Educational Media

Walking Straight and Taller

One patient’s dream come true

At age 75, Bill Bergstrom got the gift he wanted his entire life: straight legs. 

Bill was born with a rare genetic disorder — hereditary multiple osteochondromas — characterized by multiple benign bone tumors covered by cartilage that grow at the end of the long bones of the legs, arms and digits. The result can be discomfort or even severe pain and skeletal changes. There is no medical treatment. 

At age 10, “bone bumps,” as Bill calls them, developed on his ankle and on his wrist. One spiky bump broke off his wrist (under the skin), requirihg surgery to remove it. 

Over time, his legs were most severely affected, his right leg and knee curving inward in the shape of a “C” and preventing him from playing sports. As he grew, so did the bone tumors, until they were “everywhere,” he says. 

Bill had another surgery at age 17 to remove a tumor from his right knee, then at age 30, for one on the bottom of his foot. Four years later, his left knee spontaneously fractured. In 2011, his right knee did the same. Surgery wired the bones back together.  

Occasionally, he could go hiking or on walks — “until my knees really went south,” he says. By 2023, the bone structure in his legs had permanently altered. Bill sought help from several orthopedic surgeons. “As soon as they looked at my scans, each said, ‘We can’t help you,’” he recalls.

Finally, expert help arrives

Then, in July 2023, he found Erik Schnaser, MD, a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center (EDOC), and a specialist in robotic-assisted total and partial knee replacements and total hip replacements, among other procedures. “Dr. Schnaser was the only surgeon willing to take me on,” says Bill. 

The experienced surgeon knew that replacing both of Bill’s damaged knees would be complicated, so he began developing a detailed plan that would rely on a special assistant — the Stryker Mako SmartRobotics™ surgical system.

First, the robotic software converted a CT scan of Bill’s right knee into a 3D virtual model, enabling Dr. Schnaser to evaluate his patient’s bone structure, disease severity, joint alignment and surrounding bones and tissue. “Historically, we had to plan surgeries with a 2D picture — an X-ray,” he says. “With 3D geometry, we can achieve better outcomes, faster recovery and reduced risk.”
The minimally invasive technology embraces what it means to be human. “We are dynamic beings,” explains Dr. Schnaser, “with a lot of variation in our anatomies. Robotics helps us to account for those variations and develop more of a custom fit for each individual.” 

The tailored design means “the body doesn’t have to work as hard to align itself with new ways to move,” he adds.

A commitment to innovation
With seven Mako SmartRobotics systems in its arsenal, EDOC has embraced robotic technologies. Additionally, EDOC surgeons are piloting studies of other robotic platforms.

That spirit of innovation is one reason Eisenhower Health is consistently rated by U.S. News & World Report as “high performing” in hip and knee replacements. Eisenhower Health has also earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Total Hip and Knee Replacement Certification by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The certification, in collaboration with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, focuses on the pre-surgical orthopedic consultation to the intraoperative, hospitalization or ambulatory surgical center admission, rehabilitation activities, and follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon.

With contingency plans in hand, on July 18, 2023, Dr. Schnaser tackled Bill Bergstrom’s right knee. He initially attempted a standard knee replacement, “but I quickly realized within minutes of my first incision that it wouldn’t offer Bill enough stability,” he says.

Instead, he opted for a kinematic rotating hinge implant often used in cases of widespread instability or extensive bone loss. The implant “replaces the stabilizing ligaments of the knee,” says Dr. Schnaser, “and allows the implant to act more like a normal knee.”

Transformation is complete
Bill’s second surgery, this time on his left knee, took place on October 31, 2023. When he woke, he almost couldn’t believe his eyes. “For the first time ever, my legs were straight,” he says.

After a few weeks of in-home physical therapy, Bill started outpatient therapy at Eisenhower Health. “It’s like being born again, as far as my knees,” he says. “They’ve never been better.” (A side bonus: he gained an inch in height.)

His wife, Sue Bergstrom, is an avid golfer, and looking forward to getting him out on a course with her. They’re both excited to travel more, especially places that were hard for Bill to navigate. “This will be a new adventure for us,” says Sue.

An engineer by profession, Bill sees himself as a problem solver. “That’s how I view Dr. Schnaser, too,” he says. “He fixed problems left over from my past. I call him a miracle worker.”

To learn more about Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center services, visit, or call 760.773.4545