Young Surfer Gets Back to the Waves After Unique Surgery

A skilled physician and a special procedure help reunite Zack Pekin with this board

Healing Stories – Zack Pekin image

As an avid surfer, Zack Pekin enjoys riding the waves of Southern California. He’s been surfing since he was 12. But after shattering his kneecap during his sophomore year in college, he was like a fish out of water.

Severely damaging his patella — the triangular bone that covers and protects the knee joint — Zack required reconstructive surgery. His knee was repaired with multiple metal pins, but his injury did not heal properly and he experienced a serious infection.

Referred to an expert orthopedic surgeon

Nearly one year and four surgeries later, the 20-year-old surfer was told that he would never fully recover from his injury. It was likely that he would develop arthritis in his knee and his physical activities would be limited.

Exhausting all options, Zack’s physician referred him to William Bugbee, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic. Dr. Bugbee specializes in osteochondral allograft surgery, a procedure that replaces damaged or missing cartilage with a bone and cartilage graft.

He is internationally known for his skills and has more experience performing osteochondral allografts than any other surgeon in the United States.

“For my son, I would say Dr. Bugbee saved his life,” says Carol Pekin. “Surfing is like oxygen for Zack. I’m not sure what he would do without it.”

Successful allograft surgery for Zack

In September 2007, Dr. Bugbee performed allograft surgery on Zack’s knee. By Christmas the same year, Zack was cleared to get back on his surfboard. He has been shredding waves ever since.

“Dr. Bugbee was our last hope,” says Carol Pekin. “He is a one-of-a-kind physician.”