MAYWOOD, IL – Randy Jonas was so hobbled by arthritic knees and a bad back that he couldn't walk more than a block or two without debilitating pain.
But after undergoing spine surgery and two knee replacements at Loyola Medicine, Mr. Jonas feels so good he's planning to walk 500 miles in the famed pilgrimage known as the Way of St. James.
Mr. Jonas, 72, of Chicago, also underwent successful shoulder surgery at Loyola.
"I'm Loyola's bionic man," he said. "I'm a new man because of the operations I've had at Loyola,"
The Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) is a network of routes leading to a cathedral in northwest Spain in the city of Santiago de Compostela. The remains of the apostle James are said to be buried in the cathedral. More than 300,000 people annually take various routes to the cathedral on foot, bicycle and horseback. Mr. Jonas' route will begin in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and take him across northern Spain.
Mr. Jonas plans to begin his trek on Sept. 5. He'll carry his clothes and belongings in an 18-pound backpack, and sleep in hostels. He estimates it will take 38 to 40 days to complete the hike, averaging about 13 miles per day.
Mr. Jonas said he is doing the long walk in honor of his late wife, Arlene. He first read about the Way of St. James when she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. He promised her that when she got better, they would go to Santiago de Compostela to give thanks. Unfortunately, she did not survive the cancer.
A few years ago, when Mr. Jonas was hobbled by back pain, walking even one mile would have been unthinkable. The pain was caused by a pinched nerve and spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra). Orthopaedic surgeon Alexander Ghanayem, MD, performed a laminectomy to relieve pressure on the nerve and a spinal fusion to stabilize the spine.
Mr. Jonas' knees, ravaged by arthritis and old rugby injuries, also made walking painful. Orthopaedic surgeon William Hopkinson, MD, repaired that problem by replacing both knees with artificial joints. Dr. Hopkinson said that while knee replacement patients should not run or jump, long hikes are okay. "The replacement joint should not limit a patient from physical activity," Dr. Hopkinson said.
Mr. Jonas also had a bad shoulder. Orthopaedic surgeon Dane Salazar, MD, relieved Mr. Jonas' shoulder pain and restored the joint's function by repairing a torn rotator cuff.
Mr. Jonas' surgeons said his positive outlook and hard work during rehab were instrumental in making his surgeries successful.
"I'm doing this to fulfill a commitment to my wife , and also as a spiritual journey," Mr. Jonas said. "I'm sure she will be watching over me during my trip."