Jon McKibben felt he belonged outdoors for as long as he can remember. Hunting, fishing, hiking and working his wife’s family homestead nestled in an oak grove in rural Jefferson, Oregon, are a way of life for the active 54-year-old helicopter mechanic. Even chronic knee pain couldn’t keep him from doing everything he loved.
Despite his best effort to minimize his pain and continue enjoying the things he loved with his beloved wife, Becky, Jon noticed himself slowing down. “I was taking Aleve and icing my knees every night no matter what I did,” Jon recalled. “I wasn’t ready to be laid up and not work, though.”
Despite the discomfort, Jon continued to balance his time between moving heavy equipment and climbing ladders maintaining Life Flight Network helicopters and raking leaves and fixing up their eighth-generation family farm home.
Then things changed.
“I was unloading a new air compressor at work one day and it started to tip over. I didn’t want to lose a new piece of equipment, so I bent to catch it, and my knee immediately gave way,” he said.
While he cared for his knee by increasing his Aleve and icing routine, Jon quickly realized his knees were going to keep him from what he loved — scaling mountainsides and climbing down to rivers to drop a fishing line.
“I could still hunt, but I’d have to walk for 10 to 15 minutes, then sit down and rest my knees,” he recalled. “I wasn’t going to live that way.”
Motivated by the need to be outdoors, Jon sought out a solution. After researching local options for joint replacement, he opted for Samaritan Albany General Hospital because of its exemplary quality rating. He made an appointment at Samaritan Medical Group Orthopedics in Albany, and after an initial appointment, some X-rays and an MRI, he set his path to getting new knees.
“I did everything I could to make sure I was putting in the work before surgery,” said Jon. “I exercised, went to the education class and lined up everything I’d need for after surgery.”
In 2017, Jon had his first knee replacement surgery with Stephen Newman, MD.
“I gave myself some time before going back for my second knee replacement.”
In March 2019, Jon returned to Samaritan Albany General Hospital for surgery on his other knee. This time, he was greeted by Kelli Baum, DO, because Dr. Newman had retired.
“After going through my first surgery, I knew this program had been refined over many years. The cooperation between Dr. Baum’s office, the hospital and the physical therapy team just clicked, and it worked great. They were a great team to have on my side.”
Jon’s surgery took place in the morning, and he was up walking the halls of the nurses’ station by lunchtime.
“I didn’t want to hold still,” he recalled.
After returning home that same evening, Jon continued his recovery from the comfort of his own home and Becky’s loving care.
“I just kept telling myself — ‘get out and go,’” he remembered. “I wanted to be back to work in six weeks, and I was determined to really use my knees by summer and fall.”
And that’s exactly what Jon did. Within six weeks, he returned to work, lifting, climbing and bending with ease.
“Becky and I used to dance occasionally when we were younger, but I just couldn’t do it anymore with my knees.”
But this past June, at his niece’s backyard wedding, Jon and Becky hit the dance floor again.
“We danced out there with our nieces and nephews. We had so much fun. Everyone had a great time,” he said with a smile.
The second long-awaited test approached in the fall with the opening of hunting season. Jon and Becky had planned their first hunting trip in Eastern Oregon after Jon’s surgeries. Determined to keep up with his wife, Jon continued with his rehabilitation exercises while he packed his hunting gear and scouted the couple’s planned hunting unit.
“I committed to living my life,” he said.
And in November of 2019, Jon and his wife Becky returned to the wilderness, scaling mountains and seeking clear cuts, determined to fill his hunting tag.
“I’ve got my life back,” Jon said. “And if just one person decides to commit to joint replacement from my story, then this was well worth it.”
Did you know that the knee is the largest joint in the body? And, it is one of the most easily injured? Orthopedic surgeons do more work on knees than any other part of the body. Learn more about your knees.