Our thirty year journey

Our story starts in 1989, the first post "Meeting Jim" lays out the framework for the events that follow. The subsequent posts will build on that narrative.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Jim's Knee

In the Summer of 1990, Jim tackled a young stallion in an attempt to give him a shot. He and the horse tripped and ended up on the ground, Jim lay motionless  and appeared to be dead. But he was not unconscious and we were able to get him in a car and I drove him to the emergency room at Queen of the Valley Hospital. (This was my second trip to the emergency room with Jim. The first time was when some horses got loose in the night and he had to chase them. In the process of running up and down hills he got a rusty nail in his foot.)

On our arrival to the emergency room at Queen of the Valley, the hospital staff ushered him in for treatment immediately.  Hours later he came out with a mechanical leg brace and was able to resume his horse training activities but from the ground only. At that time he was training two young people, Aaron and Melinda, to be exercise riders and ultimately jockeys.

Jim was not healing the way he expected to and didn’t find his Napa Valley Doctor’s advise, to wait and see, sufficient. So Georgie our winemaker, decided to step in and recommend the top orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine, Dr. Dillingham.  Jim went to his sport’s clinic and was seen by Dr. Warren King, who had trained under Dr. Kerlan, an esteemed orthopedic surgeon from Centinella Hospital in Los Angeles. Dr. King recommended arthroscopic surgery. Jim signed on and had the surgery at Sequoia Hospital in early November, just after harvest. 

He stayed in the hospital for three days and I stayed nearby with my best friend Jenny and her husband Mark, in San Francisco. 

Dr. King had great bedside manner and checked on Jim everyday. Jim’s roommate a professional soccer player who had Dillingham as his surgeon, never saw him while in the hospital and was visited by another doctor in his practice. Needless to say, Jim’s roommate was very envious of Jim’s care. 

The HBPA (Horseman's Benevolent Protective Association) paid for almost 80% of Jim’s first knee surgery; however, we were unable to pay the other 20% around $20,000. My mother refused to help Jim with these payments even though he had been injured taking care of her horses. As a last resort, we filed a worker’s compensation claim. As it turned out, the liability for the injury ended up residing with the ranch's workers compensation policy so we dropped the claim.  In the end, no one came after Jim for payment, but it was a very desperate time for us. We were so grateful for the care he received that we considered naming a  racehorse after Dr. Warren King.

Jim was immobile when he was released from the hospital. It was very difficult to take care of him and run the ranch during that time. He had a therapeutic device that kept his knee in motion all night and allowed him to heal quickly. With Jim in traction, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Jenny and Mark at the ranch. 

Over the years, Jim would have six more surgeries performed by Dr. King: two hand surgeries for his trigger fingers,  three additional knee surgeries and a rotator cuff surgery. One trigger finger operation was performed by Dr. King in his office with the janitor holding the light. The other was performed in the hospital. Dr. King didn’t charge Jim for the office operation and wrote off what ever the HBPA didn’t pay.