The words “traumatic” and “positive” generally are not associated within the same sentence. That is, unless the one speaking is Anne Furgal.
After suffering from a massive knee injury in 2010, Anne underwent surgery at the hands of Dr. Robert LaPrade, orthopedic complex knee surgeon with The Steadman Clinic, and today she can easily put this oxymoron together without blinking an eye.
“Dr. LaPrade took a very traumatic event and turned it into one of the most positive experiences of my life,” says Anne.
Anne’s story starts in June of 2010 while on a trip to the Burgundy region of France with her husband, Steve. Together they own a popular tennis tour company out of San Diego where they travel the world organizing, planning and bringing groups of spectators to major tennis events each year.
While Anne, Steve and their group were on their trip at the conclusion of the Roland Garros tennis championship, she suffered a traumatic knee injury when she jumped off some stairs. She admits she was foolish when she chose to jump over a couple of steps to get to the bottom landing. It was that move that made her slip out of her sandal and fall. In that instance, she heard her knee “pop” and knew something was wrong, but at that time didn’t understand the true significance of what had just happened. A couple of days later, she was hobbling on crutches in London getting ready for Wimbledon.
While in London, Anne’s knee quickly began to swell and bruise and was quickly becoming more painful. One phone call later, it was the U.S. Embassy that pointed her in the direction of a local London-based orthopedic surgeon and his MRI confirmed that she had a torn ACL, but even worse, a bucket-hole tear of her meniscus. In essence, Anne had a large tear around the rim of her meniscus that essentially caused the central portion of the meniscus to displace into the joint. The injury was considered severe and the surgeon in London recommended Anne fly home quickly and receive help.
“It was like all of my cards began to align at the right time”
Back in San Diego, a local orthopedic doctor confirmed the diagnosis but left Anne shocked when he told her she would need to have two separate surgeries. Anne states that indiscreetly, her luck actually began to start at this time because her physician was getting ready to go on vacation and could not operate for almost three weeks. Feeling that she had no other alternative, she moved forward and booked the surgery for later in the summer.
During this period of time, Anne and Steve took their niece and nephew to Vail/Beaver Creek for a trip that had already been promised. While she couldn’t do much, the trip helped her keep her mind off of the upcoming surgeries. One day on their trip, Steve and the kids hiked and spent time white water rafting. Anne decided to soak up the sun and wait on the side of the mountain for them and began to strike up conversations with the locals. Many of these youngsters, who were in their 20’s and 30’s, worked on the ski resorts in the winter and handled summer activities during the summer months. All of them had a very keen interest as to why Anne was on crutches.
According to Anne, “I had the pleasure to sit there and talk to these youngsters and I learned that almost every one of them had suffered a major knee injury or some other injury associated with skiing or snow sports. They were all in great shape now and when we started talking about surgeons, every single one of them touted off ‘The Steadman Clinic’ over and over again, one after the other. It suddenly clicked for me. I got back to our vacation house and immediately called The Steadman Clinic.”
Anne talked to Dr. LaPrade’s assistant, Amanda Pena, who told Anne that in most cases, appointments can take weeks to secure, but it just so happened that a patient had canceled and the appointment was Anne’s if she could be there in thirty minutes.
“It all happened so fast,” said Anne. “I was petrified. Absolutely nervous and scared to death. When I met Amanda and was taken to the examination room, I was a ball of nerves. The door opened, and Dr. LaPrade walked in, shook my hand, and from there, I had the most amazing feeling of comfort. I immediately felt at ease, my nerves subsided some and everything I started to feel as Dr. LaPrade spoke to me, was absolutely aligned with my intuition. Everything just felt right.”
Dr. LaPrade did confirm the original diagnosis, but told Anne he would repair both injuries in one surgery. The first would be an ACL reconstruction surgery followed by meniscus reconstruction repair. Dr. LaPrade told Anne that he would not remove the damaged meniscus, but instead slip it back into place and secure it with stitches. This creates padding for the meniscus, which is necessary for long-term health of the joint. He also recommended using an allograft for ACL repair using tissue from a cadaver for Anne’s ACL damage.
“The most amazing thing about Dr. LaPrade is that he is not a here and now doctor. He is very futuristic. He chose to save my meniscus in this very intricate surgery because he knew that at my age I was at risk for early osteoarthritis and knee replacement surgery if the meniscus was gone. I’m so thankful about the way he handled my meniscus reconstruction I truly believe that had I undergone surgery by my other doctor, I would not have had the chance to save my meniscus and I wouldn’t have known why or that it was even an option,” said Anne. “I was also unsure about using tissue from a cadaver. But he outlined every reason why using an allograft for ACL repair would work best and I trusted him fully. The next thing I knew, I was booked for surgery and on the phone with United airlines to post-pone my flight home for a few days.”
A few mornings later, Anne was getting prepped for surgery and was paralyzed with fear. Dr. LaPrade and the entire team at the Vail Valley Medical Center assured Anne that everything would be alright.
“After my ACL reconstruction surgery, I remember waking up in recovery and standing over my bed was Dr. LaPrade. I slowly opened my eyes and I must have been grinning from ear to ear because he again, put his hand on top of mine, and told me ‘that is the smile I worked so hard to put back on your face’. I was overwhelmed with appreciation. Everything he told me ended up being 150% true.”
“I still can’t believe the way it all transpired. On Thanksgiving I called Amanda and left them a message straight from my heart. I am just so thankful. Dr. LaPrade is a doctor in the true sense of the word: caring, compassionate, respectful and skilled years beyond where he is. Every small detail from surgery, insurance, my hospital stay, rehab, transportation, lodging—it was all planned meticulously and seamlessly and without an ounce of frustration. It truly turned my traumatic experience into something positive that I will never forget. I now compare this experience to all other normal life situations. It changes you.”
While clinical studies support the effectiveness of these procedures, individual results may vary. There are no guarantees of outcome. All surgeries involve the risk of major complications. Before you decide on surgery, discuss treatment options with your doctor. Understanding the risks of each treatment can help you make the best decision for your individual situation. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits. Only your doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for your situation. The clinical information and opinions, including any inaccuracies expressed in this material by patients or doctor are not necessarily those of Robert LaPrade, MD and should not be considered as substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor.
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