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A True Pow(d)er Couple — Return to the Slopes

A True Pow(d)er Couple — Return to the Slopes

For over three decades, Bruce Keller and Echo Miller have spent their winters as ski instructors, guiding visitors and locals alike in their quest to expand their skills on the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. During the past couple of years, they both felt all of those powdery laps catch up with their knees — and both sought the help of the team at St. John’s Health (SJH).

In early 2022, Echo began her journey towards knee surgery. Bruce had undergone a hip replacement four years prior in Salt Lake City, and the pair were eager to find a program closer to home. “We asked around a little bit, and we were led to St. John's Health in Jackson, WY. We were looking for an ortho specialist who we thought might do a good job with knees. We kind of did the same research with regard to knee replacements as we had with hip replacements, and we heard good things about Dr. Drew Lighthart, the surgeon with the St. John’s Health joint program, so we set up a meeting with him,” recalls Echo.

Nearly exactly one year later, Bruce found himself needing the same surgery — and he didn’t think twice about who he wanted to perform it.

The pair appreciated that the team at SJH understood the extent of their active lifestyle and was dedicated to getting them back to full force. “Dr. Lighthart has performed a high volume of this procedure and has developed an excellent understanding,” Echo mused. “In my case, I was on the younger end of the spectrum. And he seemed to have the experience to be comfortable with that, and the experience to understand what an active population might be doing; we weren't trying to just facilitate grocery shopping. Active for us means that we want full function of our knees.”

“It's an extensive recovery process,” she remembered. “But, six months after surgery, they cleared me to go skiing and advised me to ease into work. Don't just jump back in full time, necessarily, but move into full time. That January, I was able to ski off the tram and do laps through the Hobacks with my locals group every week.”

Bruce, in addition to working as a ski instructor, spends his summers as a river guide — ushering groups of adventurers through the Grand Canyon for up to three weeks at a time. “As one of my buddies used to quip, ‘the job is carrying heavy objects over uneven terrain for low pay,’” he laughed. “That's one of the things you’ve got to do, and that's one of the things the knee has to do. The team at SJH realized that Bruce had a goal of getting back out on the river in September — for fun rather than for work. Both Dr. Lighthart and the physical therapy team kept that as a goal in mind. “Having surgery on June 28 and being back out on the water on September 11 was a pretty astounding recovery,” Bruce noted.

“I've already taught 100 hours this winter, which is getting after it, and my knee seems to be fine,” he added.

Bruce recalled the beginning of the ski season, getting his gear fitted to hit the slopes. “As my knee has worn, I've been getting more and more bow legged. I went in and got realigned post-surgery and the boot fitter was like, ‘whoa, your right leg has changed more than three degrees.’ He put a laser on it to look at the alignment with the rest of the biomechanical chain. He's like, ‘this is dead zero.’ Afterwards, I told Dr. Lighthart it was zero. And he's like, ‘yes! Nailed that one.”

Both Echo and Bruce say that they’d highly recommend St. John’s Health to friends or family in need of knee surgery. “Everybody we've talked to has had good results, and Dr. Lighthart was super responsive to what we wanted to get done and to return to full activity,” Echo concluded.