Patient Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro After Hip Replacement Surgery

Roy Wyatt, 75, Keeps Moving After Two Hip Replacements

For Roy Wyatt of Lilburn, undergoing hip replacement surgery was as quick and easy as having a tooth pulled. He was back to exercising at the YMCA within one week after his first hip replacement, and less than six months after his second hip replacement, he completed the Peachtree Road Race for the 14th consecutive year.

At 74, Wyatt did not let his surgery slow him down. The runner, hiker, mountain climber, and retired banker climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in January 2007, just prior to his second hip replacement. Later that year, in September, he spent six weeks riding his bicycle from St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California, so he could boast of biking from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In April 2008, he and his son, 55-year-old Keith Wyatt of Duluth, climbed Denali (also known as Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20, 320 ft.). The following June, they flew to La Paz, Bolivia, and conquered two peaks in the Andes, one of which required ice climbing to reach the summit. Afterwards, they slowed down a bit for a six-day, 440-mile bicycle ride in September along the Natchez Trace from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi.

"When you get old, you have two choices. You either do it, or you sit," Wyatt joked. "I've always flown airplanes, raced motorcycles, and exercised, and I have no intention of slowing down."

"Obviously, Mr. Wyatt is not our typical hip replacement patient," said Resurgens Orthopaedics surgeon Dr. David J. Covall. "He's an amazing guy. The fact that he was so active before his surgery and so motivated played an important role in his recovery afterwards."

According to Dr. Covall, total hip replacement patients tend to do very well. "Almost 95 percent of my patients go home from the hospital the day after surgery," he said, calling the surgery "probably less risky than driving on Interstate 285."

The biggest problem Dr. Covall sees from hip replacement surgery may be when patients wait too long to have it. Patients who are older and have lost mobility experience longer recovery times. "These patients take longer to recover because there is more to recover from," he said.

Wyatt, however, was able to do more sooner than most patients of any age. "I have very few patients I can compare to him," Dr. Covall said.

"When you get old, you have two choices. You either do it, or you sit"

While Wyatt lets very few things slow him down, he recently set aside his dream of climbing Mt. Everest, but not because of his health. The cost of the trip — a cool $70,000 per person to attempt the summit — made him rethink that goal. "That's a ton of money, and there were no guarantees that we would make it to the top."

Rather than attempt Everest, he began planning his family's annual snowboarding trip to Vermont. He pays for every member of his family who wants to go, on one condition — that each joins him in "the polar bear thing" and jumps into the icy water of the lake.

Wyatt recalled the Natchez Trace as "spectacular on a bicycle" as he enthusiastically recounted what he learned about the pre-Colombian Indian mounds in the area.

His Mt. Kilimanjaro climb was "an exciting adventure," but the hot-air balloon safari over the Tanzanian Serengeti afterwards was his favorite part of the Africa trip.

In December, he and Keith completed a round-trip bicycle ride on the Silver Comet Trail, cycling the 96 miles from Smyrna, Georgia, to Anniston, Alabama, on Saturday and returning on Sunday.

Wyatt has now completed the Peachtree Road Race 15 times, and he hopes to rollerblade the Silver Comet Trail "the next pretty weekend."

Asked if he still flies, he said, "yes, but my arms get tired," pausing to await laughter. While he sold his plane because of rising fuel costs, he continues to keep his pilot's license current.

The Jackson, Tennessee, native retired from a career in international banking at the age of 55. For many years he owned his own plane, and flew to visit banks throughout the Southeast.

Roy and his wife, Doris, have four children and seven grandchildren. 

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