Rebuilt Knee Puts Him Back on the Slopes
John Moberly’s love of the mountains and outdoor activities such as skiing led him to move his home and his mining industry consulting business from the Bay Area to Squaw Valley in 1988. Before and after his move, Moberly underwent several arthroscopic surgeries on his right knee to fix a hereditary problem that made biking, hiking and skiing painful. Even walking was difficult at times.
By the mid-90s, Moberly realized that more drastic surgery would be necessary if he wanted to stay active and continue to enjoy mountain sports. In 1996 at the age of 60, Moberly decided to get his knee fixed. That decision led to a series of 14 surgeries, none of which cured Moberly’s knee problems. By October 2000, he knew reconstructive knee surgery was his only hope. At this point, he had severe arthritis, infection, loss of his kneecap and muscle strength.
“When I consulted an orthopedic surgeon in Nevada about knee replacement, he pointed out that my knee was in such bad shape that a total knee replacement could leave me in worse condition than I was at the time,” Moberly recalled. It would take a special knee-replacement surgeon to do what Moberly’s case called for, the Nevada doctor explained, and only a few surgeons in the country are qualified to undertake that type of surgery.
After careful research, Moberly chose Dr. Michael Ries of UCSF Medical Center to perform the two procedures that would hopefully return function to his knee. UCSF orthopedic and plastic surgeons worked together during the first surgery, called a muscle flap transfer in January 2001, moving part of Moberly’s calf muscle to replace the quadriceps tendon, which re-established the damaged quadriceps mechanism. The second surgery, the actual knee replacement, followed in March.
Both surgeries went well, giving Moberly much improved knee function. Ries saw Moberly every three months for the first year following the knee replacement to monitor progress of the rebuilt knee, and communicated with an orthopedist near Moberly’s home to ensure that he had ongoing medical support.
Moberly started working his rebuilt knee in early summer with easy bike rides, then progressed to short hikes at the beginning of September. Both he and Ries were impressed with the strength and range of motion of Moberly’s “new” knee. When it snowed in late 2001, Moberly got the okay to try skiing.
“Interestingly, when I tried to start skiing, it was like I’d never skied before,” Moberly remembered. “The muscles took a while to relearn how they were supposed to work. They did come back, but it was slow.”
Now, Moberly skis often, with the aid of a knee brace. On the slopes, he forgets all about his damaged knee. He attributes his recovery not only to the excellent work done by Ries, but to a positive attitude and the support of friends.
“Many of my friends didn’t believe I would ever ski or mountain bike again, but none of them ever said a negative word to me,” Moberly explained. “I always believed I would get better, and I just never gave up!”