Hiking 100 Miles Through Europe – With A Brand-New Hip 

Keith Watling on his Tour du Mont Blanc

At 69 years young, Keith Watling inspires those who love the great outdoors. He guides hikers all over the White Mountains as a volunteer leader with the Appalachian Mountain Club. 

What makes his story remarkable is his fast recovery following his total right hip replacement surgery, performed at Emerson by Dr. Matthew Sloan using robotic-assisted surgery for optimal results. In 2019, during a weekend in the White Mountains, Keith slipped climbing a ladder in a hut, crashed to the floor, and fractured his right femur. New Hampshire Search and Rescue carried him down the mountain and transported him to a local hospital where he underwent surgery to stabilize the broken bone.

For the next ten weeks, Keith was on crutches and could not drive, much less hike. He recovered, but a few years later he experienced bone-on-bone pain in his hip, as a result of osteoarthritis. He knew he needed expert help. His primary care physician referred him to Matthew Sloan, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon and Director of Robotics for Emerson’s orthopedic surgery department.

Outstanding Candidate for Robotic-Assisted Hip Surgery  

“Keith was an outstanding candidate for robotic-assisted hip replacement surgery due to the type of injury he had and his strong athletic condition,” explains Dr. Sloan. “Robotic joint replacement surgery is less invasive, reducing recovery time and leading to more complete healing and patient satisfaction. Keith’s goal was to hike long trails pain-free. We were determined to get him back to what he loves.” In March 2023, Keith had surgery at Emerson.

Then came recovery. A nurse, physical therapist, and occupational therapist with Emerson Home Care visited Keith at home for three weeks to ensure he was healing well and could begin mobility exercises. When he was ready, he went to outpatient physical therapy appointments twice a week.

One Step at a Time Leads to Conquering The Tour du Mount Blanc 

“As soon as I could, I started walking daily on my new hip. Nearly six weeks after surgery, I set a goal to do 10,000 steps every day. Dr. Sloan and his team literally got me back on me feet and allowed me to do what I love. I could not have had more expert care,” reflects Keith.

This summer, just four months after surgery, Keith embarked on one of his most ambitious hikes ever – a 100-mile trek through Europe known as the Tour du Mont Blanc. Of the 16 participants, he was the only one sporting a brand-new hip.

“People could not believe it. It is amazing that modern hip replacement had me hiking mountains just months after the procedure. We started in France and continued via steep ascents and descents to Italy, Switzerland, and back into France. We hiked over 10 miles a day amidst the most exhilarating scenery and spectacular views. I experienced no issues with my hip whatsoever. Without this surgery, I would have had to stop hiking the mountains that I so love! I am very grateful to Dr. Sloan and his team.”

Today, Keith is busy hiking locally and planning his next adventures, including completion of “The White Mountains Grid” – hiking each of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-foot peaks in every month of the year – a total of 576 summits. He only has ten more to go! Keith’s experience proves that with expert medical care, hard work, and ambitious goals, the summit is within reach.

Keith Watling on his Tour du Mont Blanc