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Life After a Knee Replacement - Walt's Story

Fifty years of climbing up into tractors, chasing cattle, riding horses and throwing hay bales takes its toll. For Walt Cranor, that toll came in the form of a total knee replacement completed in 2021 by Dr. Blake Clifton.  

For Walt, the journey to a knee replacement started over 30 years ago with a meniscus tear. Walt sought care at Gunnison Valley Health and learned that the injury was severe enough to require surgery and torn in a manner that made reattachment impossible. The only option the surgeon had was to trim the meniscus so the flap didn’t fold under. Following the surgery, Walt was able to return to ranching and his active life, but after decades of use his meniscus wore down to nothing leaving Walt with a joint plagued by arthritis and pain.  

“There is nothing worse than the cattle getting out, and not being able to help because your knee is in such poor shape,” mused Walt. 

The knee was greatly affecting Walt’s life. Life as a rancher means walking, climbing in machinery, riding horses and even running are a necessity. His knee had reached a point where these activities were not possible without significant pain. 

Walt lived with the pain for many years before he decided to get an orthopedic opinion in the spring of 2020. Walt received three rounds of corticosteroid injections to help extend the life of the knee as much as possible, but after reviewing Walt’s images, Dr. Clifton determined that a replacement was the only route to go. His original surgery was scheduled for winter of 2020, but COVID restrictions and the dangers of being unstable in winter conditions caused it to be pushed off. Ranch work only gets busier in the spring and summer, so the surgery had to be pushed even later to avoid haying season. September of 2021 turned out to be the magical date for Walt and the surgery was a massive success. The joint surface was so worn down that the new joint lengthened Walt’s leg by almost half an inch. 

Walt has nothing but praise for the care Dr. Clifton gives throughout the entire process.

“When I went into the consultation, he explained the surgery and risks in real, human terms, that I could understand,” said Walt. “He answered every question I had, and even anticipated most of the questions I would have.” 

Since the completion of his successful right knee replacement, Walt has since been a continued patient of Dr. Clifton – getting visco-supplementation injections into his left knee every six months. The solution will push out a knee replacement for two to three years, and Walt says his knee feels “fifteen years younger.” Since his successful right knee replacement, he has really noticed the drastic difference between the two knees.

“The successful right knee replacement has really made me aware how painful my left knee really is,” said Walt. “I am working with Dr. Clifton to extend the life of my left knee for as long as possible.”

Walt highly recommends Dr. Clifton and his team.  

“Dr. Clifton is humble, approachable, and knows his job extremely well,” said Walt. “He has been spot on with his predictions for my recovery timeline.”  

Walt has since returned to full time ranch work, even able to complete activities he has not been able to perform in years.   

“My daughter gets married at the end of September, and I can dance with her!” said Walt. “Before my replacement I was not sure this would be possible.”