Legend of the Wild West

Tim West wasn’t ready to settle for anything less than full mobility when he signed up to be NorthBay Healthcare’s first total ankle replacement patient.

Tim West, 73, knows his rough-and-tumble lifestyle cost him two knees, two shoulders, a fused spine, the tips of several fingers and a left ankle.

The self-proclaimed cowboy—who lasted 8 seconds on the back of a brahma bull (that’s a full ride), has wrestled such a creature to the ground, and has done backflips out of tall trees—has celebrity status for being the very first NorthBay Healthcare patient to receive a whole new ankle.

And he’ll be the first of many, predicts podiatrist Kevin Miller, D.P.M., who has performed ankle replacement surgeries before, but had to establish privileges to bring the new service to NorthBay Medical Center.

Now that he’s done it, patients in Solano County will no longer need to travel to Sacramento or the Bay Area to have an ankle replaced.

Dr. Kevin Miller answers questions about ankle replacement during an office visit.
Dr. Kevin Miller answers questions about ankle replacement during an office visit.

Ironically, Tim and his wife Lauren drove 300 miles to have Dr. Miller perform his surgery. Dr. Miller was recommended by Dr. Andrew Brooks, who had successfully replaced Tim’s right knee—twice. “I broke the first replacement,” Tim said matter-of-factly with a drawl instilled from spending his formative years in Oklahoma. “I don’t think they knew it could be done, but I did it.”

Tim was so impressed with Dr. Brooks that he took his recommendation of Dr. Robert Peterson when he needed a new shoulder. And then Dr. Miller to follow up with the ankle.“I have not been disappointed by the fine orthopedic surgeons at NorthBay Healthcare,” said Tim, saying it was worth every mile to come to Vacaville for his surgery.

Tim and Lauren are familiar with Fairfield. She grew up here and can point to structures around town her father helped build. The couple made Fairfield their home during the mid-1980s, raising three girls and becoming partners with Lauren’s parents in Cement Hill Storage.

They retired in 2008 and moved north, to build a home and a horse ranch on 22 acres in Fieldbrook, about 18 miles north of Eureka.

It wasn’t an actual accident that did in Tim’s ankle, but arthritis. The pain was so bad that he could barely walk.

When he first met with Dr. Miller, Tim was told he had three choices: have the surgery (arthroscopy) which might help for awhile; have joint fusion, which would take away the pain but also flexibility; or get a whole new ankle.

It was an easy choice for Tim, who didn’t want to make compromises. Mobility on a 22-acre ranch is a necessity.

The 3.5 hour total ankle replacement on July 19 was a total success, said Dr. Miller. He didn’t replace bones, he replaced the joint with components made of titanium alloy and polyethylene.

The first few weeks of recovery were the hardest because Tim had to wear a boot and use a knee scooter to get around. But he’s been devoutly following the advice of his physical therapist and has made amazing progress, according to Dr. Miller.

To celebrate his new ankle, Tim recently hopped onto the seat of his brand-spanking-new John Deere tractor to start clearing brush on the ranch.

“When we first met, Tim told me he wanted to drive his tractor, ride his horse and be able to get up and down out of a chair,” said Dr. Miller. “He’s doing all that now, ahead of schedule. The Legend of Tim continues.”

Ankle Surgery Added to Joint Program

Total ankle replacement is the latest addition to the NorthBay Joint Replacement program at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. Now patients can elect to receive a new ankle, hip, shoulder, knee and partial knee replacements in a carefully planned program that promotes a successful and speedy journey to recovery.

NorthBay’s program features pre-operative education, specialized hospital care, dedicated staff and progressive rehabilitation. For more information, call Cynthia Giaquinto, R.N., Orthopedics manager, at (707) 624-7600.

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