Rene Nijinsky struggled with knee pain for years due to her cerebral palsy — a movement disorder that includes poor coordination, weak muscles, and tremors. However, she doesn’t let her cerebral palsy get in the way of her active lifestyle.Rene Nijinsky

Nijinsky is a competitive dragon boat racer, a traditional Chinese hand-paddled boat. She is on an
all-women team, the Long Beach Rebelles, an inclusive team, Team Synergy and a hopeful for the United States’ first ever Paradragon team. Her weak knee inhibited her abilities when practicing her sport.

Nijinsky was determined to fix her knee to compete in the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) World Championship in Thailand later this year. When practicing, she uses her knees to give her power to push the boat, but she was no longer able to do so. 

Nijinsky is no stranger to knee surgery. A decade ago, she had surgery on her left knee, but a year and a half ago, began having issues with her right knee. 

In addition to being a competitive racer, Nijinsky is a teacher, so she is on her feet most of the day. To keep up with her daily tasks as a teacher, she began using a cane to assist her. 

“It was really difficult for me to rely on a cane,” says Nijinsky. “I’ve always wanted a larger life for myself. I want to be active, race, and compete without any interferences.” 

To solve her right knee issues, Nijinsky visited the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Medical Center to be treated by Andrew Wassef, M.D., medical director of the program.

The MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Medical Center is a leader in Southern California in hip and knee replacements. MemorialCare Joint Replacement Centers offer a complete spectrum of care including hip, knee, shoulder and ankle replacement, through groundbreaking new technology, such as Mako® Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery to support long-lasting results. The MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Medical Center is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a high-performing hospital for knee and hip replacements and received the Joint Replacement Excellence Award™ by Healthgrades™.

“Despite her cerebral palsy, she is very active,” says Dr. Wassef. “To help her return to her normal activities, we decided to proceed with a right total knee replacement using Mako™ Assisted Surgery. During this procedure, an artificial implant is inserted to replace a damaged joint. Some of the benefits of Mako™ Total Knee include greater precision and minimal hospitalization.”

Because this was her second time going through knee surgery, Nijinsky thought she knew what to expect when it came to the length of time for the procedure, and how long she would need to heal. She was surprised how quickly both of those were this time. 

“For this surgery, I didn’t have to stay overnight, I didn’t need strong medication, and I even got up to walk that same day,” says Nijinsky. “I only had to use a walker for three days. Today, I have no pain at all. Dr. Wassef and the care team truly listened to my needs — which is especially important with my cerebral palsy. I am so grateful I get to practice and compete without knee pain.”