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A brand-new knee for a brand-new life

When 46-year-old Greg Woods heard the doctor say he had the knees of a 70-year-old man, the former triathlete knew things had gotten serious.

“My first knee injury ever was in high school. Back then, I was playing football, basketball, and running track every day. You have such a different mindset then. When you’re playing sports, you just want to get back to it as soon as possible,” he says.

After a lifetime as an athlete and two initial knee surgeries for a torn meniscus, Greg knew what it was like to be in pain and then get back to work. And he knew this was different.

“Prior knee surgeries were just clean-ups. This time I knew it would end in a knee replacement. I was out of breath from the pain even walking to my car. I couldn’t do little things like go to the movies with my wife. It was affecting everything around me.”

Even worse, as a clinical quality and safety nurse at UC Davis Health, Greg worried that there would be a hospital emergency and he’d be unable to move quickly or participate effectively.

“In a hospital, you don’t take the elevator, you take the stairs in an emergency. Prior to surgery, at the end of a 12-hour shift as a floor nurse, I was limping and barely able to make it to my car.”

Searching for quality care

The knee is made up of the femur, tibia, and patella (the kneecap). In a healthy knee, these structures work together to ensure smooth, natural function and movement.

When they don’t, a knee “resurfacing” or replacement is necessary. This is when affected cartilage inside the knee and underlying bone is removed and resurfaced with metal implants on the femur and tibia. A plastic bearing is also placed between the implants.

While knee replacement surgery is one of the more common surgeries in the U.S., as a nurse, Greg knew the risks of any surgery and was cautious to find the right physician to perform the replacement.

“One of the biggest complications of surgery is infection – and it’s the number one reason for readmission after a surgery. So, for me, I go in asking a lot of questions to find my surgeon. I asked other nurses around me and did my research,” Greg says.

That’s how he found Dr. Mauro Giordani, UC Davis Health’s chief of adult reconstructive services in orthopedic surgery.

“His reputation for safety and quality was meticulous. And that’s what you want in any surgeon. I’ve been a patient in many hospitals, and I’ve had a total of nine surgeries across my body. At UC Davis Health, you are getting the expertise and rigor of a teaching institute which means multiple viewpoints from very smart people.”

Discovering healthy

After undergoing surgery with no complications, Greg was back on his feet and ready to go back to his active lifestyle. While he retired from triathlons, he says he probably could do one on his new knee – though nowadays he prefers the calmer competition of golf tournaments.

He continues to stay extremely active in any way he can – from regularly going to the gym and swimming to traveling the world with his family and being able to walk across every new country without pain. Even taking the dog for a walk or going on a date with his wife of 26 years has taken on a new meaning for him.

“It’s all the little things you don’t think about. I have them all back now. My surgery at UC Davis Health was absolutely life-changing.”