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Racing to Better Knee Health

As a retired race car driver and mechanic, Ricky Ruiz has had his fair share of injuries. In his 74 years on the planet, he has had ankle and wrist surgery, a broken collarbone and a broken neck. So when he fell jumping over a ditch at a racetrack in 1998 and hyper-extended his knee, he didn’t think much of it.

“I got it to a place where I could stand on it, my son helped me to the stands, and then it seemed to heal itself after a few weeks,” he says.

The key word is “seemed.” A few years later, after loading a car onto a truck, he crossed his legs to put a sock on and his knee popped out again. After more excruciating pain, he got it back in place and proceeded to drive the truck home to Nevada from Oregon.

Five years ago, while driving home from a car show, his knee would pop every time he took his foot off the throttle. That got his attention. He contacted a local orthopedist who took x-rays, and told him he could give him a shot for the pain. He also told Ruiz it was time to consider surgery. Knowing it was past time to cover up the pain, Ruiz accepted that surgery was (finally) in his future.

Though he’s technically retired, Ruiz’ days often include climbing up ladders, driving a tractor, laying under a car, bending over and all kinds of things that put a lot of pressure on his body. It was important that his knee replacement be durable and long-lasting.

Through extensive research, he discovered Conformis, a patient-specific total knee replacement, that is designed based on the patient’s actual CT scan data.

Related: Personalized options for hip replacement patients

He read more reviews and testimonials and decided that was the solution he wanted. The doctor with the best reviews was Dr. Christopher Dolan at Great Basin Orthoapaedics (GBO). Ruiz met with Dr. Dolan early in 2020, got more x-rays and CT scans and they agreed Conformis was the way to go.

“Working with Dr. Dolan was wonderful,” he says. “He explained everything and asked me why I chose that procedure. I told him what I do, and he agreed it was the right choice.

They set the surgery date for April 2020, after Ruiz and his wife returned from a planned trip to the Philippines. But then COVID-19 hit the United States in March 2020, cancelling the trip and the surgery.

He was finally able to get in to the surgical center in October 2020, and Dr. Dolan replaced his bum knee with a new and improved Conformis knee. He had surgery in the afternoon and when he could show the therapist that he could stand on his own, they let him go home that night. He started physical therapy four days later.

“It took a couple of weeks for me to be able to lift my leg up,” he says. “But then I was pretty quickly able to get off the walker and start driving again.”

He said his biggest challenge was getting his stamina back after being down for those couple of weeks, but now, after four months, he says he’s pretty much back to normal.

“I’m doing just about everything I was before, though it does feel weird having metal in my knee,” he says.

He’s pleased with his decision to use GBO, saying that both Dr. Dolan and his MA, Samantha Hight, were very helpful and informative. “They answered all my questions, and went through my x-rays with me, before and after,” he says.

Though he won’t be hitting the race track anytime soon, Ruiz says he’s now able to do just about everything he could before the surgery. “I am really pleased with the outcome and not having that pain anymore,” he says.

You don’t have to deal with decades of pain. If you’re interested in learning more about Conformis or other options, call GBO at 775-786-1600 for a consultation.