Orthopedic Surgery Patient Stories

Testimonials by Condition:
Hand & Upper Extremity | Hip & Knee | Orthopedic Cancer | Orthopedic Trauma

Hand & Upper Extremity

Ben Horne - Denali 

As you know, all of my climbs in the recent years would not have been possible without you and your team's efforts to restore my elbow, and I am continually indebted to you.

“For mountain climbing, you have to be able to pull yourself up under rigorous conditions,” said Horne. “Since my surgery with Dr. Abrams, I’ve been able to climb at even higher levels. I’m a stronger athlete now because I had to learn different sports while cross-training during the recovery process.” Ben's most recent climb was featured in Climbing Magazine.

Read the full story: "From Shattered Elbow to Groundbreaking Mountain Climbs"

- Ben Horne, elbow reconstruction patient of Dr. Reid Abrams

Hip & Knee

"Last year, before Dr. Kulidijian, I was in the hospital almost a whole year or at home on vancomycin and not able to get out of bed. I finally got to the point, at the 16th surgery, where I was done, and the doctors were done, and they said it's time for amputation." Then Emily met with Dr. Kulidjian, who believed she could save her leg. "I had finally accepted the fact that I was going to be living with one leg my whole life is going to change, and now all of a sudden there's this glimmer of possibility." Two weeks after surgery, Emily was able to walk and significantly reduce her pain medications. "I really feel like she saved my life, not just my leg." Watch the full story.

- Emily Sunderland, patient of Dr. Anna Kulidjian

Triathlete Drew Renick had already had his left hip resurfaced several years before, so when he began experiencing similar symptoms on his right side, Renick decided it was time to have that hip replaced. The hip had lost flexibility, and he was finding it uncomfortable to bike and run. He had developed a limp and he couldn’t even tie his shoes. In March 2015, Ball replaced Renick’s hip in a procedure that started at around 8 a.m. He was up and doing physical therapy a few hours later, and he was home by 4:30 p.m. that same afternoon. Read the full story.

- Drew Renick, hip replacement patient of Dr. Ball

 Rock Frey 
I have been racing triathlons for 25 years, but in 2008 I started to have a lot of pain in my left hip. After seeing many doctors, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. I researched my options and it looked like hip resurfacing was my best option at 44 years old. I talked with several orthopedic specialists throughout the United States and Europe, but I knew Dr. Ball was the man five minutes into my first appointment with him. He has since performed two hip surgeries (one resurfacing and one total hip replacement) and I am back participating in triathlons and am able to race my new passion, which is paddle boarding. Anyone living with hip pain knows how extreme and constant the pain is: 24/7. That is now a faint memory of mine. I am sleeping like a baby again at night and am able to do the sports that I love and live for. I've had 100 percent satisfaction from start to finish during both hip surgeries from Dr. Ball. From the initial appointments to the surgery and hospital stay and then post-surgery visits, I was extremely impressed and would highly recommend any person with hip problems see Dr. Ball and his team at UC San Diego Health. Dr. Ball and his PA Dustyn took the time during appointments and surgery to always make me feel well taken care of. Thank you!

- Roch Frey, hip resurfacing and total hip replacement patient of Dr. Ball

Charlie Bachmann 

“Being an ultramarathoner, I was devastated when my sports doctor told me I needed a hip replacement and that I would have to give up running. That diagnosis occurred in December 2009, shortly after I had qualified to compete at the 2011 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. After months of research, I decided to explore the possibility of hip resurfacing and learned that Dr. Ball at UC San Diego Health was very experienced in this procedure.

My initial visit with Dr. Ball confirmed that I was a candidate for hip resurfacing and that, if all went well, I would be able to resume some amount of running. The rest of the surgery done in July 2010, far exceeded my expectations. Dr. Ball, his staff, the accommodations at the hospital and the follow-up were all outstanding!

At my four-month check-up, Dr. Ball gave me the go-ahead to start doing some light running and by January I was able to start running in some local trail races. Over the next several months, I gradually began ramping up my training and by June 25th, I was at the starting line at the Western States 100. I began the race with no clear expectations and with the thought that I would drop out if I felt any hip pain. Fortunately, I had no hip pain whatsoever and was able to enjoy 28 plus hours of doing what I love to do: RUN. I would not have been able to complete this race without the support of my wife and crew, and most importantly, my new hip - courtesy of Dr. Ball!”

- Charlie Bachmann, hip resurfacing patient of Dr. Ball

“Just wanted to send this video clip of me wakeboarding about a month ago out at the river in Parker. It's been eight years since I last went because of the hips. Had absolutely no pain in my hips or problems whatsoever.”

Check out Wayne wakeboarding after his bi-lateral hip resurfacing procedure.

- Bilateral hip resurfacing patient

“You asked how things are going, and I'll answer indirectly. I wasn't around to take your call because:

I had to coordinate to get a backup goalie to cover for my Friday morning hockey league. I went camping over the weekend at the Grand Canyon and did lots of hiking, climbing rocks and sliding down loose volcanic screen. No problems. Then, on Memorial Day, my wife and I went for a 50-mile bike ride. So, thanks again for the great work and the great outcome!"

- 2008 bilateral hip resurfacing patient

“I cannot remember the last time I could do all the things that I can do now, like get in and out of my car the way people usually do, put my socks on without grunting, do my toenails, go for a long walk and not worry whether I'll make it back, sit in my chair and change position without having to worry about my hip 'catching'. My back pain has gotten a lot better. In fact, I think it's gone. I love my improved life! It's amazing what a new hip implanted by a fantastic surgeon can do for you!


By the end of week 11, I felt like I was ready to go skating so I skated behind The Hilton for two hours. I've been skating since then and it feels like I never stopped. People can't believe that I had a hip replaced only four months ago.”

