exactly what would be put in my knees.”
King flew home to Utah right after surgery. It was a four hour long plane ride and he walked to the terminal by himself with no problems. His girlfriend, Karen, was ready to meet him at the airport with a wheelchair, but he happily said he would walk instead.
At the young age of 57, King enjoys a very active life. He is retired from the City of Dover Police Department after 20 years and currently works as a Federal Police Officer with the Department of Defense in Utah. King enjoys getting outdoors and hiking the picturesque mountains of his new hometown of Saratoga Springs. In 2007, he hiked nearly 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, completing the Appalachian Trail in just over 4 months. In 2011, he completed a cross-country bicycle ride on the TransAmerican bike route stretching from Virginia to Oregon, logging nearly 4,250 miles. King has hiked across Spain, hiked portions of the Great Wall of China, and has walked just feet away from lions on an African safari. So, Mt. Kilimanjaro was a natural thing for King to aspire to do and he was grateful to be able to do it without unnecessary pain in his knees.
“I like to hike, I like to bike, I like to keep moving,” King said. “I would not be able to do these things without pain if it was not for Dr. Piccioni and the team at Nanticoke.”
To learn more about Nanticoke’s Joint Camp program, call 302-629-6611, extension 5105 or visit www.nanticoke.org/jointcamp.