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Musician, construction worker and dog lover, gets back to living thanks to knee replacement from Dr. Michael Mason
As an active drummer with a popular local reggae band, you’d think Doug Ernest would need healthy knees to keep up with that driving reggae rhythm. But as it turns out, when he finally decided to have a knee replaced last year, it was all because of a nine-year-old pit bull named Brutus.
“I go on a particular walk with my dog every single day,” he says. “It’s about two miles, down the hill, and it started to get more and more difficult; I couldn’t get up the steep embankments at all.”
That’s when he went to see Dr. Mason.
“Ever since, I’ve had no problems with my knee at all…and I can go walk my dog. Perfect!” - Doug Ernest
Ernest is a tall, rangy guy, crackling with loose-limbed energy. He grew up in Newport’s West Broadway neighborhood, where he still lives, and spent his teenage years playing ice hockey and skateboarding, two sports not known for being gentle on the knees. By the time he was 17, his right knee was so damaged that he had surgery to remove most of the jagged cartilage. “I kept on skateboarding,” he says. “I figured I’d just use up whatever knee I had left!”
He picked up the drums at age 20, playing in a punk band called Verbal Assault. The band toured Europe, assaulting crowds in Germany, the Netherlands, the former Yugoslavia; then, in 1991, he started playing with a local reggae band called The Ravers.
“At first, I thought a reggae band was a dumb idea,” he says now. “But I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier to play reggae for 30 years—if I’d been playing punk rock all this time, I’d be needing new wrists.”
Over the years, the Ravers have built a huge local following. But their growing popularity was matched by Ernest’s growing knee pain. He was resistant to the idea of more surgery, but when he found himself struggling to keep up with Brutus—and was suddenly newly insured under Obamacare—the combination propelled him into Dr. Mason’s office at Newport Orthopedics.
“I had all these worries and fears, and then I went in to see him, and his demeanor just made such a difference,” he says. “Dr. Mason is so happy and confident, and he looked at my knee and kind of said, ‘This is no big deal—we can fix this.’ He patted me on the back and said, ‘Let’s get you back out there,’ and I thought: ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”
It was the right decision.
Dr. Mason recommended total joint replacement. “He’s done thousands of knees, and he said mine was in the worst shape he’d ever seen,” Ernest says. “I’m kind of proud of that.”
Ernest breezed through the surgery. “I started PT soon after, and I was already pedaling the bike and doing everything they were asking. My day job is construction: it’s physically demanding, I’m up on ladders and on my feet all day. I was back at work within 10 weeks—it was just a super-fast recovery.”
Today, he’s back on the ladders during the day, banging the drums at night, and out with Brutus, walking up and down hills and playing fetch in Newport’s old burial ground.
“Dr. Mason and Julie [Woodhouse, physician assistant] were so great,” he says. “Ever since, I’ve had no problems with my knee at all…and I can go walk my dog. Perfect!”