John, 81, climbs Everest in his Yorkshire home after getting new ankle

After receiving a new ankle John Sanderson, 81, decided to walk the equivalent of Everest by climbing his stairs. Catherine Scott reports.

John Sanderson
John Sanderson

After many years of enjoying an active lifestyle John Sanderson found himself struggling to walk due to his severely arthritic ankle.

It became so bad he was forced to stop playing his beloved game of cricket. Pain literally stopped him in his tracks as his left ankle had deteriorated to the point it was causing bone to rub on bone.

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After undergoing a total ankle replacement at Spire Leeds Hospital, John was able to return to the cricket pitch and today he continues to enjoy the game.

What’s more remarkable, the 81-year-old grandfather of four and former PE teacher has since climbed the equivalent of the world’s highest mountain. During lockdown, self-isolating together with his wife Ruth, and keen to build his fitness levels, John set himself a challenge. He exercised by climbing the stairs in his home. He kept count and completed his first challenge of 44,000 steps (averaging 600ft a day).

“I wanted to ensure I kept up my fitness levels as lockdown had restricted my outdoor activities. I started to climb the stairs at home and it became a daily regime. I’ve since continued to add to that number and have now reached a total of 116, 000 feet,” says John

When he reached the point over four years ago when pain meant he was literally stopped in his tracks he was referred to Professor Nick Harris, consultant foot and ankle surgeon at Spire. X-rays revealed osteoarthritis and due to loose ligaments, his ankle was tipping over to the side. He underwent a left total ankle replacement in October 2016, enabling him to go back to the activities he enjoyed in the past and to set himself new physical challenges.

“Without surgery Mr Sanderson would have suffered increasing pain and deformity with an associated reduction in his levels of activity,” said Prof Harris, who has performed more than 400 ankle replacements over the last 20 years.

“Ankle replacements, although increasing in numbers are still uncommon. About 1,000 are performed each year compared to 100,000 knee replacements. They are usually reserved for older patients.”

Being an ‘older’ patient hasn’t stopped John. Last month he climbed Goat Fell, the highest mountain on the Isle of Arran.

“My ankle did ache a bit after the first seven miles, but I figured that’s not too bad.”