When Bob Dernedde walked into the doctor’s exam room, the first thing he noticed was the wall of photos featuring finely honed athletes, youthful team players and active weekend warriors fully engaged in the sports and pursuits they loved.
“They are all success stories,” explained orthopedic surgeon Robert Sandmeier, M.D. A specialist in sports medicine, he had treated every one of them.
At 77, Dernedde wasn’t looking to get into competitive athletics. But the retired health care executive and former Boy Scout leader did have a goal that he hoped Dr. Sandmeier could help with. “I want to go on a 200-mile horse trek with my granddaughter,” he said.
“I’m not a horse person,” Dernedde admitted, “but my granddaughter, Macy, is.” In an impetuous moment, he had suggested going on a Boy Scouts horse trip as a way to spend quality time with her. “And she said yes!”
Once it got real, he had to face facts: this was no short, resort-style trail ride he was talking about. “It’s a high-adventure thing,” he said. “There are no 7-11 stores or places to stop for a hot dog. You’re out in the wilderness for eight days and nights.” The ride would carry them through Oregon’s Cascade foothills and above, from Mill City to Dufur – if he could go. But a persistently painful knee was threatening to sideline him from the trip of a lifetime.
Dr. Sandmeier listened to his patient and suggested a different and more immediate course of action than he would normally take. “We might not fix it for the long term right now,” he said, “but how about we get you over the hump in time to enjoy something that you’ll remember forever?” Dernedde, like his graddaughter, said yes.
Making the fix proved a simple task for Dr. Sandmeier, who cleared up a meniscus problem with arthroscopic surgery well in time for Dernedde to climb into the saddle. He was able to make the entire, arduous trip.
Afterwards, Dernedde reported back to Dr. Sandmeier: “It was wonderful,” if not entirely pain free. “The only problem I had is that when you sit in the saddle for eight days, 14 or 15 hours a day, things start to build up on your backside.” Alas, such maladies aren’t an orthopedic surgeon’s to solve.
But knees are. Two years after the big ride, Dernedde returned to Dr. Sandmeier to talk about a more long-term solution for his knee. Dr. Sandmeier recommended a full knee replacement. Today, the knee is doing great, and a photo of Dernedde, with horse, has joined Dr. Sandmeier’s wall of fame. His smile shines out from the frame, alongside those of the many runners, gymnasts and football players whom Dr. Sandmeier has helped to stay in the game.
“One of the great things about being a doctor is that you can feel good about what you do,” says Dr. Sandmeier. “When you can make people better and help them keep doing the things they love, you feel valued.”
Dernedde values his relationship with Dr. Sandmeier and keeps him posted on his knee, as well as his granddaughter. Macy spent last summer training wild stallions, he says with pride — but he’s thinking better of taking one out for a ride any time soon.