- Hip replacement patient

Perry CrutchfieldIt’s funny reflecting on the last year of my life, or I should say, the life of my hips. A year ago, I was preparing to take a team of cyclists that I coached for a 109-mile bike race called El Tour De Tucson. I was still riding 9 – 10 thousand miles a year at this time but my hips were getting so bad from osteoarthritis that I was almost unable to get on my bike due to the pain and limited range of motion. Not to mention the pain of putting my socks on in the morning. My hips finally had reached the point where I decided to do something, so I began reading everything that I could to see what my options were and who would be the best surgeon for me. Dr. Ball’s name kept coming up over and over again in my research with all of his patients saying the same thing: “This guy is great” and “I am so happy with the results!” So I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Ball and headed off to Tucson. At mile 65 in the race, I crashed and fractured my left hip. I had surgery the next day and had a pin and a plate inserted. Wonderful. I had been nervous about getting back to my life after a hip resurfacing procedure. Now I was even more damaged than I was before!

It’s a year later now. I was able to meet with Dr. Ball in January. He felt confident that he could work around my extra hardware and still do the resurfacing so we scheduled my surgeries in late Jan and early March. I jumped into physical therapy as soon as I could after all three surgeries and then back on the spin bike as soon as possible after that. I was back out on the road bike in April, a month after my last surgery. By July, when the photo above was taken, I had logged 2,000 miles. Now it’s November and I’ve logged over 5,000 miles and am stronger than before the surgery.

The best part is waking in the morning with no pain, and having a “normal” stride. I do not even think about my hips any more. Thanks, Dr. Ball!

- Perry Crutchfield, hip resurfacing patient of Dr. Ball

Orthopedic Cancer

Andrea Gaxiola 

In December 2009, I was told that I had an aggressive tumor on my right femur. I had the extremely good fortune of being referred to Dr. Kulidjian. She immediately got me off work and off my leg. I went through four rounds of chemo and an extensive surgery to remove the cancerous bone and tissue and reconstruct my leg. Thanks to the expertise of Dr. Kulidjian and nine months of physical therapy, I was able to return to work in June of 2011. I am also able to do many of the things I thought I might never be able to do again, including skiing in February 2011! I have returned to an independent life full of promise and possibilities. I am truly grateful for the excellent care I received from Dr. Kulidjian and the whole UC San Diego Health team. I couldn't possibly be more thankful for the care or my outcome. It was the hardest year of my life and I couldn't have made it without all of the wonderful people in my life, including Dr. Kulidjian.

- Andrea Gaxiola, cancer survivor and patient of Dr. Kulidjian

John Towart 

I had already interviewed two surgeons when I met Dr. Anna Kulidjian at Moores Cancer Center. Ten minutes into the discussion, I knew she was the right one. Every question I asked was answered directly and without hesitation. My 36 years of experience dealing with medical professionals has taught me to look for that telltale “down and to the left” glance that means you're on shaky ground. There was none of that and I feel very lucky to have found her when I did.

In November of 2010, she removed the entire adductor longis muscle and part of my sartorius muscle. I had an 8 inch incision with 20 staples holding my leg together. Dr. Kulidjian and the entire surgical team helped me to feel comfortable and confident. They all did a great job. Within a few days I was out of the hospital and in physical therapy. The good news was the muscles I had left were compensating for the ones that were removed. In January of 2011, I started training for the California Half Ironman in Oceanside. I finished sixth in my age group and my run was 10 minutes faster than the year before. Those finishes helped me qualify to compete in the USAT Age Group Nationals in Burlington, Vermont in August 2011.

- John Towart, patient of Dr. Kulidjian

Orthopedic Trauma

Dominique & Dr. Girard 

"My life changed on February 12th, 2011. A special Valentines weekend with my husband downtown turned into a five and a half week hospital stay at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. Upon exiting a downtown restaurant, my husband and I, along with several others, were hit by a taxi cab. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. The memory of my body flying through the air and being pinned up against a wall still haunts me. Of the the people hit by the cab, I was the most severely hurt.

Within hours I awoke to bright lights and was on an operating table at UC San Diego Medical Center with the uncertainty of what was going on. I soon knew something was terribly wrong when the trauma surgeon explained to me that it may be necessary to amputate my severely crushed leg.

Doctors Girard and Tenenhaus, along with all of their interns, changed my life. After a tough journey of nine surgeries, Doctors Girard and Tenenhaus saved my leg! Because of his expertise in military traumatic orthopedics, Dr. Girard was able to reconstruct my leg. My leg currently has titanium rods and a knee plate. A special bone graft surgery helped to grow a missing bone, which was crucial to me being able to walk. My bone is growing and strengthening every day and I hope to be back to myself by 2013. Dr. Girard's kind heart and down-to-earth personality was so comforting during my times of stress. I truly appreciate his personality.


Dr. Tenenhaus's plastic surgery expertise was crucial in reconstructing my leg. Dr. Tenenhaus transplanted a muscle flap from my back into my leg. The survival of the transplanted muscle was key to saving my leg. Dr. Tenenhaus had a wonderful bedside manner. He checked on me frequently and kept me informed of everything that was going on. I will be forever grateful to both Dr. Girard and Dr. Tenehaus. They truly are my "angels in disguise".

I am blessed to have been in the care of the entire UC San Diego Medical Center staff. I feel as though everyone involved acted like my "medical family". The surgeons and the interns provided excellent care inside and outside of the operating room. The nurses were wonderful and kept my spirits lifted. I feel as though I developed relationships with each one of them. Even today, when I have my routine check-ups, the nurses still recognize me and ask how I am doing. I consider everyone involved with my experience at UC San Diego special, and will be forever grateful for what they have done for me."

– Dominique, orthopedic trauma patient

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Orthopedic Specialists