Legend of Wild West Rides Again

NorthBay’s First Ankle Replacement a Total Success

Tim West, 73, knows his rough-and-tumble lifestyle cost him a knee, two shoulders, a fused spine, the tips of several fingers, all his top teeth 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 — now has celebrity status for being the very first NorthBay Healthcare patient to receive a whole new ankle. Tim West shares the success of his ankle replacement in a video that can be found on NorthBay.org.

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.

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 left 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."

Dr. Kevin Miller, D.P.M. with Tim and Lauren West.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 Fairfield 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.Kevin Miller, D.P.M., shows the area on Tim West’s X-ray that was causing him trouble.

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

"If I'd sat at the computer for half an hour, I couldn't walk at all, it would be so stiff. I'd stand up and fall down," he said.

When he first met with Dr. Miller, Tim was told he had three choices.

He could have surgery - arthroscopy - which might help for a while.

He could have joint fusion, which would take away the pain, but also flexibility; or

He could have a whole new ankle.

Even before he could drive a tractor, he was using the scooter to get around.It was an easy choice for Tim, who didn't want to make compromises. Mobility on a 22-acre ranch is a necessity.

And so, the 3.5 hour total ankle replacement on July 19 was a complete success, said Dr. Miller. He didn't replace the bone, 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.

"That's his new toy," said Lauren, shaking her head at her husband's exploits. "I knew he wouldn't just look at it. He had to play with it." It wasn’t too long after surgery that Tim West was on his new toy, a tractor, moving brush on his property.

"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 just continues."