The Faith Behind a Father's Promise
How the power of a promise to his daughter motivated this father to change his life.
When I was 30, I heard about a new arthroscopic procedure developed by a sports surgeon in Houston. Should I try it? Pat and I had three young kids by then. I’d be out of commission for weeks, and the last thing Pat needed was a fourth person to take care of. But she insisted, “If there’s a chance it could help, it’s worth it.”
I had the surgery, and for about half a year my left knee felt pretty good. But then the old clicks and pops returned. So did the pain. There’s no cure, I thought. I’ll just have to deal with it.
I was used to playing hurt from my football days. For the next 20 years I toughed it out. Me and my bottles of Advil. But when I hit 50, the knee really deteriorated. Slowly, inexorably, I had to give up the physical activities that had defined my life. Tennis went first. Then rock climbing and wilderness hiking. Just throwing a football around the yard with my two older boys required icing afterward.
Now even my good knee was a mess, and here I was sitting on the sidelines—okay, in my truck—while Brooke and her friends rock-climbed. Me, a competitor, reduced to a chaperone.
For a few weeks after the church retreat, I babied that right knee. When the pain didn’t go away, I went to Dr. Rizk again. An MRI confirmed a torn meniscus. “I can definitely fix it with arthroscopy,” he said with the same confidence as my previous doctors.
I was dubious. “I’ve heard stories about guys like me who have this surgery, and end up worse than before,” I told Pat. “They can’t jog, can barely stand in line at a movie.”
“You never complain,” Pat said, “but I know that your knee is killing you. Surely scoping has improved in the last twenty years.”
I had the surgery. Six weeks of daily rehab sessions later, the knee definitely felt stronger. I could do a vigorous workout on the elliptical, no problem.
One afternoon in April I stopped by Dr. Rizk’s for a checkup.
“How’s that right knee?” he asked.
“Better than I thought it would be,” I admitted. “A lot better.”
“I can help you with your left knee too,” Dr. Rizk said. “Have you ever considered a partial knee replacement?”
No way, I thought. That’s where I draw the line. I’d done a fair amount of reading on knee replacement. It was major surgery, requiring months of rehab—months when I’d have limited mobility. Plus, there was no guarantee it would work. It was a lot riskier than arthroscopy, after all.
Then I thought of the promise I had made to Brooke, to climb in the Sierras with her when she turned 16. I thought of that frustrating day in January when I’d had to sit out her church retreat. Hadn’t I asked the Lord then to help me keep my promise to my daughter? What if this knee replacement was his answer?
At 7:00 a.m. the following Monday, I went into surgery. It was truly an act of faith. Four hours later I awoke to see two burly physical therapists hovering over me. “Time to get up, Jeff,” one of the guys said. They helped me onto my feet. “Hold on to this walker to steady yourself. Now get moving.”
I gripped the walker tight, leaning on my arms. “It’s okay,” the other therapist said. “You can put weight on that left knee now.”