4/15/2013 10:56:00 AM Still going strong Kroska has second hip surgery at age 25, continues to milk cows
Kroska has recently come out of recovery from his second surgery. Although he is doing 85 percent of the chores on his dairy farm, Kroska is being careful not to push himself too much. PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN
Kroska will need to have surgery on his other hip in the future. He has already started to look at installing a parlor that he won’t need to step down into in order to reduce stress on his hips. PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN
by Missy Mussman
FOLEY, Minn. - As a young dairy farmer, it is difficult enough getting started in the industry, but Jay Kroska has the added struggle of being more aware of his joints while milking 33 head of dairy cattle in a stanchion barn near Foley, Minn. At the age of six, Jay Kroska now 25, had been dealing with a pain in his knee. He soon realized the problem was actually in his hip. Kroska found out he had Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease in both hips. The thighbone and pelvis usually meet in a ball-and-socket joint, but this disease temporarily interrupts the blood supply to the ball part of the joint. This can cause the bone to be more susceptible to breaking and healing poorly. "The ball joint on your hip is supposed to be round, but mine was flat," Kroska said. "It's like trying to put a square peg into a round hole." Throughout high school, things seemed to be going well, and Kroska dug right into helping on the family's dairy farm while working at a factory in town. In June of 2009, Kroska decided to purchase the herd from his father, Jay Sr., and took over the dairy farm. "It was something I have always wanted to do," Kroska said about dairy farming. "Dad was getting older, and his attention was in the field more. It was the perfect time of year, too, June Dairy Month." Jay Sr. kept to the fieldwork, while Kroska focused on the dairy cattle. "I do more with the cows," Kroska said. "I'm not one to drive the tractor unless I am chopping haylage." Only two years after taking over the dairy farm, Kroska realized the condition of his right hip was getting more severe. He underwent surgery during the winter of 2011, with three months of recovery ahead of him. During his recovery, Kroska completed his physical therapy at home by doing certain exercises prescribed by medical staff. "I had to lift my leg to a certain angle and lower it again," Kroska said. "I couldn't bend my leg too far because they didn't want me to wreck any ligaments." With Kroska laid up for three months, the family was fortunate to have their son, Brett, around to take over the chores while his little brother was recovering. His other siblings were wonderful in helping out where they could when they were around. "I didn't like watching other people work," Kroska said. "I just wanted to be out there checking for heats or making the little judgment calls." Thankfully his brother and family kept him in the loop, and allowed him to make some decisions during his recuperation. "I had to be patient, and that's all I could do." Kroska said. "It was nice to know people were just a phone call away if we needed to make an adjustment." After three months, Kroska was back outside doing chores with his brother. But even after having the surgery, his right hip was still a little sore. After two years of still dealing with some pain in his right hip, he found out the two metals that were used to secure his hip were being recalled. They were basically starting to corrode. "I was relieved that I wasn't going crazy thinking something wasn't right," Kroska said. "Towards the end it was starting to swell. I felt like I was in worse shape than when I got it done in the first place." For the second time, Kroska underwent surgery on his right hip in January of this year. "When I got in there, I told them to paint the metal red for Internationals," Kroska said with a laugh. "They must have had a John Deere one in there before." It was frustrating for Kroska to be having surgery for the second time on the same hip because of the metal. Plus, he was concerned about the long term effects it could have on him. "I was worried that there could be muscle damage because of this," Kroska said. "The metal levels in my blood were lower than most people who had to come back for the same reason." Kroska again did his physical therapy at home and patiently waited to recover, but found out the recuperation time was much shorter the second go around, and by mid February, was starting to feed the cows. "It was much faster this time," Kroska said. "I didn't bruise, swell or anything." Kroska is currently doing 85 percent of the work on the farm with the help of his brother and two part-time workers, although he is taking things slow. "I am doing almost everything, but I have to avoid overdoing it," Kroska said. "I have to watch myself during milking, but the cows are cooperating pretty well." Looking ahead, Kroska has ideas to make things easier for him on the farm. He hopes to put in a parlor, preferably a swing 8 or a parabone, but he would need a parlor he wouldn't need to step down into to keep from bothering his hip. Even though his right hip is mended, his left hip still needs to be repaired. "They are figuring it will be about 15 years before I have to go back in to do surgery on my left hip," Kroska said. "It all depends. We will see."