Return to Vail mountain

When Valley View caught up with ValleyOrtho patient Linda Billera on a sunny March afternoon in Vail, Colo., she was spending a rare day at home.

“I skied the last two days,” she says. “There’s a ton of powder, my thighs are killing me.”

But her knee was not.

One year ago, in March 2023, after a similar ski day, Linda recalls complaining to her husband about the pain she was experiencing in her left knee.

“I work on Vail mountain as a mountain host,” she says. “I am skiing from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., all over the mountain, but last year I had to take the gondola up and down. I’ve been in Vail for 40 years and I was forced to ski the catwalks. I knew then I needed a knee replacement.”

While Linda had a variety of options for orthopedic care in both Vail and on the Front Range, where she lives part of the year, Linda had previously been a patient at Valley View when she had a pacemaker inserted, and was so confident in the care she received during that procedure she wanted to return. Soon she was introduced to ValleyOrtho’s Dr. Daniel O’Connor, orthopedic surgeon and expert in joint replacement and revision surgery.

“His patients are active in their recovery,” says Linda. “I remember reading Dr. O’Connor’s bio and it said ‘If you come to me for a knee replacement and are athlete before you come, I’ll help you to continue your athletic adventures after.’ This is a guy I liked.”

According to Linda, the knee replacement went smoothly and recovery was surprisingly easy, thanks in no small part to Dr. O’Connor’s focus on effective pain management with the On-Q Pump, an automatic pain medication delivery system. “I wore that little bag around my shoulder and thought ‘This is amazing!’ I had no pain at all,” she said.

After six days of at-home physical therapy exercise she did at the top of every hour, the pump was removed and Linda moved onto active recovery.
Soon Linda was back in the pool swimming laps and on her road bike, because “nothing hurt at all.” Six weeks after surgery she returned to running. By Memorial Day weekend she was participating in the Bolder Boulder 10K road race and later the Hot Chocolate 5K in Denver.

“Here’s the secret,” she says. “If you expect your knee to have a good response, you have to be active. You must continue to work out.”

Eight months after her full knee replacement, Linda returned to Vail mountain ripping through powder like she always had. “This winter I’ve gotten 30 days in and I’m going for 50. I skied 20,000 vertical on Monday and I didn’t need to stop at all.”

Eventually, Linda says, she will have to replace her right knee. But she knows exactly where she will be going for treatment – ValleyOrtho.

“I recommend everyone who needs a knee replacement to go to Dr O’Connor,” she says. “I know we have options close by, but I say to my friends, ‘What’s more important, a successful knee replacement, or a one-hour drive? The drive from Vail to Glenwood Springs through the canyon is gorgeous and I couldn’t be happier with results. Dr. O’Connor is amazing.’ That’s what I say to them.”