Randy Gray’s Robotic Knee Surgery at Benefis Is ‘Story of Joy’

The route back to the Bob Marshall Wilderness goes through a Benefis Health System operating room for Randy Gray, a longtime Great Falls attorney and former mayor. 

Randy recently became the first patient at Benefis to have his knee replaced by a surgeon using the new ROSA knee robot, which brings increased precision and personalization to joint replacement.

"This is an investment in the next 20 years," he said. "This is about quality of life and extending our wellness into much later decades. We live in an amazing time." 

Read more: Meet ROSA! She's the Robot Helping Build Better Knees in Montana

Randy did significant research and learned about robotic surgery after resolving to tackle problems caused by degenerative arthritis in his knees. 

"That machine is just so precise. It gives the doctor much more precision," he said. "Before they made the incision, they knew the length of every tendon and the details of my bones and musculature." 

Since he couldn't find anyone in Montana doing robotics on knees, he had his right knee done in September in Portland, Ore., which meant crashing at his son's place and traveling while recovering.  

benefis robotic knee surgery

"My kids were telling me, jeez, Dad, you gotta get this done," he said. "It is a hassle to go someplace for three weeks or a month." 

Randy passed up this ski season to rehab his knees but anticipates resuming his active lifestyle soon. He's expecting a 25-year life expectancy from his new knee, which being in his early 70s, seems like enough. 

For his left knee replacement, Randy learned Benefis total joint specialist Dr. Jace Bullard had started doing robotic-assisted knee surgeries. 

"I thought, ‘Here's my guy,’" he said. "Dr. Bullard is a very good listener. He tuned into what I was saying I wanted to do with my knee. It's doable, and it's doable right here. It's still magical to me."

Randy recommends anyone considering knee surgery commits to the recommended rehabilitation. He's taken it seriously and found great help in the physical therapy program from Karin Steinke, physical therapist, and Linda Wurz, physical therapist assistant.

He's four months out from his first knee surgery and a month from the second. He's already hit a 130-degree bend.

"The progress is measurable, not day by day, but week by week. The pain subsides, and it gets better,” he said. “The first time you go all the way around on the exercise bike, it's a celebration.” 

Randy is back to working out at the Peak Health and Wellness Center and he's anticipating a family vacation to go birding. He's going to go horsepacking into the wilderness with his grandchildren this summer. He’s thinking backpacking thoughts and envisioning cycling on Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road again. 

“This is my story of joy,” he said. “I’m astounded how well this has worked out, right here in our town.” 

Read more: Meet ROSA! She's the Robot Helping Build Better Knees in Montana