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Robert P. Print E-mail

Occupation – Electrical-Mechanical Engineer, retired

Location – Santa Cruz, California

Age – 78

Treatment - Total Ankle Replacement

I was always very active in sports when I was in school, particularly basketball and volleyball.  After college, I continued playing basketball regularly until I was 40.  I had a number of injuries to my ankles that contributed to degenerative arthritis as I got older.  The joint on my right ankle was deteriorating, creating an ankle with a tipped talus (a critical bone in the ankle joint that connects the leg to the foot.).

The beginning of the really bad, chronic pain was the result of a relatively minor accident – stepping wrong as I climbed a lake ladder after a swim.  From this accident and the problem with my talus, weight bearing was becoming very painful.  By the time I was in my mid-60s, I was having progressive problems with walking and had to use a cane and a walker at times – way too early.  I was and am still very healthy otherwise, so my ankle problems really were affecting my quality of life.

In early 2001, I visited Dr. Nicholas Abidi at Santa Cruz Orthopaedic Institute to remove some bone chips and calcium deposits from my ankle in order to ease some of the pain.  We discussed other options, and Dr. Abidi told me then that the only thing left was an ankle replacement.   I spent my career as an electro- mechanical engineer, so I’m very research-oriented.  I read a lot about ankle replacements and prosthetics after that conversation, but wasn’t convinced that the ankle replacement materials were good enough at the time.

During the 2000s I was focused on trying to avoid the surgery.  I researched online, regularly visited a physical therapist, and experimented with walking boots.  I also learned to brace my ankle with a splint, which at times was the only way I could walk.   Still, the pain persisted.

I even consulted with a few other orthopaedic surgeons in the area, who were very upfront in saying they didn’t work on ankles and if it’s ankles, I’d want to talk with Dr. Abidi.  In fact, I learned he was not only the best in the area, but among the top ankle surgeons in the state.  I finally figured I relied on my own efforts long enough, so went back to see Dr. Abidi in early 2011.  Stubbornly enduring the pain for so long had one benefit – the ankle replacement technology really improved.

In March 2011, Dr. Abidi performed a Total Ankle Replacement on my right ankle.  I had researched devices and suggested some options, but he said my ankle was too distorted and instead used the Wright Medical in-bone prosthesis, which had the best chance of success.  I was in a cast and had to avoid any weight bearing for six weeks.

One week after they removed my cast, I started physical therapy with light weights.  Stiffness and loss of flexibility are the norm during early recovery from ankle replacement surgery and can be pretty discouraging at first.  Dr. Abidi told me to keep up with my therapy and by six months, I wouldn’t think a thing about it.   That is exactly my experience now – I really don’t think much about my ankle.

One of my goals with this operation was to regain that quality of life that I had lost – I wanted to be able to golf, dance and walk without the constant pain.  Six months following surgery, I have no pain, I am walking straight, have taken up Tai Chi, exercise with weights at home and joined a stretching class at the local senior center.   I look for opportunities at home to stretch whenever I think about it – on doorposts, against chairs or furniture – anything that makes sense.

I’m also walking every day and am even dancing—I’ve regained so much of what I had lost.  I hate to admit it, but I probably should have done the surgery years ago.   I am completely pleased with my experience with Dr. Abidi and Santa Cruz Orthopaedic.  The office staff, physician’s assistants and therapists are very professional and great to work with, and everything is all under one roof – from X-Rays to orthotics.  Dr. Abidi put up with a lot of my stubborn questions.   For anyone looking at ankle replacement surgery, all I can say is not to put if off like I did.


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